Monday, November 24, 2014

Refinishing an Old Dresser: Part 1

Don't get me wrong I like painted furniture. I make a living selling it and I have several pieces in my house. But what I've found is those DIY painted pieces, in my case, have ended up looking a little tired after only a few years of light use. So when I was the recipient of two dressers that needed some love to bring them up to date I knew right away I would not be painting them.

This is not a quick fix and it is not for everybody. It is pain staking and it will not be done in an afternoon. I'm not sure it was for me either, but once I start something I don't want to change course. That's the nice way of saying I'm stubborn. That being said. This will be a 3 part post. I will need time to get all of these steps completed!

Here she is. This is what I'm working with, and there is a tall chest that matches it. Good solid furniture, but not very cute. 

I started by removing all the hardware, taking the drawers out and getting all my tools together. 
  • Klean Strip (this stuff is really toxic so wear long sleeves, long pants and have a washing station near by)
  • heavy duty latex kitchen gloves
  • Plastic scraper (this doesn't leave marks in the wood like the metal one would)
  • old kitchen brush (to get into those deep groves that the scraper cannot reach)
  • galvanized metal bucket and brush
  • plastic drop cloth 
  • roll of paper towels

This part is nasty, but also kinda fun. Make sure you are in a well ventilated area and I might suggest that if you live a warm climate don't start this project in the heat of the summer. I did the tall chest already, but I did it back in July and I was miserable and it took forever. I had to keep going inside to take a break from the heat. For the dresser I decided to wait until the fall. 
This goes so much faster if you work in sections painting stripper on several pieces then moving back to scrap the first ones while the others sit. Much harder to do if you are trying to avoid heat stroke.

Put down you drop cloth and place your furniture over it to catch those nasty leftovers. You will want to just roll up the drop cloth and throw it away afterward so I used a cheap plastic one.

Paint on the stripper and leave it on 15 minutes before scraping. I actually started with the drawers because they were the most difficult. I prefer to work from the hardest to easiest. Then I'm always moving toward a less difficult task.

Make sure to leave the product on long enough. You will see the finish start to bubble up off of the wood. I did have to add a second coat before scrapping on several occasions. Use heavy even pressure as you scrap towards you for the the best control. Use the plastic scraper on all flat surfaces and even along edges where you can. Go back over groves with the brush and use just as much pressure to really clean out the finish from those deep groves. 

But you can only do so much by just scraping off the finish. To get down to really clean wood you must sand!

Sanding Supplies
  • Sanding block (because I don't have an electric one, that would have saved some time)
  • 150 grit sand paper
  • box cutter (to cut strips of paper for the block)
  • wire brush (to clean off sand paper)
  • lots of elbow grease
Once again I started with the drawers. Be careful as you sand the edges and grooves not to round off square edges or you may loose some character of your piece. Also be prepared to go back to each drawer and make sure the every piece is sanded down to the same level.
You will notice the color of the piece lighten as you sand and remove even more of the finish. That's what I mean by sanding to the same level.

You can see the difference the sanding makes. Above the drawer to the left is stripped, but not sanded and the drawer to the right is fully stripped and sanded.

It's a wonderful thing when you finally get it all sanded. It looks so good already! The back breaking part is done.

The main disappointment was the top of the dresser. I read up about removing veneer from old furniture, but what I did not anticipate was the partial board underneath it.

Talk about sad! There is nothing you can do to make that better.

So that's when I got the idea to just remove the entire top and replace it with stone like you would for a bath vanity. I think a white and grey marble top will look great on this piece. I figure it will also make this piece useful in a dining or serving area at some point the down the road.

Now for the fun part of staining and sealing. Bringing it back to life! Look for that in a later post. For now I will sit back and enjoy the completion of these first few steps with a cocktail!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Laura! This looks like a ton of work. I can't wait to see the next steps! :)