View Full Version : ? on Cherry Cabinets darkening

10-31-2005, 01:45 PM

I'm new to the boards and looking forward to some great advice.

We're wanting to put cherry cabinets in our new kitchen. However, before we do I want to make sure they darken. Our new house has
windows that do many UV rays in. We did this obviously to conserve energy adn to protect our floors from fading. We want cherry and love thier natural darkening process and what they become. They are beautiful. I am just wondering if these windows will allow the wood to darken? Also, will the lights in the house itself enhance the natural darkening of the wood? About how many years does it take before this darkening is finished. And my last question. Is there anythign we can do to speed up the darkening of cherry cabinets? (ex: sitting them in the sun for a day or so)

Any help, suggestions, and of course information on Cherry Cabinets and the natural darkening process would be more than appreciated.

Thanks in advance. ISU Mom

10-31-2005, 02:56 PM
If the wood is, in fact, cherry, you can get quite a bit of darkening by putting them out in the sun for a few days prior to installing them. Incandescent lights do not emit as much UV as do their flourescent counterparts. That being said, I installed Brazillian Cherry floors in my hoime office. That starts off darker than American Cherry and gets darker from there. We have both the UV blocking windows and full coverage screens, and the floor as well as the cherry cabinets I installed in the office have darkened signficantly with no flourescent lighting so, apparently some of the UV gets through. These windows face the west, so get pounded by the evening sun.

10-31-2005, 04:48 PM
Soddy's about covered it all there 'cept how long before it's done. The answer to that is... something in excess of two centuries, perhaps. No, seriously - really really old cherry goes nearly black.

ISU? As in Boise?

-- Tim --


10-31-2005, 08:48 PM
Hey Tim,

Nope, that's ISU as in Iowa State University in Iowa. I'm one of those loyal die hard fans from the heartland. :-)

You seem to understand this darkening process. I've got the patience to wait a few years for it to darken a bit. Ya possibly think a few shades darker by then? I was debating btwn. cherry and maple and cherry just seems like such a better wood so I"m willing to wait awhile if need be. Just like my ISU cyclones. Been waiting years for them to have a GREAT season. It'll happen.

10-31-2005, 09:10 PM
>No, seriously - really really old cherry goes nearly black.

At some point with much age, doesn't the sun start to bleach cherry again, as it eventually does with most woods? No?

10-31-2005, 10:00 PM
Mmmm... if left UNPROTECTED in the weather, cherry'll eventually go silvery like most woods... but if kept dry, it'll blacken nearly completely, as most hardwoods darken (walnut being one of the few exceptions, lightening with age).

I've even seen oak building timbers that were nearly black with age. Big ones. Neat to see, and just shocking when you get a peek inside (as when somebody ill-advisedly drives an unlowered dumptruck through a wooden covered bridge) to where the color's still really light.

-- Tim --


10-31-2005, 10:15 PM
IOWA??? I know somebody who lives there - do you know him? :) :) :)

Not another Idahoweeite. Hm.

You'll be pleased to know that cherry doesn't darken in a linear fashion... it darkens very quickly at first, then gradually tapers off as it gets older & older. You can get a whole single shade of difference by leaving it out in the sun for a day - that fact's enough to drive good woodworkers to drink if they don't think about it & leave some particularly critical piece of furniture-not-yet-finished in a sunny spot with something opaque lying on top... leaves a distinct "negative" of whatever was providing shade.

Given a couple weeks of sunning, it'll darken significantly... provided the surface is left unfinished for that time - or finished only with something that blocks neither the ultraviolet nor direct air exposure (which is a pretty tall order). Unfinished is a great bet.

It wouldn't hurt, if you're shooting for a nice rich color, to use very dry lumber, surface the boards you'll be using, cut 'em to fit so ALL the machining is done, then carefully seal up the endgrain as best you can & leave 'em sitting in a sunshiney and dry spot overday. Next day, flip 'em over & let 'em bask for another day. Day after day, alternating sides. They'll go pretty nice & quick for you.

Note that if you do this, any subsequent machining or sanding will expose undarkened wood again... so they need to be DRY to begin with, MACHINED FULLY and READY TO FINISH, and they need to be KEPT DRY while they're sunning or they'll warp.

After finishing, they'll continue to darken with exposure to the sun, but at a much-reduced rate. It's the oxidation that causes the darkening, and that oxidation (from direct exposure to air) is accelerated by ultraviolet light. Kept in complete darkness, it'll still happen - but slowly. Exposed to UV but held in a vacuum, nothing happens at all 'cept the little eyes start to get bulgey & the little tongues turn blue... :)

...not to mention the coughing from all the dustbunnies in there. :) :) :)

-- Tim --


11-01-2005, 07:19 AM
I've got a piece of white oak on my bench that is nearly solidly black. Of course that is because I use it as a stop between two pegs inserted in dog holes to brace my waterstones against when doing some sharpening. Guess what, metal filings, plus water, plus white oak equals some very ebonized white oak.

Danford C Jennings
11-01-2005, 08:27 AM
Welcome to the Forum!!!

There are a few methods to darkening Cherry, "suntanning" them is just one, which really works best when there is direct sunlight (in the summer). The easiest solution is to stain the cabs with Min Wax Cherry Wood Finish (#235, in the yellow can, oil based). A word of caution, though.

Some folks seem to have problems with blotching when staining Cherry. Awhile back I addressed this (at length); in short it's best to use a card scraper and/or cabinet scraper in lieu of sanding. The other thing is to stir the stain through out the staining process; as with most "red" stains, the pigment tends to seperate and settle. Providing that you don't use an exterior marine grade varnish or poly for the final finish, they will continue to darken over time.

Another, though, less practical (in this case) method, is to use flourescent "black lights". A luthier friend of mine turned me on to this method and it works exceedingly well; at least on smaller pieces that can be placed in a black light box...FWIW.


11-01-2005, 09:09 PM
Hey Tim-Yes I do know that someone from Iowa!

Thanks so much for the info. Black lights? Sounds like a great idea-one that I may have to try as we'll be getting these cabinets in december and around these parts not for sure if we'll have much sun.

Someone mentioned ebonized wood. I actually want to try to do some ebonizing on a few pieces in the kitchen. A large pantry door for one. Do any of you know how to go about that?

All of you seem to really know your "woods" and you have been such a huge help already. So thought I'd throw the ebonizing ? at ya. Thanks again for all the advice. I've found through trial and errorthrough out our building a house that you have some people in the business who truely know about the products they sell. While on the other hand other just want to sell and make a buck. As a homeowner building you really need to be on top of things or your hard earned money will end up in a pie hole. :-)

11-01-2005, 10:05 PM
Hear, hear.

Ebonizing... is kinda' a wide field. Not like hundreds of acres, but not a single technique. One way that I've proven in myself is through the use of household lye - that works for certain types of woods.

Another way, if you're targeting a stark, coarse look is by fire. Seriously. The charcoaled outer surface can be coated with any of a variety of finishes (involving NO rubbing to get it on - and I expect no side comments about that last phrase).

Yet another way to treat woods, one that achieves a black "ebonized" color in a very few specific woods, is soaking in Copperas from the local garden supply center.

Some folks "cheat" with spray paint... :)

There's candleblack treatments, even - that's a really tender DEAD black finish until it's overcoated by spraying with lacquer or poly. Quite literally, hold the piece in a carburizing flame (even over a flame carburized by holding a hunk of steel in the flame's hotspot) to get a fine black soot to settle on the wood's surface. That can be paraffin soot (as from a candle), kerosene soot (as from an oil lamp or lantern, or whatsomeever. Gasoline & motor oil mixed together carburize well for the purpose & generate a pretty good stream of sooty smoke. When you've covered the piece with that fine soot, it's BLACK as BLACK gets - black as a banged thumbnail in a coal mine at night.

-- Tim --

The more I know
The more I learn,
And the more I learn
The more I know
I have yet to learn.
Don't wait up,
I'll be a while.