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Thread: Help with cherry table top

  1. #1
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    Help with cherry table top

    I need to finish a new cherry dining table. The boards are from different trees so the match is not the best, but no sapwood. I think I need a finish to darken the wood to blend things somewhat. Options include shellac washcoat ( sealcoat) followed by a General Finishes gel stain ( or Bartley’s gel stain - they seem to have more options - but they do not seem as popular nowadays). Another option is garnet dewaxed flakes first followed by topcoat which darkens the wood after application. Am I on the right track?

  2. #2
    If you seal with shellac first, you are effectively clogging the pores. The next coat will not penetrate properly.
    Gel stain is thick so that it will not penetrate too quickly/deeply in less dense areas of grain which would leave a blotchy look.
    Shellac is a top coat, stain is a penetrating coat.

  3. #3
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    My office built-ins were done with a coat or two of garnet shellac followed by general finishes hi performance top coats.
    My desks were done with GF Enduro-var with the first two coats tinted with transtint brown mahogany dye.

    Both methods worked very well, and I managed a very close color match between the two schedules. Both approaches achieved the "pop" of the grain I was looking for while still not looking artificial.

    Test boards are the way to do. Be aware that GF changed the formulation of Enduro VAr and the new version is quite different than the old version.
    --Certainty is the refuge of a small mind--

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    Sounds like you are trying to use the shellac for blotch prevention. When I do this I hit Seal Coat 50/50 with denatured alcohol and then hit that mix 50/50 again. This make a very thin wash coat that will make your next finish penetrate less in general and less specifically into softer areas of the material. That being said, we may need to back up a bit.

    You say the boards do not match and cherry has a wide range of colors. Parts cut from the same board can also appear not to match if they are oriented opposite each other. Have the top under a good light source and walk from one end to the other watching the surface. You will see it change as the light reflection changes with your viewing position.

    We are looking to see if some boards reverse roles; one appears dark and another appears lighter from one viewpoint and these roles change when viewed from the other location. The reason this is important is that you don't want to be disappointed in still having that behavior after staining. If that behavior exists, anything short of a strong color job (darn near paint) will change the color but, not the behavior.

    Do the options you present involve products you already have and intend to use? The reason I ask is that folks have all sorts of ways to finish cherry. It may be that a tannic acid wash (follow safety guidelines) or a sun tan will even out your colors. Certainly a carefully applied dye, more intense in lighter areas than darker areas, can even things out as well. The shellac is not going to even things much if at all, garnet or clear. I would work at getting things evened out before I started applying things that seal the materiel.
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 07-21-2021 at 1:07 PM.
    Take me to the hotel - Baggage gone, oh well . . .

  5. #5
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    Following on what Glenn suggested, I would dye the raw wood first. You can adjust the color somewhat during this step by how much dye you apply to the light and darker areas. Then I'd seal it with shellac or Seal-A-Cell, followed by a gel stain. The gel stain is where you can really unify the color. When that's done, seal it again with SealCoat shellac. Now apply your topcoats. You can even add dye to your first coat or two of finish to make a toner if you need to adjust the color even more.

    What I described is in Jeff Jewitt's book on finishing, and also in a FWW article he wrote years ago on finishing mahogany.

    John

  6. #6
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    I"m with John, but I'd also put it in the sun for awhile first to see if the differences start to mitigate. From there, dye is what I'd do.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the help everyone. I am going to do test panels first.

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    IF you need to change the color (I'd certainly try putting it in the sun for a while first) I'd absolutely go with a dye rather than any sort of pigment stain. I prefer TransTint dyes dissolved in denatured alcohol. I've seen cherry do some seriously weird things with selective absorption of colors from oil stains. It's not an experiment I have any interest in repeating. Testing with the exact wood in your project is essential. If you don't have cutoffs use the under side of your table. Stay on the light side of your desired outcome, as cherry will continue to darken over years.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    Following on what Glenn suggested, I would dye the raw wood first. You can adjust the color somewhat during this step by how much dye you apply to the light and darker areas. Then I'd seal it with shellac or Seal-A-Cell, followed by a gel stain. The gel stain is where you can really unify the color. When that's done, seal it again with SealCoat shellac. Now apply your topcoats. You can even add dye to your first coat or two of finish to make a toner if you need to adjust the color even more.

    What I described is in Jeff Jewitt's book on finishing, and also in a FWW article he wrote years ago on finishing mahogany.

    John
    This.

    Charles Neil had published a "recipe" for what he called "Natural Cherry Dye".

    cherry.jpg

    He has three versions of the formula, one using General Finishes dyes, one TransTint and a 3rd using WD Lockwood powders.

    I've tried the GF version & TT versions. The GF version worked very well except that I believe the cans of dye stain from GF also contain a significant amount of some kind of binder. They are much harder to blend on-the-wood as opposed to what you mix up in water (TT). The straight water TT blend I could lighten much easier with rags soaked in distilled water, the GF not so much.

    It did blend sapwood and heartwood from multiple project left-overs I combined into some small taboret tables making them look much more unified. It took one round with the GF (and was darker). Then on the 2nd and 3rd tables with the TT version I did two rounds of dying.

    Raised grain, sanded back 180, soaked rags to wipe down pieces. Let it stand just long enough to get all pieces dyed so maybe 5 minutes. Then wipe down with clean rags and start fiddling with a clean damp rag to blend and even out color.

    Seal and topcoat to taste.

    For TT (the one I kept in my notes -- thanks Google Drive!):
    5 parts distilled water
    1 part Reddish Brown
    1/2 part Golden Brown
    1/2 part Honey Amber
    Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

  10. #10
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    How about adding the dye to the shellac (making a toner)? Avoids uneven absorption issues.
    Hobbyist

  11. #11
    I think you should post some pictures first.

    I suspect you will be fine just using a darker topcoat like Waterlox (which is a great choice on cherry) or even just using a blonde shellac as a sealing coat.

    Even dark and light cherry boards 'match' IMHO.

    Last, the boards will darken independently after finishing, so you are anyway trying to hit a moving target.

    All this is to say, don't make too much of cherry boards not matching.

  12. #12
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    To each his own. I made a copy of this bedside cabinet.



    I'm sure you can guess which I made. To my eyes it's far more harmonious and pleasing to look at. The original looks almost amateurish to me. Call it rustic if you like.

    John

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by John TenEyck View Post
    To each his own. I made a copy of this bedside cabinet.



    I'm sure you can guess which I made. To my eyes it's far more harmonious and pleasing to look at. The original looks almost amateurish to me. Call it rustic if you like.

    John
    a picture is worth a thousand words. Nice John

  14. #14
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    Here are some pictures, thanks for all the help!

    table top 1.jpgTable top 2.jpg

  15. #15
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    Just to illustrate how subjective this is, that top looks perfectly fine to me and I'd just oil it, seal it with wax free shellac and spray on my top coat...but that's me.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

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