Naturalist

I have a project in the finishing room right now, but, unfortunately, I can’t talk about it publicly, yet. It is a commission that will be given as a gift, so, until it is presented, Mum’s the word.

However, I would like to talk about my method for finishing cherry. I read about a lot of various recipes for finishing cherry, how to deal with its blotchiness, how to even out the color, etc. etc. etc. Most of the time I end up just shaking my head. Now I realize that the final appearance of a project is a matter of personal taste, but for me, one of the reasons I use a particular wood is its inherent look and texture. If I wanted it to look different, I would use a different species. So, for the most part, I always prefer a natural, uncolored, finish. There are exceptions, of course, as you can see when you peruse my Gallery. If I am trying to match a specific style of period, Arts & Crafts, for example, well then, I will try for a more appropriate coloring of the Oak. Or if a client wants a specific look to a wood, I may try to talk them out of it, but, in the end, they get what they desire.

Cherry is one of the woods that I see abused (to my eye) the most. A colleague build a new house with all solid cherry cabinets, cut from trees on the property. When I saw the finished kitchen, I held my tongue (but it was hard.) They had been stained a uniform dark brown color with no sense of the grain, and NO chatoyance, at all. The things that draw me to cherry most of all had been killed. Eradicated to make sure they all matched and blended together. Personally, I love the subtle variations that are ever changing in every board foot of cherry. I love the depth that natural cherry has, and the subtle patterns of the grain. And when you get some curling, or crotch figure, or gum pockets, or (if you are extremely lucky) birdseye, then the character just gets more beautiful and interesting. If you want uniformity, then use poplar and paint the damn things!

Sorry, hope the kiddies were out of the room.

So, for my finish for cherry, I use some old and some new; nothing fancy, nothing that hasn’t been used before to wonderful effect. I start with a coat of Boiled Linseed Oil to get a jump start on the aging/darkening process. (I’d hate to see those stained/pre-darkened cabinets in 20 years. They’ll be positively gloomy.) After wiping off any excess (of course, fresh cherry will want to soak up most of it), I set it to dry, preferably in the sun, further enhancing the natural color that cherry acquires. Letting it dry for a few days to make sure the BLO is really dry, I will wipe on some oil/varnish or wipe-on poly to protect and give a nice sheen. That’s it. Simple and, I feel, beautiful.

After all, that’s, for the most part, the way that Thomas Moser does it, and he seems to be doing alright for himself. I think people just need to be shown how beautiful cherry is, without all the shading/glazing/dyes/stains/conditioners/etc….. They may just not know any better. Or, they may actually (gulp!) like it that way. Me, I’ll stick with the natural look.

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