I decided to move ahead with staining the cabinet. After discussing things with Kelly, I felt that some of the rippling is going to be hidden by gears, piping and other gadgets, so I wanted to see how the cabinet would look with the stain applied.
Yesterday hit 77 degrees with a very slight breeze - good enough to apply the stain. Cherry wood has a tendency to look blotchy when it is stained. There are two ways to minimize this: the first is to pre-treat the wood with denatured alcohol. Unfortunately it also washes out the color (although a second coat could be applied). The second method is to use a water-based stain, which is the route I chose. If possible, avoid the big box stores for this as their selection is more limited and of lower quality. Instead I picked up General Finishes Vintage Cherry Water Based Dye Stain from Woodcrafters ( a specialty woodworking store in Portland).
The stain needs to be applied evenly to an entire area in a single coat. Any surface area that is partially coated and dries, and is then finished later won't match - you'll have two different colors. Weird but true. After pre-sanding with 220 sandpaper (just a little because the veneer is very thin), I applied the stain. It actually turned out pretty well - the rippling on the cabinet is barely noticeable. The backbox actually looks worse, but that will be mostly hidden.
Next step will be to apply the semi-gloss finish...