Expert Answers: Cherry: Why Fight Change?

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This article is from Issue 102 of Woodcraft Magazine.

After only one day in the sun, shifting the coins on this freshly milled cherry board revealed light areas underneath.

Q: I prefer the lighter creamy color of natural cherry to the deep reddish color of aged cherry. Once I’ve applied a finish, will the wood still darken with age? And how do I correct light areas left behind from a vase?


A: This is a classic “man versus nature” story, and the short version is that man doesn’t usually win. If you’re looking for cherry to stay as it is, prepare to be disappointed. The honest answer is that it’s probably not happening.

Cherry will continue to change color even when finished. In high-production facilities, the wood is typically stained to fake the process of natural aging. Unfortunately, staining strips the material of its clarity, and the color never comes close to the beauty of mature, aged cherry. Even finishes with UV inhibitors are likely to succumb to nature eventually.

Cherry changes most dramatically over the first 6 months. During that time, avoid keeping items in one location on the surface for more than a week at a time. The wood’s color will continue to change for another three to five years, but as long as it’s not in direct sunlight, lighter spots caused by objects shouldn’t be a problem.

My advice would be to embrace the changing nature of this species and recognize it for the magical thing that it is. If you just can’t have that, the grain structure of maple is very close to cherry, and you can mix up a stain to approximate the look of a lighter, adolescent cherry. This approach is certainly not without its own set of difficulties.

I recommend you keep finishing simple. Pick beautiful materials—like cherry—and finish them naturally to maximize their individual qualities. 

Rob Spiece
Lohr Woodworking Studio


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