Matching Sun-Darkened Cherry

Color-matching new work with old is tricky when the wood is Cherry, because of the way Cherry darkens when exposed to light. May 24, 2006

About eight months ago I made a cherry kitchen. The doors and frames were just clear coated. I now am adding to the kitchen and I'm finding I need to stain the cabinets to match what I installed eight months ago. Will this be a mistake? In eight months will the newer cabinets be darker? Also, should I just clear these cabinets and tell the customer they will match in a few months? Any help is appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor S:
I would just clear them again with the same topcoat and they will be the same before too long. If you stain them the stain will act as a U/V blocker and cause them to age differently. What top coat are you using? Is it amber?

From the original questioner:
I use Sherwin Williams’s clear conversion varnish.

From contributor D:
Make sure you use the exact same C.V. as you used before. I believe S.W. has U/V inhibitors in some of there C.V. and not in others. Finish the same and it should turn out the same in time.

From contributor M:
You can set the panels out in the sun for a while to darken them prior to finishing. You would have to keep a close eye on them and have an eye for how they will look once finished. You could probably swipe them with some denatured every hour or so to get an idea. I am not sure that the wood will "catch up" or continue to be just a little lighter for all time if just finished and installed as is. I know that you can also use various chemical mixtures, such as lye, to darken cherry and other woods, but I would suggest using extreme caution with these techniques due to the fact that the reaction takes place very quickly and there is little room for inaccuracy.

From contributor C:
Cherry darkens with age. A few months ago the cabinet supplier in a house I was working in replaced several doors in a kitchen that was about 6 months old at the time. They were clear coated and at first they seemed light, but now you can't tell.

From contributor J:
Plus the catalyst you put in the varnish makes the cherry turn a certain color unique to conversion varnish. Just as pre-cat lacquer make maple turn pink toned.

From contributor S:
As a matter of sales policy you should always sell the whole job on the basis that down the road a match might not be so easy. At least some education of the customer, especially on clear finish goods, is essential so that you are not hogtied into this kind of dilemma.

In the furniture store where I used to work the line given to the customer is to buy all you think you can envision needing because you never know when or if a manufacturer will discontinue the suite. It may sound pushy but in retail furniture is sure is true.