Oak with a Cherry Stain
We get a lot of questions asking about staining one wood species to look like another wood species. The most common version of this is people asking for oak in a cherry stain.
First, it’s important to understand how the wood species and the stain color work together. The wood species determines the grain pattern while the stain adds color and highlights or hides the grain pattern.
Oak has a rather distinctive grain pattern. It is known for its open grain, with a coarse-textured look. One the other hand, cherry is much smoother and more even-grained. Without stain added, oak and cherry are actually somewhat similar in color, especially when new. Cherry will get a little darker as it ages, but still stays rather blonde.
For a long period of time, the prevailing fashions were to use light-colored stains on oak furniture and dark red stains on cherry furniture. These light oak colors were often called “honey oak” and offered a casual appearance. The dark red stains on cherry, perhaps chosen to imitate mahogany (cherry with a mahogany stain) gave a richer, more formal look.
We currently show 15 different stains on cherry, and any of them can be used on oak, but not all of them are what most people imagine when they ask for a cherry stain. Our top three “cherry on oak” stains are probably Washington, Acres, and Boston. Here’s how each looks on both oak (left) and cherry (right):
As you can see, even though they are the same stain colors, the actual appearance is completely different! And sometimes, that’s exactly what people asking for oak with a cherry stain want.
In other cases, when people ask for oak in a cherry stain, they are trying to get the rich look of cherry at a lower price. Due to its grainy texture, oak might not be the best option for this goal. In these situations, we can offer rustic cherry or brown maple as cost-effective alternatives. Rustic cherry is simply a grade of cherry wood that shows more natural characteristics like knots, pits, burls, and so forth. You should expect to see a few spots of black epoxy fill in rustic cherry furniture. Brown maple can also be stained to look similar to cherry. Its grain pattern and board colors are much more irregular than cherry, but it would not have the filled knots like rustic cherry. Brown maple and rustic cherry are usually the same price, approximately 10% more than oak and about 15-20% less than top cherry.