Questions on using cherry wood

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mcpesq817

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Wasn't sure if this is the right forum for this question, but I was wondering about using cherry for pens. I am going to make a pen for a family member whose deceased husband used to carve items out of cherry. She found some of his old cherry pieces so I thought turning a pen out of it for her would be a nice token of appreciation and also remind her of him.

I know cherry tends to darken with age. Will it darken if I put a CA finish on it? The pieces she gave me are probably a few decades old at this point and a beautiful deep dark red, but of course after rounding a piece, it's now a light color. I was thinking of using a gold kit which would look great on a dark red blank, but probably less striking if on a more pale blank. I didn't know if people tend to pre-stain the blanks, or just wait for nature and time for the wood to darken. If it will darken even under a CA finish, I'd probably still go with the original plan and use a gold kit (I'm assuming the darkening is more a factor of UV than exposure to air and humidity).

Thanks in advance!
 
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Dieseldoc

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I have made several dark Brazil Cheery wood pen using both gold and chrome kits. For the most part the gold works the best. Now for the finish CA is Ok but for me I use Tung Oil which take much longer to build up the finish, however time spent is worth the effort. With this finish the color hasn't changed with age for me.
 

jttheclockman

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Not all cherry wood is the same to begin with. It will darken somewhat with age but under CA and being a pen it depends on the useage. If I were you I would do as suggested and test a piece with Boiled linseed oil to pop the color and any grain. You can also do a ca finish on a piece of scrap to do a side by side test and see which looks better. Cherry will not turn red as many think but a muddy brown color. That small of a piece the true character of cherry wood is lost but would look fine and with the story should do well.
 

Charlie_W

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My personal opinion would be to not stain the cherry....let it do it’s own thing.
You may consider making two pens. One with CA and one more natural such as simply Beall buffed and then Renaissance Wax.
And yes, the CA will darken the cherry as would any sealer, Oil Finish, Polyurethane, etc.
For a lighter tone, consider using a latex polyurethane and build multiple coats.
 

mcpesq817

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Thank you all, this is really helpful!

A follow up question if you don't mind. How durable is a BLO or Tung Oil finish? I've used Tung Oil on my ship models, but those aren't handled. With a pen, does the BLO or Tung Oil wear over time? Maybe I'm overthinking this as I'm wondering just how much use it would take to wear off a finish.

It's funny, when I first started out, I had no issues with CA finishes. Now, I've been increasingly having problems with clouding. I've changed paper towels, used accelerator and not used accelerator, etc. It's incredibly frustrating because then I have to sand off the finish and start all over. If I can get a good finish using a different product I might just try that.
 

Gary Beasley

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Thank you all, this is really helpful!

A follow up question if you don't mind. How durable is a BLO or Tung Oil finish? I've used Tung Oil on my ship models, but those aren't handled. With a pen, does the BLO or Tung Oil wear over time? Maybe I'm overthinking this as I'm wondering just how much use it would take to wear off a finish.

It's funny, when I first started out, I had no issues with CA finishes. Now, I've been increasingly having problems with clouding. I've changed paper towels, used accelerator and not used accelerator, etc. It's incredibly frustrating because then I have to sand off the finish and start all over. If I can get a good finish using a different product I might just try that.
You may be experiencing humidity problems in your shop causing that. Ive also seen problems with medium or thick CA if the activator is sprayed on too soon after application. Then theres also the problem of wood having too much moisture in it causing the hazing. Be sure to use fully dried wood, if you suspect that is the cause heat the blanks in a toaster oven at low heat, no more than 200F for several hours and store in a ziplock straight out of the oven. Let it cool and try a pen with one and see if the hazing still happens.
 

pshrynk

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The question of aging of the cherry wood comes down to oxygen versus UV light. I have no idea what it is that causes the aging, but the cherry wood hardwood floors in an old house of mine darkened in the sunny patches and didn't change much in the shaded parts of the room. And there was some sort of floor finish stuff on the top. So, I'd venture to guess that sealing the wood off with CA will likely not inhibit the darkening. YMMV
 

mcpesq817

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You may be experiencing humidity problems in your shop causing that. Ive also seen problems with medium or thick CA if the activator is sprayed on too soon after application. Then theres also the problem of wood having too much moisture in it causing the hazing. Be sure to use fully dried wood, if you suspect that is the cause heat the blanks in a toaster oven at low heat, no more than 200F for several hours and store in a ziplock straight out of the oven. Let it cool and try a pen with one and see if the hazing still happens.
I wonder if it's the humidity in my basement. When I first started, it was winter time so the humidity in my house was lower. Now it's a lot more humid with the summer. Hmm...thanks for this!
 

Gary Beasley

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I wonder if it's the humidity in my basement. When I first started, it was winter time so the humidity in my house was lower. Now it's a lot more humid with the summer. Hmm...thanks for this!
Might want to get a dehumidifier to run in the basement, it’ll help mitigate mold problems as well. I run an ac in the window in mine as well that has a dehumidify function I can run as well, that and a little freestanding dehumidifier that came with the house keeps it tolerable.
 

mcpesq817

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Might want to get a dehumidifier to run in the basement, it’ll help mitigate mold problems as well. I run an ac in the window in mine as well that has a dehumidify function I can run as well, that and a little freestanding dehumidifier that came with the house keeps it tolerable.
I should bring my humidistat down there and see what the humidity is like. Our A/C unit is actually pretty good. It's just that living in the DC area with the high humidity and rains this year probably hasn't helped much. Winter time for sure the whole house is pretty dry (we actually have to pump humidity).
 

jttheclockman

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Won't go into the CA problem I think that was answered. As far as durability of oil finishes the answer is there is none. Film finishes will always give you more protection from fingerprints and dirt and grime. Oil finishes will change the color somewhat but are not going to protect the pen material.
 

leehljp

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Tung Oil, if it is TUNG oil, will do well if it is done right. Problem is - doing it right! Raw or pure tung oil takes several coats and 24 to 48 hours or more to catalyze for each coat. Wood finished with tung oil is usually coated real well; then a day or two later, again, and again, and again. 3 to 5 coats or more with rubbing in between. Tung oil done right is water proof. The key is "done right".
 

Charlie_W

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Another thought in addition to your humidity clouding the CA is the possibility of moisture entering the end of the blank if you are wet sanding your CA. I blot the ends of the blank with one or two applications of thin CA before turning to seal the end grain.
 

mcpesq817

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Another thought in addition to your humidity clouding the CA is the possibility of moisture entering the end of the blank if you are wet sanding your CA. I blot the ends of the blank with one or two applications of thin CA before turning to seal the end grain.
That could be it too, though the clouding I seem to get is usually not at the edges. It's just very strange - when I first started CA finishes, they all came out perfect. I was wondering what people were complaining about. Now I'm starting to get cloudiness more and more. I'm wondering if it's a humidity issue and possibly my CA is getting old at 6 months.
 

sbwertz

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I don't use BLO as a finish. I put a coat on to seal the wood and pop the color, then finish with CA or a combination of CA and BLO.
 

donstephan

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Giving the pen blank a sun tan just before applying finish is a good idea. Won't reproduce the decades look but will definitely darken the wood. I'd suggest standing it upright in a sunny window and rotate 1/4 turn every day for a week or two.
 

JPW062

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Sunlight is what darkens the wood. UV I believe, but sunlight of some sort.
For a fresh piece of cherry an afternoon in direct sunlight on a very sunny day will be worth a couple years of indoor indirect light. For furniture 95% darkening in indirect light will take 10 years or a little longer. Maxes out to where one won't notice any further darkening after about 15 years.

I would never stain cherry. One uses Cherry for the aging effect.
I have considered toasting some cherry test pieces to darken them. I believe the technical term for this is thermally modified. You may have seen the toasted maple at Woodcraft and some other retailers. Cherry also has a high sugar content which should render great results. A few pen blanks would be easy to test.
 

mcpesq817

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Thanks everyone, really appreciate it!

I think I'll turn the blanks and leave them in the sun for a few days. Then I'll finish with BLO and CA - never used BLO, but have watched a few videos and want to try. Maybe the BLO/CA technique will help avoid the hazing effect that I was getting. I might also order some new bottles of CA and use the current ones (which are about six months old now) for gluing models.
 

JPW062

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I did a little googling of the ammonia approach. It seems it works best with oak and high tannin woods and not so well with Cherry.

All I know about tannins is it is the main ingredient in most mass produced cough drops and is where Ricola differs.

In a year I should be moving, purchasing some rentals again, converting their garages to workshop space, and have space to do a number of experiments.
 

showfire

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This might help.
Looks like sodium hydroxide or drain cleaner will work best. But you could try peroxide as well because sunlight is oxidizing something in the wood.


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