Cherry finishing - from a newbie

After reviewing 10+ years' worth of posting regarding cherry finishing, I have a good feel for the views of the group on this topic. HOWEVER, I still have a question for you guru finishers. I am trying to match an existing finish on several custom cherry pieces in a bedroom set to one that I need to put on a new blanket chest. Although I would like to just sand and apply Watco, I need a more immediate match. The existing finish is aniline dye, NGR alcohol-based (no sealer beforehand) wiped on (!) followed by oil/varnish/spirits blend, 3-4 coats rubbed out, with paste wax final finish. Despite my testing the finish in advance on a smaller board, I am having a terrible time applying the dye to the large chest areas, all sorts of lap marks and blotches. I think my problem in part is that the alcohol is drying too quickly when I am wiping it on. Question - does thinning the dye with additional denatured alcohol make it easier to work, and minimize lap marks? Or do I need to buy Behlen's retarder? Would I have an easier time with water based dyes? Thoughts appreciated.
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I've experience only with water-based aniline dyes, but I definitely have never had a problem as you describe, so you're probably on the right track regarding the evaporation happening too quickly. In your case, the retarder would be the best way to go, but if you can switch to a water-based dye, it isn't a lot more work and you can still use all the same top coats you planned. Just raise the grain with a sponge coat of water first, then apply the WB dye, followed by a coat of shellac. After that you can put any finish you like.
Mike
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You'd have a better time matching factory furniture by using a toner. A layer of color sandwiched between layers of finish.
--
Mike G.
snipped-for-privacy@heirloom-woods.net
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John,
I just finished a dining table, and spent considerable time on the phone with Jeff Jewitt, of Homestead Finishing Products. Here's what he recommended..
Sand bare wood to 180 grit, wipe down with distilled water to raise grain and sand with 220. Apply even wash coat of Fuhr water based clear stain base. At this point you may need to lightly sand with 600 but, be careful you don't sand through the wash coat. As you probably know, Cherry often does not take stains evenly, the wash coat takes care of this. I then applied Trans Tint redish-brown dye available from Jeff. this can be disolved in alcohol or water. You can sponge, brush or spray on wood, just blot up excess to even out. On a large area, water works best, it penetrates deeper than alcohol and after preraisig with distilled water and the water based wash coat, additional raising won't be an issue. He suggested 1/3 strength to sneak up on the color. When dry these dyes will look dull and washed out but the top coat of whatever will brighten. I was extremely pleased with the results! Visit Jeff at www.homesteadfinishing.com
Good luck!
Dale

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Dale obviously has a lot of experience with water and alcohol based finishes, and a lot of good advice. Here is an other alternative to Dale's technique if you don't want to use such finishes, and are the techniques we have used on our pieces for years. The trick to having an even looking finish is all in the sanding. The more even the sanding the more even the finish.
We normally will start by sanding a table top with 120 grit. We then sand the top using a random orbital sander using 120 grit. If the piece is to be left natural, we will step it up to 240 grit, then buff the surface with a random orbital sander using a paper towel between the paper and the table top. The towel does not last too long but it really does create a nice glass-like shine.
But if the piece is going to be stained we stop sanding after using the 120 grit random orbital.
We don't use water or alcohol stains for the following reasons.
1) They do dry to fast and are difficult to get a even stain. 2) They are known to fade over time.
We use a combination of Barley Paste stains and MinWax stains. Used together they create a very even finish and by blending the finishes you can get most any color you want in order to match your other piece.
After the proper color has been achieved we finish the piece with 5 coats of hand-rubbed tung oil. It is a great finish and one we have been using since 1986 when we first went into business. Each coat of the tung oil should be very thin. You apply it over the surface and then wipe it completely off as if you did not mean to put it on in the first place. Sand lightly between coats with 600 grit sandpaper. A worn out piece of 600 works great. After 5 coats you will have a beautiful finish.
James Redway
PS The e-mail address here is fake. You can reach us through our website at http://www.redway.com . If you are interested in knowing more about finishing cherry or building small side tables using traditional joinery techniques, see our new Small Table Making Software program at: http://www.knighlite.com/creative

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[snip] |If you are interested in knowing more about finishing cherry or building |small side tables using traditional joinery techniques, see our new Small |Table Making Software program at: |http://www.knighlite.com/creative
Uh, I think you meant
http://knightlite.com/creative /
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Yup your right. Nothing like screwing up the website. It is http://www.knightlite.com/creative
You can actually download a free demo at that site.
Thanks
James
wrote:

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We use Hydrocote water based pigmented wiping stain. I "dilute" with about 25% Hydrocote Resistane water borne lacquer and spray on. It's ready to finish in about 1 hour. We don't have any problems getting an even stain. I have seen 15+ year old work with this system and have not experienced fading.
--
Rumpty

Radial Arm Saw Forum: http://forums.delphiforums.com/woodbutcher/start
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