This treatment might leave the areas you cleaned or sanded lighter than the surrounding wood. That’s especially likely with cherry, because its surface changes colors naturally as the wood is exposed to light. Felt-tip pens, sold in wood-stain colors in the paint aisle at a hardware store or paint store, work great for touching up scratches or nicks. But for larger areas, such as patches you sanded, use gel stain. Apply it lightly; you can always add another coat to darken the color but can’t easily remove color once it’s on the wood. Finally, touch up the surface finish. If you remove the doors or drawers and work outside, you can use a spray can of clear finish. To refinish in place, brush on a little water-based polyurethane. When that dries as long as the label recommends, add a second coat. Several days later, after the finish has hardened, even out the sheen as best you can by misting the entire door with water and going over it with a damp piece of 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper. Always work in the direction of the wood grain. Wipe off the sanding debris with a damp cloth, then dry with a fresh cloth. If you opt for professional refinishing, the cost should be significantly less than replacing the cabinets. Pete Simonello, owner of the Furniture Restoration Co. in Manchester, Md. (301-221-4613; www.furniturerestorationcompany.com), estimated that refinishing typically costs 30 to 50 percent of the cost of new cabinets, assuming you’re comparing the cost with what high-quality cabinets would cost new. Resurfacing also saves you the cost of replacing or at least having to remove and reinstall the countertops.
For refinishing, Simonello charges $150 to $250 per door and $75 to $150 per drawer front, which includes removing the pieces, taking them to his shop for refinishing (a two-week process) and then reinstalling them. It also includes the cost of refinishing the cabinet boxes themselves, which has to be done on-site. (The company works throughout the Washington-Baltimore area.) If just the doors and drawer fronts need refinishing, the cost is about half.