Cherry Toning to Match Old and New

Success story: a little sunlight and some trans-tint dye toning provides a pleasing match. November 3, 2010

I recently added some new cabinet doors into an existing cherry built-in. I used the wiping stain that was left by the original builder and top coated with several coats of waterborne polyurethane. The client is not happy with the tone of the cherry. I know that over time it will darken and likely match, but she is not willing to wait. Can I shoot a coat of this nitro wiping stain over the waterbased to create a toning layer? Do I need to apply a shellac sealer first? I basically need to get these a bit darker and have plenty of the original wiping stain left over.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
I'm betting your problem is the waterborne poly, although the aging process of the cherry would obviously be part of it. But that part is easy to solve. Go ahead and take the doors off and put them in direct sunlight, checking them every so often so they don't get too dark. Lastly, I'd just sand the waterborne poly heavily with 320 and put a coat of oil poly over it. Between those two, I think problem solved.

From contributor P:
There are always several ways to skin a cat, but I would take a safer approach than trying to coat over the waterbased product with a solvent based topcoat or stain. You're absolutely right about the cherry darkening over time, but if the client won't wait, I would make a tinted topcoat with some red oxide and yellow oxide and shoot the faces again with the waterbased topcoat you used to finish the job in the first place. The concentrations of colorant have to be small (like 0.5%) to ensure that you won't kill the grain. Play around with it and I think you will like this approach.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the advice. I am taking advantage of this beautiful Iowa weather and setting the doors in full sun throughout the day, on and off all week. I am hoping they richen up, and then I plan on making up the difference with a tinted waterbased topcoat. It is funny because I did another job for the same client this winter that involved retrofitting some new cabinets into an existing built in. Granted there were no doors, but the cherry matched up perfectly.

Contributor P, what tints do you recommend? I have used Transtints in the past.

From the original questioner:
Just an update... I aged the doors in full sun for 6 days, and they darkened a bit. I then sprayed two coats of tinted waterbased poly, and they match 100% to the existing cherry tones. The client was thrilled, as was I.

I used Transtints... Red Mahagony, Honey Amber and a Dark Walnut.

From contributor P:
I think the Transtints would be great, as they give you the clarity. Just make sure they are compatible with the waterbased product you are using. I would normally use the 896 or 895 from Ivonik, as they are generally pretty compatible across the board. It's always best to test and make sure.