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splotchy finish on cherry table top

helkoss's picture

I used tung oil to finish a cherry coffee table. The top ended up very splotchy on the widely varied grains. What can I do to correct this?
I want to end up with a nice clear finish that will show the grain to advantage. I'm not good using lacquer.

Pondfish's picture

(post #76925, reply #1 of 9)

You've already finished the table top with Tung oil, or are you reporting the results of a test run?

If you've already applied it, the only thing you could do is plane off the finished wood to get to raw wood again.  I am NOT recommending this course of action.  I recommend you learn to live with it (some people even claim to like the quaint splotchiness of oiled cherry). 

I don't think stripping off the oil is a good idea at this point, since Tung oil penetrates into the wood.  My experience in cherry is the blotchy areas are those soft parts of the wood where the oil penetrates more.

If you just did a test run, try using a wood conditioner first.

An alternative finish that is not lacquer would be to use shellac.  Myseld, I use several coats of oil/varnish mix on cherry and look past whatever blotching there is.


Recommending the use of "Hide Signatures" option under "My Preferences" since 2005
radrays's picture

(post #76925, reply #3 of 9)

If you have not put any finish on the cherry yet, what kind of natural type finish can you put on that will not blotch?

Pondfish's picture

(post #76925, reply #4 of 9)

I wouldn't expect blotching with shellac or lacquer.  Shellac is an easy finish to apply and sands down easily to a smooth finish.  It shows the grain well and can be repaired or stripped off easily.

I've used Deft brushing lacquer (I lack spray equipment) and got good results, but it is more work to get a very smooth, hi gloss  finish.

Recommending the use of "Hide Signatures" option under "My Preferences" since 2005
radrays's picture

(post #76925, reply #5 of 9)

Thanks.  I will get some and try it on some sample pieces.

helkoss's picture

(post #76925, reply #7 of 9)

Thanks Paul-- I appreciate your cxomments. Since the damage is done, I'll play with the finish to see if Ican even things out

lwj2's picture

(post #76925, reply #2 of 9)

If you've oiled the top already, you may try a couple of coats of shellac, followed by using an oil-soluble dye to match the different areas, then multiple thin coats of tung oil.

If you haven't, I'd try a couple of coats of shellac, followed by multiple thin coats of tung oil.

Good luck,

Leon Jester, Roanoke VA

Leon Jester, Roanoke VA

helkoss's picture

(post #76925, reply #8 of 9)

Thanks for your comments. I'll play around to see if I can even things out a bit

uncommontree's picture

(post #76925, reply #9 of 9)


I will agree with Bill, I am in the final throws of a one year kitchen remodel, all new wood is cherry all old is original 1917 praraie school southern yellow pine cabinets. Like Bill wrote all wood was sanded and taken out into the sun and generous amounts of oil were applied. I used boiled linseed oil cut 50/50 with oderless mineral spirets. As the wood soaked in the oil I simply added more till it stayed glossy for a while and I wiped off the excess,(Watch this process closely linseed will get tacky quicker than one thinks and is no fun after that happens, I have 4 drawer fronts in the shop as we chat that are in need of attention) only to reapply a while later and wipe off excess as needed. After the color in all the wood has peaked in my eye I will apply a couple of coats of spar varnish, being in a kitchen and if you knew my Inga, it needs to be tough as nails. There is an old saying about oiling that I heard years ago when I used to restore antiques. Apply oil once a day for a week,once a week for a month.once a month for a year and once a year for life. Good thought. Hope this helps. Rick.

BArnold's picture

(post #76925, reply #6 of 9)


Following is an exerpt from an off-line response I sent to another poster:

"Since I've worked with cherry more than any other wood, I've settled on a process that works for me. Living in Florida, we have the luxury of ample sunshine most of the time. That's a critical step in the finishing of cherry for me. Whenever possible, I take the unfinished item or components of a piece onto my driveway (on sawhorses of course) to apply the oil (BLO with mineral spirits or naphtha). I wipe a generous coat of oil blend onto all surfaces, let it heat in the sun a bit and start wiping it off. As the Sun heats the oil and the wood, some of the oil seeps back out of the wood. I keep the process going until no oil seeps from the surface.

There are other processes to give cherry its ultimate color, but nothing works like letting it happen naturally. The Sun gives the wood a natural patina; the oil rub really emphasizes the grain."

As I begin this process, the wood will look very blotchy.  By the end of the day, the wood looks very even.


Bill Arnold - Custom Woodcrafting

Food for Thought: The Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

Bill Arnold

Food for Thought: The Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.