How To Stain Pine To Look Like Mahogany or Brazilian Cherry

By Todd Fratzel on Painting and Finishing

Staining Softwoods Dark Colors Like Mahogany

Recently I started building a custom built-in entertainment center that consists of white painted wood cabinets and a wood countertop that needed to match some existing Brazilian Cherry in the house. In an effort to save time and money I wanted to build the 10′ long countertop from plywood and stain it a dark reddish-brown so that it matched the color of the Brazilian Cherry floors and accent trim in the room.

Brazilian Cherry resembles a dark mahogany finish which is the polar opposite of white pine!  While this can be a very difficult result to achieve it’s not impossible. Keep on reading and see how I turned a pine plywood countertop into a beautifully finished top that resembles Mahogany or Brazilian Cherry.

How To Stain Pine to Look Like Mahogany Using Minwax Stains

Mixing Custom Stain Colors

The first trick or tip to this topic is realizing that 90% of the time you’ll need to custom mix a stain color to get the results you’re looking for. This sounds complicated but the reality is it’s as easy as trial and error. For this project I was trying to match the color of Brazilian Cherry flooring (which was pre-finished) and some Brazilian Cherry wood accents throughout the house.

So I went to the local hardware store and picked out two stains that were close to the color I needed.  I chose the following:

I started by testing several samples. For each color I tried several pre-finishing steps including:

  • Sanding the wood sample followed by applying the stain.
  • Sanding the wood sample followed by a pre-stain wood conditioner, followed by the stain.

After testing both stain colors with those methods I realized neither color was really the result I needed. So then I started mixing the colors and repeating the application process. I needed the color to be darker than the Sedona Red and lighter than the Red Mahogany. So I dumped out some of the Sedona Red and slowly started adding Red Mahogany to the mix. After several tests I decided the mix was finally producing the color I needed. What this short video for more information on mixing stains.

 Apply Several Coats of Stain

To achieve the dark, rich, reddish color I was shooting for meant that I needed to apply several (actually five) coats of stain. This is really the most important step in creating the dark colors on soft, light colored wood such as pine and poplar. I continued to apply stain until the wood top matched the color I was comparing it to. As you can see below the end result is a really nice dark brown with a heavy hint of red

How To Stain Pine To Look Like Mahogany or Brazilian Cherry

Apply Sealer For Final Color

The final color can’t be realized until you’ve applied a sealer. For this project I went with a very durable Spar Urethane from Minwax. I applied four coats of the Spar Urethane. Below is a picture of the top in the room with the Brazilian Cherry floors and the other architectural features.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. Brian G. says:

    I’m actually attempting to match the same color you were trying to match, and wondering what ratio your mix of Sedona Red was with the Red Mahogany. If you could give me a starting point, I think it would save me some time.

    Thanks for the article and video!

    • Todd Fratzel says:

      Brian – I tried to keep track and it was an impossible task. I made so many samples until I had it where I liked. I started at 50/50 and moved on from there. Good luck!

  2. Stefan says:

    Love the look. I have tried numerous sanding techniques on plywood but still get like fine chip outs/gaps on entire board.When I stain this those areas appear darker. Any advice?

  3. Lynda says:

    I have some dining chairs that are about 20 yrs old. I’m trying to make the finish look like my 150 + yr old chairs. I’ve removed the polyurethane and sanded. However the newer chairs still have some pervious color stain, like a golden oak. I’m trying to achieve a dark mahogany. Did you try one color letting it dry then applying the other color? I’m trying to figure out which method would work the best. any suggestions for going from golden oak to mahogany? Thanks

  4. HR says:

    Hello brian. I’m refinishing my 38 year old dining room harvest table set my father made me. White pine, stripped, well- sanded and intentionally distressed. We noticed minwax golden oak + red mahogany mixture. Love the 2 tone look with depth of color in the red mahogany. Will use stain only- I am finishing off with a heavy Mexican-style wax polish. What are your thoughts?

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