i should be mopping the floor: Refinishing Grandma's Dresser {Tutorial}

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Refinishing Grandma's Dresser {Tutorial}


About a week ago, this old dresser showed up at my house. And by showed up at my house, I mean I begged my dad a week earlier when I was poking around in his shed to bring this dresser to my house. And being the kind man he is, he totally obliged.

This was originally my great-grandparents' dresser. We're not sure how old it is...but my mom says she knows for sure it was in their house at least from 1939 on...if not before.

It had definitely seen better days. I *think* this drawer may have been dropped on this corner at some point.

By no means are we professional wood-refinishers...but this is how we chose to fix it. We basically did a bit of "cosmetic surgery" to cover up the damage using the above products as well as a thin strip of wood.

My husband was kind enough to help me with the repair process:
We soaked the wood pieces {cut to the width of the drawer} in water for about an hour until they were somewhat pliable. And by pliable, I mean we bent them and talked to Jesus about not letting them break. We used small finishing nails and wood glue to secure the piece to the front of the drawer, covering the damaged area. We repeated it on both top drawers so it looked planned {and *somewhat* original}. We sunk the nails with the sinker and filled with putty for a seamless finish.

Nobody's more surprised than me {or my dad} that this actually worked.

I filled in all the gaps...again, I like the seamless look. 

Then we moved it to the 110 degree garage to finish working on it {or start, I suppose...that was just groundwork with the repair}. I still don't understand why I couldn't have worked on it inside...apparently everyone else wanted to "breathe clean air" or whatever. Pffft. It was one hot & sweaty week working on this thing.

It got a good cleaning, and then the refinishing process began:

Whenever I've refinished pieces before, I've used a product called "Strip-Eze" {blush}, which has worked great. But, because I loathe wearing gloves when working on anything, I thought this may be a new cool product to try. It was a great product, however, I'm such a moron sometimes and tend to not follow rules. I know better than to not wear gloves. I should have worn gloves, regardless. That guy in the photo on the can is wearing gloves, for goodness' sake.

Spraying the product....I only used this on the top since I was staining it {and painting the bottom}. I purposefully wanted the bottom to stay brown {an awful outdoor-house paint that my great-grandpa hosed down every piece of furniture we have from them in}, so it would show through when I distressed it. It was more for sentimental reasons than anything...like a part of great grandpa's paint fiasco still living on.

The arrows are pointing out the new trim repair pieces. They also show where we filled in previous hardware holes since we were moving the knobs to new places.

Again, living on the edge with my glove-free self. Since this piece is at least 70+ years old, I'm sure I shaved off a few days of my life since there's some serious probability of lead-based paint here. Oh, Lawsy. Feel free to judge my non-regulatory, free-willing, law-breaking, glove-neglecting, fume-breathing self.
I'm baaaaaad. 

I then sanded the entire piece. I didn't sand the sides as well as the top, since I wanted some of that paint to show through. But I sanded them enough so they'd have plenty of tooth for paint to grip to.

After it's sanded, I wiped it down completely with a tack cloth. At this point, some people {as in more professional-types} would use bleach or Oxalic Acid to complete the color- removal process and bleach out any other imperfections. Since I was using a super-dark stain, I wasn't worried about that. And I was fine with any minor imperfections since I was, in fact, weathering it as well.

I used Minwax's Dark Walnut and used a staining-sponge to apply it {don't my nails look super sexy during this process? That's some hotness right there.}. I did three layers of stain, lightly sanding with very fine sandpaper {and wiping with tackcloth} between coats.

Once the top was pretty much done & dried {it took a couple of days to completely dry}, I turned my attention to the bottom.

Again, I purposefully did not use a primer on this particular piece. I wanted that crummy old house-paint to show through where I sanded {sentimental old me}. Normally, this needs a primer...but I didn't want that to show through as well. I used my stand-by $5 oops-paint aqua {it doesn't have an actual name since it was an oops-can I stumbled onto at Lowe's}. Incidentally, my husband graciously pointed out that the original $5 can of oops-paint has now cost us nearly a hundred bucks in subsequent cans of matched paint. We just keep going back for more. Love it. At least I can brag about my bargain for that first can.

Normally I use my palm-sander to distress furniture, but this time I grabbed my sanding block with medium-grit paper. I didn't want to over distress this particular piece {although it sure did that to me, so turn-about is fair play, but I digress}. I only sanded the edges on this one.

I did the next step a little unconventionally. I didn't want brush marks and I didn't want the lack of control of a roller. So, I used a roller cover and held it to dab. I mixed a 1:1 stain/water mixture and dipped my "tool" into it. Then, I dabbed the mixture onto the sanded edges. It was so hot outside {even at nine at night}, that it dried faster than I intended...I seriously couldn't keep up with the wiping process after dabbing.

As I mentioned above, after the stain was applied to the sanded areas, I wiped it up like crazy...leaving behind a faint "weathery" look.

I then finished it off with a coat of satin polyurethane {I actually did three coats on the top...again, lightly sanding with fine paper/wiping with tackcloth between each coat}. I knew I would be using the top a lot more...this piece went into the dining room and I know how hard I can be on buffet-type pieces, in terms of serve-ware and such.

And here she is in the dining room! I purchased glass knobs from HobLob to use on her. If you remember, we re-situated where the knobs went by filling in previous holes with filler.

These are not the original lamps I talked about putting on here...but I found these on CL for a steal and thought they were a more appropriate size for the dresser.

What a treasure to have such a family heirloom in our home.
Thanks, Mom & Dad. I promise I'll treat her right.

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  1. This is a gorgeous piece! I think my parents are the only ones in the world who give their daughter furniture then tell her not to paint it! Lucky you. And lucky everyone who gets to come and visit and see this beautiful piece of furniture. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love the contrast from the top of the dresser to the dark of the floor to the lamps...all blends/contrasts nicely, job well done. Love you!!

  3. Wow Kristi, you guys did a great job, it looks beautiful! Love the Oops blue too! Well done!

  4. It looks so beautiful! I am laughing over how you talked to Jesus about not letting the wood break - sounds like me! Well worth the work for such a gorgeous and sentimental piece!

  5. So gorgeous. Great tutorial too. I almost purchased an antique dresser with a couple damaged drawers a few weeks ago and passed it by. Next time I'll know what to do now to fix such issues. :)

  6. The beauty of it all is that you have the space to do all that refinishing work!

    Congratulations! Job well done :)

    Cheers ... visiting from Show & Tell Friday!

    Tito Eric

  7. Oops paint!! That Color is perfect good for you its the prettiest "after" I've seen in while!

  8. One of the best redos I've seen. Love the tutorial...I think I need woodfiller! And the patina on the top is gorgeous. You go! Kathy Penney @ Pinner Takes All

  9. Great job and thanks for the tute! I will follow this for my next piece :)

  10. Wow, that is quite an amazing transformation! I love the contrast in color/stain. Great job!!

    sara @ applestonedrive.blogspot.com

  11. That is gorgeous! I'm glad I found this post 1) because your instructions are simple enough that it makes me think I can do it too 2) you actually have instructions (other posts I found have the before and after pictures with a "I sanded it, primed and painted" nothing else) 3)I love how yuo write! It felt like a girlfriend was telling me about it, rather than an expert telling us mere mortals how to do a project! Thanks I might try remaking our old dresser!

  12. Kristi, that turned out so beautiful! I use that Dark Walnut Stain a lot, but boy does it get everywhere! I will have to buy a new wardrobe by the time I'm finished with all my projects with that stuff!! Great job!

    Jaye @ Just Tryin' to Make Cents of it All

  13. I am a sucker for aqua. What a great idea for the veneer fix for the top drawers. Looks fab!

  14. I love your blog! So many great ideas! I would love it if you would share some at my very first link party at http://mommyssweetconfessions.blogspot.com/2012/08/sundays-sweet-confessions-first-link.html . Thank you!

  15. You CRACK me up! I hate gloves to soon I'll be sharing where I spray painted something red and my feet looked like they were sunburned from the overspray. Thanks for your support by linking up at my first link party I hope you will be back every week!

  16. FABULOUS!!! This looks just like a dresser I got at a garage sale and made-over:) Come check it out!Im following you on all your adventures:)

  17. It just looks gorgeous, Kristi! You did such a wonderful job refinishing it. (I'm sure your great-grandparents would be happy with it!)

  18. Wow! What a transformation.. and it so great that you saved so much of the sentimentality

  19. Came over from TT&J - what a fantastic transformation! Enjoyed your tutorial as well! I have a dining room table (35 yrs.) that I plan to refinish the top - this info will help!

  20. It turned out beautiful! Great idea for how to fix the bad spot! Don't worry... you aren't alone... I never wear gloves either!! ;o)


  21. For your "non professional" ways, you sure put a lot of technique in it, not to mention your skin and even a word of prayer! Of course it was going to turn out beautifully! I had to laugh at your story. Quite the fun read and a sweet transformation. I do appreciate that you left some of your granpa's paint fiasco's there for the history. A sweet sentiment!

  22. Looks great! I recently tried my hand at staining...it wasn't as terrifying as I thought it would be! Looks like you mastered it. Love the color too.
    The Shabby Chicas

  23. So loving it and the color is beyond gorgeous. You did your Grandma's dresser proud! Such a great transformation and a beautiful piece! Thanks for sharing your creative inspiration with Sunday’s Best – it helped make the party a success!

  24. She came out stunning!!
    Thanks so much for the tutorial too!


  25. She's perfect now! Thank you for sharing. Visiting from 1929 Charmer. Would love it if you would share this at my Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House which goes live at 8am CST. http://thededicatedhouse.blogspot.com Hope to see you at the bash! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  26. That is absolutely stunning! Beautiful work.

  27. Love this. My daughter and I just finished up a roll top desk the same color. I really like that you saved that great top. Looks great.

  28. GORGEOUS!! Wow! I can't believe how beautifully this turned out...fantastic job. Meanwhile, I'm so the opposite of you; I'd have been freaking out about the possibility of lead paint fumes, wearing gloves and a mask and/or making someone else do it for me. ;) Thanks for linking up at Shine on Fridays!

  29. so purdy! your hard work paid off! happy to be a new follower! Big admirer of your blog!

  30. Awesome love and tenderness and finess you fed into that and what a return sooo beautiful and a super great tutorial I pinned it.

  31. I LOVE the dark walnut top with aqua!!!! My fav color combo! Great job!!!!!

  32. I have this very same dresser - it was my grandmother's dresser and I have it and a matching smaller one too! They were mine as a little girl and are now painted a pretty cream color in my guest room. The only difference from yours is that it has another style of hardware. So pretty!

  33. This is beautiful! I have a dresser just like this that was my grandmother's. I think you may have inspired me to paint it.

    I featured you on my blog today. http://www.laughterandgrace.com/fabulous-five-5/

  34. Wow, very nice job on he transformation! I love the color too!

  35. Beautiful!!!! I am impressed with all your hard work. You are being featured tonight this weeks Tasteful Tuesday party. This link will go live tonight at 8:30 central time. http://www.nap-timecreations.com/2012/08/taco-dip-and-tasteful-tuesday-party.html

  36. Thanks for linking up to last week's Tuesday Confessional link party! You've been featured and pinned to my Tuesday Confessional board on Pinterest!

  37. Kristi,
    This is so beautiful. I love the color. You really did a great job. Thank you so much for sharing with Wednesdays Adorned From Above Link Party last week. This weeks Link Party is opened at http://www.adornedfromabove.com/2012/08/tangerine-toner-and-wednesdays-adorned.html
    Hope to see you there.
    Debi Bolocofsky
    Adorned From Above

  38. OMG! I have a similar piece to your original taking up space in my garage. I think mine is bird's eye maple, but it too has seen better days. I would LOVE to do something similar to this. I see a DIY project in my future thanks to you!


  39. I'm a little late here but I just love this piece! I love the curves and the color! I also like how you blushed after the strip-eze lol...so cute! oops paint is the bomb :)

  40. I absolutely love your Grandma's dresser! You did a wonderful job with the tutorial. I am very impressed with the outcome also! GrEAt JOB!

  41. Wow, Kristi! This really IS nearly the same the dresser that I just did. I think the only difference might be that my side slat detail runs the other direction. Looks like yours was a ton of work too! I'm almost wishing I hadn't done mine this color now because yours is SO gorgeous!

  42. I absolutely love this dresser. It would truly hurt me to paint an old dresser, actually anything old, you have gut's that I wish I had. I don't know why that is but I do know that I love antique wood furniture maybe that's why. It look's great & that is my very favorite color of furniture at this time. GREAT JOB!!!

  43. So pretty! I have several pieces of antique furniture that need to be painted. I'm just having a hard time deciding how to do it. Great tutorial! I love that blue too. : )

  44. The attached link will give you an idea of the plusses and minuses of both ways of getting them done. 

  45. Amazing, Love this, Where did you get those lamps & mirror from?