One of the most often asked questions among woodworkers concerns methods of avoiding blotching in cherry. The questions are encouraged by countless articles in magazines purporting to reveal the “secret” method. Inevitably, these articles are disappointing because there is no way to keep cherry from blotching except to conceal the problem by adding color to the finish—in effect, making a thin paint.
This is what most furniture manufacturers do when finishing cherry, with the result that the wood is muddied and doesn’t look much like cherry.
In fact, the only way to totally avoid blotching with a stain or clear finish is to choose boards and veneer that don’t have the tendency to blotch. An example of how much the choice matters is shown in the accompanying photo of two adjoining cabinet doors.
Cherry blotching is usually discussed in the context of staining, with the solution being to washcoat the wood with a thinned finish before applying the stain. This is unquestionably partially effective.
But it is never totally effective because the washcoat itself brings out the blotching. All clear finishes cause cherry to blotch. Stains just accentuate it.
The doors are veneered and finished with a fast-drying, clear conversion-varnish finish. There’s no stain. The door on the right blotched while the one on the left didn’t.