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Tips for Sanding, Staining, and Finishing Cherry Wood

Timber Knowledge Tips & Guides
18 July 2023 min read

Tips for Sanding, Staining, and Finishing Cherry Wood

Cherry wood is a trendy choice for furniture and woodworking projects due to its beautiful, rich, and warm appearance. 

However, working with cherry wood requires specific sanding, staining, and finishing techniques to bring out its full potential. 

In this article, we will guide you through the step-by-step process of working with cherry wood, from sanding to staining to finishing, ensuring you achieve a professional and stunning result every time.


Step 1: Sanding Cherry Wood

Like all types of wood, cherry goes in and out of fashion. It has been used to create staircase railings, pipe stoves, barrel hoops, ladder supports, and wine barrels. 

Sanding is a crucial step in achieving a smooth and refined surface. The most sought-after cherry wood is free of knots and has a straight and clean texture. However, sanding wood takes care and time. Nonetheless, you bring out the wood’s qualities best when you sand it correctly.

Firstly, you need to understand how the wood's grain, or the pattern you see on the surface, works. This grain is usually straight, so you should sand along it, not across it. When you switch from rough to smooth sandpaper, it's more than just following steps; you must watch and feel the wood to know when to use finer sandpaper. 

Here are some valuable tips to help you get the best results:

  1. Begin with coarse-grit sandpaper: Start the sanding process with sandpaper (around 80 to 100 grit) to remove any rough surfaces, scratches, or imperfections on the wood. Make sure to sand in the direction of the grain to avoid damaging the wood fibres.

  2. Gradually progress to finer grits: As you sand cherry wood, progress to finer sandpaper (around 120 to 180 grit) to achieve a smoother surface. Sanding with finer grits removes the scratches from the coarse-grit sandpaper, giving the wood a polished finish.

  3. Use a sanding block: To ensure even sanding, use a sanding block to distribute the pressure evenly across the surface. This helps to avoid creating uneven spots or dips while sanding.

  4. Check for smoothness: Inspect the wood's surface by running your hand over it. If you can feel any rough spots or imperfections, continue sanding until the entire surface feels smooth.


Step 2: Staining Cherry Wood

Staining cherry wood can enhance its natural beauty and provide a unique aesthetic. However, due to oxidation, cherry tends to darken naturally over time. To achieve the desired stain colour, follow these tips:

  1. Test the woodstain on a sample piece: Before applying the stain to your project, it's essential to test it on a scrap piece of cherry wood. This allows you to see how the colour will interact with the wood's natural hue and determine if any adjustments are needed.

  2. Apply a pre-stain conditioner: Cherry wood absorbs stain unevenly, resulting in blotchy areas. A pre-stain conditioner helps regulate the stain's absorption and ensures an even finish. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for application and drying time.

  3. Choose the right stain: Cherry wood has a reddish-brown tone, so it pairs well with stains that complement its natural colour. Options like warm amber, deep cherry, or mahogany stains can enhance its warm reddish hues. Apply the stain in even coats, following the manufacturer's instructions, until you achieve the desired depth and colour richness.

  4. Wipe off excess stain: After applying the stain, use a clean cloth or rag to wipe off any excess. This helps to prevent the stain from pooling or drying in thick patches, giving the wood a smoother and more uniform appearance.


Step 3: Finishing Cherry Wood

Finishing your cherry wood project is the final step to protecting the wood and giving it a lasting shine. Here are some tips for a successful finish:

  1. Choose an appropriate finish: The choice of finish depends on the desired look and the level of protection needed. Consider using a clear oil-based polyurethane for a glossy finish or a satin or matte finish for a more natural and subdued look.

  2. Apply multiple coats: To achieve a durable and professional finish, apply multiple thin coats of finish rather than one thick coat. This allows each coat to dry fully and prevents drips and runs. Sand lightly with fine-grit sandpaper between coats to ensure a smooth surface.

  3. Allow sufficient drying time: Follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying times between coats. Rushing the drying process can ruin the finish and result in an uneven appearance.

  4. Apply a topcoat for protection: Consider adding a topcoat such as wax or polyurethane. This will help to shield the wood from everyday wear and tear and enhance its longevity.

Maintaining Cherry Wood Furniture

While this article primarily focuses on sanding, staining, and finishing cherry wood, it's equally crucial to discuss the subsequent care and maintenance needed to preserve the wood's beauty over time. 

Cherry wood furniture requires a consistent cleaning routine to prevent the buildup of dust and grime, which can obscure its natural colour and texture. 

Frequently use a soft, lint-free cloth to wipe the surface gently. It's important to avoid using harsh chemical cleaners, which could strip the finish and dull the wood's natural glow. Instead, opt for a mild soapy solution, and wring out the cloth to prevent excess moisture from damaging the wood.

Moreover, wood is a natural material that responds to its environment. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity can cause warping or splitting over time. Keep cherry wood furniture away from direct sunlight and heat sources to protect the stain and finish from premature fading and cracking.

Finally, regular reapplication of finish or topcoat, based on the level of usage and wear, can keep your wood furniture looking new and vibrant.


Tailored Wood Solutions from Woodshop Direct

Working with cherry wood requires patience and attention to detail, but the results are worth it. Remember to sand thoroughly, choose the right stain, and apply multiple coats of finish for a professional result. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can achieve a stunning finish on your cherry wood projects. 

For all your woodworking needs, visit Woodshop Direct, where you will find high-quality cherry wood and expert advice to help you create beautiful pieces.