Staining Cherry Wood Darker — How-To Guide + Best Stains & Colors

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Are you aiming to give your cherry wood furniture a stunning makeover? To achieve that timeless, standout appearance, staining is the way to go. It’s a superior choice compared to traditional painting, but mastering the art of staining requires some expert techniques.

If you’re eager to learn the ins and outs of staining cherry wood like a seasoned pro, you’re in the right place. This guide will walk you through the essential steps for achieving that flawless finish on your cherry wood pieces.

Is Cherry Difficult to Stain?

If you’re pondering whether to stain or paint your cherry wood and wondering which method is simpler and more effective, let me shed some light on the matter. Cherry wood is one of the most straightforward materials to stain.

Yes, cherry wood is not difficult to stain because of its super fine grain and appealing color. Although cherry is a hardwood, most woodworkers prefer using it to make detailed furnishings for entrepreneurs and homes.

You can purchase this wood any season, selecting between kiln-dried or pressure-treated. But there is no difference if cherry is oven-dried or treated because it retains its shape and size after the process. It means staining won’t be a problem with cherry wood if you buy it treated or untreated.

wood darken

How to Prepare Cherry Wood for Staining

To prepare your cherry wood prior to staining, I highly recommend sanding it and using a pre-stain conditioner.

By sanding your wood surface, you effectively eliminate impurities, allowing for better absorption of subsequent treatments. Additionally, applying a pre-stain conditioner acts as a sealant, closing off the deeper pores in the wood.

For better results, use very thin shellac as your pre-stain conditioner. Conditioning wood before staining prevents blotches or different shades of stain from showing on your wood surface once it’s dried.

Best Stain for Cherry Wood + Stain Colors

Depending on the type of cherry wood and your desired outcome, you can have darker or lighter shades.

My favorite stains for cherry wood are tung oil, linseed oil, lacquer, beeswax, and varnish. It can change the color of your cherry wood from traditional or natural to antique, reddish to brownish, and gray to black.

Also Read: How to Finish Wood with Beeswax

Cherry wood table

Primarily, tung oil offers a protective coating on furnishing, but with its versatility, you can use it to give a lasting finish to your wood. However, you must know the tung oil pros and cons first before using it to coat cherry wood. 

Brightening the natural beauty of your cherry wood is a skillful art, and I’ve got some tips to share. Instead of synthetic treatments, consider using Linseed oil to enhance the rich tone of your cherry wood. 

If you prefer a more translucent finish, lacquer is your go-to choice. Mastering these techniques will elevate your woodworking game.

For varnish-type stains, I recommend using a satin tone varnish for cherry wood. This type of finish offers an aesthetic effect on your wood without blotching or brush marks as long as you apply it using cloth.

What I love about using varnish is the finish it gives to our Cherry wood furniture and tables that cannot replicate by using other stains. Varnish is cheaper but effective as an alternative.

How to Stain Cherry Wood Evenly and Successfully

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

stained Cherry wood

Step #1: Prepare your Work Area

Before you stain the wood, ensure that you cover the floorings and surfaces that you don’t want to be stained accidentally with plastic sheets. 

Wear a mask, gloves, and goggles to prevent inhaling toxic chemicals during your staining job. You may also clean the wood before the staining process starts. 

Step #2: Prepare your Cherry Wood

After you have prepared your work area, start preparing your Cherry wood. For sanding, use sandpaper not more than 220-grit. Otherwise, the wood grain will seal, resulting in blotchiness.

Then use a tack cloth to remove the sand dust and a clean cloth to ensure no dust particles remain [1].

Step #3: Apply Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

After sanding, apply a pre-stain wood conditioner for uniform stain absorption. The conditioner will seal the surface but leaves an excellent adhesion to your stain. Let it dry before applying your preferred wood stain.

Minwax wood conditioner

Step #4: Apply your Cherry Wood Stain

After preparing the wood surface, get your wood stain. Stir and mix it gently to prevent the appearance of bubbles. Apply it evenly using a brush, roller, or cloth, depending on the wood stain or oil. Wipe off the excess stains or oils to prevent drips on the surface.

Use 400-grit sandpaper to sand the first coat if you want darker shades. Then apply the second coat of stain and wipe off the excess stain.

If you want a darker cherry color tone, you need to leave the excess stain on the surface for 10 minutes. More than 10 or 15 minutes will result in blotchiness. Afterward, wipe off the excess stain to prevent blotching.

Step #5: Finish it with a Top Coat

Giving the wood surface a single layer of clear top coat at least 24 hours after staining. The top coat protects your Cherry wood, primarily from exposure to direct UV rays, rainfall, and other damaging factors.

Use a polyurethane sealant for your top coat to keep the quick oxidation of the wood resulting in wear and tear.

mixing Minwax Water-Based, Oil-Modified Polyurethane

How Long Will it Take for Stain to Dry on Cherry?

Ideally, you should wait 24 hours for your stain to dry completely. This highly depends on your weather condition, but you should wait for a minimum of 24 hours to allow it to dry.

How Long Will it Take for Cherry Wood to Darken?

But without applying stain to your cherry wood, the darkening of its wood naturally could take several months. So to speed up the process, choose the right shades of stain you prefer for your cherry wood furniture and tables.

Applying Stain on Cherry Wood to Make it Lighter: Is it Possible?

You can choose a light-colored primer and paint if you want a lighter shade for your cherry wood. You can also choose a white paint or glaze wash to give it a more subtle and whitewashed look. These shades can provide your cherry wood a lighter appearance.

What are the Advantages of Cherry Wood?

Cherry wood color

Aside from staining easily, cherry wood is my favorite because of its characteristics. Its appearance, workability, durability, stability, and flexibility contribute to a successful woodworking project and appeal to certain aesthetics.


Certainly, you can tackle staining cherry wood on your own, no need for a pro. However, without the right approach, you might end up with unsightly blotches that can mar your woodwork.

Now you know the essential steps to help you select the perfect stains for your cherry wood. Rest assured, you’ll have a sleek and expert-quality finish.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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