Tips for Finishing Cherry Wood (+ 5 Quality Wood Finishes for Cherry)

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We all know cherry wood as a popular type of wood for using to make various types of indoor furniture. Cherry wood enjoys wide popularity because it is available in so many regions of the world.

The most prominent variety of cherry wood is American black cherry, also known by its botanical name Prunus serotina. This variety of cherry wood also goes by the names of wild black cherry, rum cherry, and black mountain cherry.

Cherry wood comes from a deciduous tree, and its color may be a light blond color or reddish-brown. This wood darkens as it gets older. It has a pleasant odor when cut and also emits a similar odor if burnt as firewood. This reason makes cherry wood good wood for smoking meat.

This article features a few useful tips on how to finish cherry wood, with the various products that are available. We also discuss the benefits of using tung oil to finish cherry wood and feature a useful brand of tung oil that you can get in the market.

Tips For Finishing Cherry

Cherry wood
Cherry wood (Image: CG Masters)

Cherry wood is one of the most rewarding varieties of wood. However, you need to finish it in a particular way for the best results. Here are a few useful tips:

Color Variation

You will find that the color of cherry wood varies from one piece to another. Some suppliers will sell you a batch of wood from the same tree so that you can get a good match. But, most of the time, you need to be alert for choosing boards that at least roughly match each other in color.

The Darkening Factor

Cherry wood becomes dark rapidly. Hence, you need to keep this in mind while applying a finish. Cherry wood darkens so fast that a shadow can form on partially-covered cherry wood within a few hours. You may it find hard to remove even by sanding.

Sapwood Vs. Heartwood

The difference between the sapwood and heartwood of cherry becomes more marked over time. Heartwood will darken, but sapwood does not. Hence you need to factor this into your finishing process.

Blotches And Mottling

Because of thirsty spots and pockets of curly figure, you may face some difficulty while trying to spread varnish or oil evenly. It can lead to mottling. If you want to avoid mottling and blotching, you need to wipe the surface with mineral spirits once done.

Choose Your Finish Wisely

Depending on the factors above, you need to select your finish. You can either use a spray-on or wipe-on finish. There is a variety of different types of finish that you can use on cherry wood. Given below is the list of some of the best finishes for cherry wood:

Best Wood Finishes For Cherry Wood

Cherry wood has its peculiarities. Unlike other more stable woods like maple or walnut, you will find cherry changing its color over time. As a result, you get different shades from light brown to medium-golden brown and vibrant brownish red as well, with aged wood. So, depending on the color, you can choose the type of finish that suits it the best. Here are five of the best wood finishes for cherry wood:

Boiled Linseed Oil

Sunnyside Corporation 87232S Boiled Linseed Oil, Quart
Sunnyside Boiled Linseed Oil. See on Amazon.


Boiled linseed oil imparts a warm appearance instead as if the wood is aged. It gives the wood a reddish-brown look. You can add a clear finish to your boiled linseed oil finish for enhanced protection. The method of application is by a simple wipe-on/off technique.


However, the downside is that a boiled linseed oil finish takes a long time to dry. It emits an odor, and rags soaked in this oil can be a fire hazard. Also, the wood grain tends to become blotchy.

Tung Oil Varnish Blend

Hope’s 100% Pure Tung Oil, Moisture Resistant Wood Finish for All Fine Woods, Furniture and Antiques,32 Ounce Bottle
Hope’s 100% Pure Tung Oil. See on Amazon.


This finish is similar to boiled linseed oil, but you get a tough, protective coating once you apply multiple coats. The incidence of blotching gets reduced. The method again here is simple wipe-on/off application


Here too, it takes a long time to dry, and the finish emits a caustic odor. The soaked rags are also a fire hazard. There can be a little blotching, but not as much as with boiled linseed oil.

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat, 1 Quart, Semi-Gloss
General Finishes Arm-R-Seal. See on Amazon.


With this finish, you get a crystal-clear color. It is an easy finish to apply. You can get different finishes with multiple coats from flat, satin, semi, or gloss sheens. You will find it easy to repair this type of finish as well


You need to apply multiple coats if you want adequate protection.

Clear Dewaxed Shellac

Liberon Blonde Dewaxed Shellac Flakes, 250g
Liberon Dewaxed Shellac. See on Amazon.


Cherry wood gets a natural look through clear dewaxed shellac. It dries crystal clear, and you can apply other types of finishes over it, so it is very versatile. You will find clear dewaxed shellac easy to apply as well


This finish is not very durable.

Clear Dewaxed Shellac With Dark Brown Glaze

Liberon Garnet Shellac Flakes, 250g
Liberon Shellac. See on Amazon.


If you want to highlight the contrast between the heartwood and sapwood, you will find this suitable for your purposes. You get a durable and clear finish, and the grain and character of the cherry wood will get enhanced with it.


Considerable skill required for applying

Tung Oil For Finishing Cherry Wood

Since tung oil is by far the most popular finish for cherry wood, we thought it appropriate to feature a popular brand of this widely-used oil. Also known as Chinese wood, tung oil is what we call a drying oil. It is extracted from the tung tree, which grows in China.

Tung oil imparts an impressive matte finish to wood and is considered to be environmental-friendly. Here is a popular brand of tung oil that you can readily get from the market – Hope’s tung oil.

Hope’s Tung Oil – A Versatile And Environment-Friendly Wood Finish

Hope’s 100% Pure Tung Oil, Moisture Resistant Wood Finish for All Fine Woods, Furniture and Antiques,32 Ounce Bottle
Hope’s 100% Pure Tung Oil. See on Amazon.

Hope’s Tung Oil is a natural drying oil that comes from China and South America. Artisans use this oil extensively as the ultimate drying oil solution for applying finishes to furniture and antiques. It has high penetration power, penetrating deep onto the wood fibers to become part of the wood.

The result is a low gloss appearance that gives the wood a hand-rubbed effect. Furniture treated with this tung oil will have considerable resistance to spills, and the surface can be wiped easily.

You can use Hope’s tung oil on bare, unfinished cherry wood, and it also serves as an effective finish if you are refurbishing old furniture.


  • Easy to apply
  • No sanding required
  • Hand-rubbed appearance after application
  • No brush marks
  • High resistance to moisture


  • Packaging needs improvement
  • Instructions could be clearer


We hope that we have been able to give you a better insight into finishing cherry wood effectively. As we mentioned earlier, cherry wood can behave peculiarly, and you need to know what to expect. You should be aware of the various aspect of this elegant wood. With better insight and with a few useful tips for finishing cherry wood in hand, you are good to go!  Now, you can create some beautiful finishes with this fine and elegant wood.


Featured Imag: Cherry Dresser (Maple Inlay) Image: Creative commons