How to Darken a Natural Wood Finish on Cabinets or Furniture

I have a set of maple cabinets that I would like a bit darker while still keeping the natural wood look. Is there a way to darken them without removing all of the finish? –J.D.

Hi J.D.,

If the two finishes are compatible, you could apply a tinted varnish, such as Minwax Polyshades, over the existing finish. Each coat of the tinted varnish will darken the wood a bit more while making the wood grain more opaque as well.

Start by wiping an inconspicuous spot on the cabinets down with a clean rag dampened with mineral spirits to remove any dirt and contaminants, such as wax or grease. Lightly sand the spot with fine sandpaper (220 grit or higher) to dull the sheen and allow the new finish adhere to the old. Wipe of any sanding dust with a clean, damp cloth.

When the surface is dry, apply the tinted finish to the spot and allow it to dry thoroughly for several days. Once the finish has hardened, test it with your fingernail to see if the new finish adheres well to the old. If it does, repeat the procedure on all the cabinets.

Good luck with your project,



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2 Comments on “How to Darken a Natural Wood Finish on Cabinets or Furniture”

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  • Bob S Says:
    February 19th, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Ded……..I was considering Poly Shade but now I’m not sure. What happened that gave you this opinion? I’m trying to avoid the stripping…….awful job……but it sounds inevitable! Either that or, just live with what it is!

  • ded Says:
    November 7th, 2010 at 12:48 am

    BAd product. after you do the cabinets with tinted polyshades be prepared to strip sand stain and refinish like you should have done in the first place but now you are doing it twice.

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How to Darken a Natural Wood Finish on Cabinets or Furniture