Matching New Cherry to Old

Cherry changes color over time from exposure to light. So how does a finisher match a new cherry cabinet to an old one? February 14, 2006

I have a customer with a kitchen that is built out of cherry. It has been sprayed with some kind of lacquer and nothing else - no stain or toners or anything. The kitchen is 6 years old and I am building a wall unit to match in the same room. Is there any good way to quickly age cherry or should I tell my customer that itís not possible?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
You can use dyes or potassium dichromate, but the color might not match if the original piece is over two years old. I'd try to sell them on an in-between color, darker than brand new but lighter than the current color.

From contributor B:
You can also mist it with a very dilute lye solution to get instant age. Another way is to expose it to intense light for a week or two. You'll have to do some samples, of course, and maybe tweak it with shading lacquer, but it's doable. Cherry doesn't keep getting darker forever.

From contributor C:
What finish will you be spraying? The lacquer - if you are sure that is what is on the old cabinets - will have an amber color on its own. If you are going to spray lacquer on the new unit, which I would not recommend, just tint the seal coat a couple shades lighter than the old. It will not take long to catch up with the old shade. If you are using a CV then I would spray a coat of dye stain to match the old. I do not think you will see enough darkening over time with the dye stain.

From the original questioner:
I will be spraying ML Campbell Magnalac on the new unit. Why do you not recommend lacquer? To contributor B: Where can I get the lye solution and how do you mix it? I got some free sample doors from my supplier in cherry so I can experiment to get it right. I was going to lay them out in the sun but the weather in the northeast has not been too cooperative so far, so I would like to try another way. Are there any good light bulbs that could do the same as the sun, such as a black light? The existing cherry has turned to a pretty deep red color. I considered a dye stain but was afraid of what it may look like a year from now.

From contributor C:
Lacquer will not hold up to the daily abuse a normal kitchen takes.

From contributor B:
The last time I got lye, I found it at Ace Hardware. You could also try a craft store as soapmakers use it. Try about a 3% solution. If you try the UV light option, let us know if it works. I have sprayed lots of kitchens with Becker Acroma Reliant post-cat lacquer with no problems. Related Web Site: Lye Article

From contributor D:
I agree with contributor A. Give it some color but don't try to match what is aged exactly. Tell them that even if you could match it perfectly it will look darker after it ages because you added extra color up front. If they don't go for this, do large samples and have them approved on site. Do not drive yourself crazy over matching the color. Get close and give them a bit of choice. Just because you don't get a perfect match doesn't mean they are going to terminate you. Your marketing skills can be much more important in this case than your finishing skills. Often clients are willing to curb or modify their demands if there are technical limitations and remember: you are the technician.

From contributor E:
Nitro Cellulose Lacquer tends to yellow through UV light. You might be better off using Krystal CV of ML Campbell which is a water white, non-yellowing formula and self sealing. Then you could shade it with NGR to match whatever sample you need.

From contributor F:
Spray Magnamax on the cherry, let it get some sun for a few weeks and you'll be fine. I do cherry cabinets with Magnamax all the time and it ages beautifully. The Magnamax will also be a little better finish than the Magnalac. It's not as tough as CV but if you educate your customer a bit on respecting the cabinet finish, it will look good for years to come. I've seen cabinets done with nitro lacquer from 25 years ago that still look good today because the customer took care of them.

From contributor G:
Charles, I would build the cabinet and then set it in direct sunlight everyday for two or three weeks. This will greatly speed up the darkening. You will be surprised. I have done this several times instead of staining the Cherry. My customers have always been surprised and happy. No matter what you do, as far as staining goes, it will only match for a little while. I always advise my customers to be patient with Cherry. If you stain it to the color that they want it to end up, then in two years it will be too dark. If what they have now is natural Cherry, then that is what I would encourage them to go with again. The two or three weeks in the sun will give it a two or three year jump start. I also agree that Conversion Varnish is superior to any lacquer but then you will have to overcome the lack of the amber tint that the lacquer gave the old cabinets.

From the original questioner:
Iím not using nitrocellulose lacquer. Iím using precatalyzed lacquer, if that makes a difference.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
Exposing cherry to direct sunlight will give it some color. It peaks after about a month, with the greatest effect occurring the first week, and after several months it starts to fade from sun bleaching. Related Web Site: Aged Cherry