I have worked with cherry, but have never finished it myself. I am going to be working on some upcoming projects and am afraid of all of the horror stories I have heard.
I presently do most of my work in oak, using Minwax or Old Masters stains. I spray a topcoat of Gemini conversion varnish. If I want to finish my cherry projects using the conversion varnish as a topcoat, what type of stain is recommended? Should I use a stain sealer like you would on pine? I'm concerned that it may not give me the depth of finish that I want. Would a gel stain help? How about laying down a few coats of something like Poly-Shades, then topcoating with the conversion varnish?
There are some good stains out there that don't blotch on cherry because they have a high solids resin content in the base, and control the pigments very well. I have had very few complaints about the Valspar line of stains that are in their distributor line of products; even with the dark colors they stay pretty even.
First, wipe on a light coat of Danish oil. Let it dry overnight.
Next, a coat of Minwax gel stain (cherrywood), then 3 coats of satin polyurethane, sanding lightly between coats. The color came out pretty even (between heartwood and sapwood) with only minimal blotching.
There are also dye stains and glazes that can help improve the depth and clarity of colors, but make sure they are compatable with acid- catalyzed finishes.
Anyone using these high-performance finishes should be working closely with their supplier.