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Thread: Aging Cherry with Lye

  1. #1
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    Aging Cherry with Lye

    Has anyone tried this?

    C/P :
    GolfSteve in Calgary: I tested a few samples of different woods by treating them with different strengths of lye (NaOH) solutions. Cherry and Mahogany were the best candidates for this. Pine could also benefit. The red oak initially turned a nice golden colour, but after a couple of days it went greenish.

    On cherry, you don't need a very strong solution to get a very dark colour. 1/4 TBSP NaOH per cup of water looked about right to me. 1 TBSP NaOH per cup if you want a very dark colour, but personally, I think this darkens the cherry too much. I prefer the look of oil followed by orange shellac. However, if you want that dark cherry look right now, lye works very well.

    Neutralize the wood with a mild vinegar solution applied with a very slightly moistened sponge. Take care not to drip any solution onto the table as the drips will leave marks and you will have to start over.

    Bob Smalser adds: Wipe with oven cleaner (light lye)....let it turn bright red then wipe again with vinegar to neutralize the lye. Dry and finish. You'll be surprised with the result.
    "Its only by minute attention to every detail that you will achieve perfection"

  2. #2
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    Tried that once. Never again. What a mess and stink. Dealing with toxic stuff here. Full protection required all the way through sanding the raised grain. Easier to put cherry in sunlight and let it get a tan.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

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    Carol Reed

  3. #3
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    not me, but I know a fellow locally who did that with cherry trim in his house. Details here on the Canadian WW forum. Photos too. It's quite stunning.

    Your notes about dilute lye (one tablespoon per mason jar of water), and neutralize w/vinegar match his description . Though he also then washed with water.
    There's usually more than one way to do it...
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  4. #4
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    i am also a suntan guy with cherry, and to add more color use garnet shellac then top coat with your favorite top finish.. i dont like lye!!!
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  5. #5
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    Cherry deserves a nice oil rub followed by a few hours lounging in the Sun! Come to think of it, so do I!!!
    Bill Arnold
    Citizen of Texas residing in Georgia.
    NRA Life Member and Member of Mensa
    My Weather Underground station

  6. #6
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    I've done it, using Red Devil® lye and distilled water. It's always a bit dangerous when using lye, but gloves, old clothes, and a face shield lessen the danger.

    Not sure what Carol meant about the odor, but she's definitely right about the mess.

    The results are pretty neat, though. It's like an instant fifty years of aging - makes cherry look like a vintage Port wine. I think its best, or most practical, use would be for trying to match a repair on a vintage piece. Stains and dyes don't work very well for that, since the repair continues to age/change even after it's been stained or dyed, and won't be a good match a few years down the road.

    For new work, old Sol works quite well. BTW, Staining or dying cherry oughtta be a criminal offense!
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  7. #7
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    For new work, old Sol works quite well.
    What would this be. Old Sol
    "Its only by minute attention to every detail that you will achieve perfection"

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by John French View Post
    What would this be. Old Sol
    Old Sol
    Bill Arnold
    Citizen of Texas residing in Georgia.
    NRA Life Member and Member of Mensa
    My Weather Underground station

  9. #9
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    I've used lye to darken cherry. But I really think it's unnecessary. Cherry will darken pretty quickly on it's own. And when you use lye, you're using water so you raise the grain and then have to sand when it dries. If you sand too much in one place, you'll take off the dark wood and expose the natural color. The darkening only occurs in the outer layer of the wood.

    I didn't find working with lye to be a problem. The lye is the same used for opening drains. Just use gloves and good ventilation - do it outside. Better yet, don't use lye and just put the project in the sun for a day. You'll be surprised at how quickly it darkens. Note that sapwood does not darken so the contrast will be stronger after you age it.

    Mike
    Ancora imparo
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  10. #10
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    No lye for me either. If needed to darken with natural look vinegar & steel wool.
    I dream a lot. I do more painting when I'm not painting. It's in the subconscious.
    ::: Andrew Wyeth :::
    colonialrestorationstudio.com

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