Cherry Knob Finish Is Darker Than Cabinet Finish

Exposed end grain on the knobs causes them to behave differently than the flat wood of the doors and frames. But there are solutions. November 12, 2006

I used Minwax wipe-on poly for some cherry doors and face grain cherry knobs (no stain, just a natural finish). The knob, however, is much darker than the door. Can I make sure the rest of the knobs finish the same color as the doors? If so, how?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
The knobs are staining darker because of their shape. The curve of their surfaces exposes more of the ends of the fibers and therefore, they will soak up more stain and look darker. Knowing this, you can use a wash coat to limit their absorption, or dilute your stain with some clear stain base or employ some similar strategy. That will not ensure that they will stain the same color as the rest of your project, but it will help you get them closer.

From contributor V:
The problem you are dealing with is end grain. I do it all the time and have great results. End grain will absorb more of anything, making it darker than the regular grain. The key is in the sanding. When I make a table and have end grain showing, I sand the end grain down 2 grits finer than the straight grain. 150 on top would equal 220, then 320 on the end grain. 220 on top would equal 302-400 on the ends. This has always worked for me. But you really have to sand it well.

From contributor T:
One famous contributor to this forum is fond of saying "there's xyz and there's xyz": in this case, there's cherry and there's cherry. Not all cherry is created equal and your knobs were probably cut from a different stick than the rest of your project. Even though your finish has no stain, it does have color, and differences in grain size, orientation, density and prep will show. Sanding will help, but may not solve the problem. A wash coat on the knobs will certainly get you closer - I'd suggest a sprits of a clear aerosol, maybe a polyacrylic (may make the wood look anemic) or a CAB or precat lacquer. They're very low in solids and make a convenient wash coat for small projects. To get the closest, wash coat your whole project. Zinsser Seal Coat is slightly amber and may cause the same problem but is worth a try. Otherwise, cut some Zinsser clear or blond shellac down to about 1 1/2 or 2 lb cut or cut a clear finish to 5 - 10% solids and give it a light coat.

From contributor R:
All of the above, and another option. Just dip your knobs in some paint thinner before you stain them. Once dry, continue with your finishing schedule.

From contributor O:
I would try glue-size on those knobs to prevent the finish penetration and subsequent darkening. Puzzling that 2 responders are addressing issues involving stain when you clearly stated "no stain, just a natural finish."

From contributor T:
Or add 1pt varnish and 1 pt BLO to 8 or 10 pts of that MS and wipe it onto your whole project.