Sand the Wood
When you buy your unfinished cabinets, you will most likely buy either birch, or oak. Birch cabinets have a fine grain. Often times, these are painted...but stain looks great on them. If you put a cherry stain on, the birch will look like cherry.
Regardless of birch or oak, make sure you prepare the wood properly. Begin by lightly sanding the wood with a 120-grit sand paper. Work in the same direction as the grain or you’ll get scratches.
Do a second sanding using a 220-grit sandpaper. This is finer and designed to remove any scratches from the 120. It will also give the wood a smooth finish. Your final finish is only as smooth as the top of the wood.