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How to Refinish Cherry Cabinets

Sand off all varnish or you will have problems with absorption.
sandpapier image by Thomas Aumann from Fotolia.com

If you would like to refinish your cherry cabinets, you should understand some important points. Because there are areas of varying density throughout cherry wood, stain tends to go on blotchy and uneven. You must choose a stain with a dark pigment that will promote an even-looking finish. Dark pigment stains are also resistant to ultraviolet light, the primary catalyst that causes cherry wood to darken with age. Before you begin the application process, you should know the proper preparation techniques or you could end up having problems with absorption.

Things You'll Need:

  • Palm Sander
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Dark Pigment Oil-Based Stain
  • 2- To 4-Inch Oil Paintbrush
  • Plastic Drop Cloths
  • Tack Cloths
  • Plastic Coverings
  • 120-Grit Sandpaper
  • Heavy-Duty Fabric Drop Cloths
  • Professional Painter'S Tape
  • Polyurethane Wood Sealer

Protect the floor from stain drips with plastic drop cloths. Place fabric drop cloths over the plastic coverings to soak up drips and prevent pooling.

Utilize a palm sander, stocked with a low-grit sandpaper, to eliminate the coat of protective varnish. Don't sand against the cabinet wood grain, or you may cause splintering. Keep sanding until the cherry cabinets appear dull. Skip this step if the cabinets are not varnished.

Wipe the cherry cabinets with a tack cloth.

Protect areas next to the cabinets with painter's tape.

Apply a thin coat of dark pigment stain to the cherry cabinets, using a paintbrush manufactured for use with oil-based paint. Add extra coats for a darker finish. Wait at least 2 hours between coats.

Wash the paintbrush with mineral spirits.

Wait at least 6 full hours. Apply polyurethane wood sealer to the stained cherry cabinets, using the clean brush. Wait 6 to 8 hours before handling the cabinets.


  • Do not use plastic coverings alone, or stain drips will pool. Never use fabric drop cloths alone, or stain drips will soak through.
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