Preventing Blotching in Cherry

Basic tips to help evenly dye or stain Cherry. October 1, 2010

Can anyone advise if you need to raise the grain on cherry plywood before applying a seal coat before stain to prevent blotching?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor G:
If you raise the grain, you probably won't need to use a seal coat. You probably will need to use a thinned version of the stain because water-popping will make the stain bite in more and go darker. Do some tests to see how it looks.

From contributor W:
To prevent blotching, you have to prepare your wood well. Sand it properly until you get an even and smooth surface. For cherry wood you’re better to apply your stain directly on the wood to raise your grain. Just avoid applying your stain too wet. Spray method is a better option to apply your stain.

From the original questioner:
I tried spraying stain before and my results were not good. What tricks are out there? I typically use a SW BAC wiping stain? How thin of a spray should I use?

From contributor K:
Hopefully, this will provide some helpful guidelines. Pigmented stains consist of three segments: finely ground colored pigment, liquid to facilitate dispersal of the pigment, and a binder (adhesive) that keeps the pigment in place. With pigmented wiping stains, color is established by the finely ground pigment lodging into the pores of the wood. The more, or larger, pores that exist in the wood or in its various sections, the more pigment will remain, thus effecting a deeper color in those areas.

Wiping stains by design should be flooded on, allowed to sit until the binder will keep the pigment in the wood pores, then wiped off. The goal is to allow the wood to keep as much of the pigment as it is going to. While thinning the stain will result in less pigment being dispersed and spread out, nonetheless, a greater amount of pigment is still going to reside in the larger-pored segments of the wood than in the rest. So those areas are still going to appear darker than the denser areas, although the overall color will be lighter.

Since dyes stains do their work at the molecular level, with the color being absorbed into the wood (rather that laying on it), splotchinesss is decreased. In most cases, the staining step will need to be followed by a toning step (color in finish), to help reduce the differences in the colors.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
I use cherry and African mahogany in my woodworking and both blotch badly when oil based stained directly. I cut Alkyd Varnish (not polyurethane) 50-50 with mineral spirits and apply and let cure three coats sanding between and final coat (heavy on the end grain). Then brush on stain thinly two-four coats, each coat curing completely, depending on how different each wood piece is. After thoroughly curing I topcoat with several coats of spray pre-catalyzed lacquer. A light 320 grit sponge sanding and paste wax. Buff and it looks great. Lots of grain, no blotching.