Chemically "aging" cherry

Tips and cautions for using chemicals to quickly achieve the richer colors certain woods attain with age. 1998.

by Professor Gene Wengert

Is there a chemical method that can be used to obtain the dark red color cherry gets with age?

Joanie Cunningham writes that she ages cherry using Draino. Cherry and a few other species will change color when exposed to strong acids or bases. Another way to age cherry, teak, and walnut is to apply liquid ammonia as an oxidizer. (Check the cleaning section of the grocery store). At the same time, be careful--in addition to risks of applying chemicals themselves, the wood surface has a different make-up. Don't use it where kids might suck the wood. Also, the change in acidity can affect the curing rate of certain finishes. In years past, oxalic acid was used very often as a color modifier.

And one last thought: When plastering around cherry and other woods, the wood must be protected from splashes. Otherwise, a little lye from the plaster and you will have a very red splotch on the wood that won't wash off!

Professor Gene Wengert is Extension Specialist in Wood Processing at the Department of Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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