I love my job, I really do, but some days I get so tired of doing the same thing over and over. Do you know what I mean? Granted, my same ole same ole is probably a lot different from yours. I basically paint furniture for part of my living. I work from home, right now in my garage but in the winter, I work in my home. I have limited space so I can only work on so many pieces at once. I do many custom orders for people and they seem to all want the same things, either my paint with a stain glaze or one colored pieces. Sometimes, I just want to do something a little different and I’ve been looking for an old dresser to repurpose.
I found this little dresser on a Facebook B/S/T site for a great price. She has some major issues as you can see, I assume a cat used this as a scratching post, a couple of the drawers didn’t have sliders and the top had a big chunk missing. She is ugly, but I thought she would be a great project. This took me forever to finish, I kept running into issues that took time to resolve, but I do really like the way she turned out. When I brought her home I removed all the drawers and took off the handles. I cleaned it with TSP and water after I took my Shop-Vac to the insides and underside. She came from a dirty house and as you can see, wasn’t taken care of very well.
I knew I wanted shelves and a new top. I couldn’t get the existing top off without tearing the base to shreds! No problem, I would just put the new wood top on the existing top. I knew I would need some trim work to hide the missing piece. I took off the back and removed the drawer sliders and supports. This is not a hard thing to do and just takes a little time. As you see, I turned her upside down to make it easier for me and I also needed to clean and seal the inside. I sprayed the inside with Zinsser (Bulls Eye) Shellac to seal in any odors and stains. Most furniture from the 1970’s and older will have been in homes where people smoked and it is very hard to get the smell out. I couldn’t smell anything, but considering this was from the 70’s and animals had been using this, I just applied 2 coats of shellac to be safe.
I measured the top and the space that I wanted shelves. I won’t be using the 4 bottom drawers so I’ll have them for another project. I also decided to replace the back of this piece, it wasn’t in bad shape, I just wanted to add a bit more stability to my shelves. I took out the 2 wood supports. They were just held in place with staples. Off to Lowe’s to get my supplies! No, Lowe’s didn’t have the size of the top I needed and didn’t have the panel I wanted for the back. I had decided that with all the work I would be doing to this lady that I would just buy a pre-made top and install it. Off to Home Depot, I go! I took all my measurements with me and had the helpful guys cut everything for me! I got everything I needed, pre-made wood top, two shelves cut and the backer cut to the size I needed. I was a very happy camper on my drive home, I’ve had this baby less than 3 hours and I’m ready to install all my wood and put it back together structurally. My happiness lasted until I got home and put my top on and found out it wasn’t wide enough! Really!!! It was 1/2 of an inch too short!!! If I leave now, I can make it back to the store before they close, so back I went to exchange my top. I did find out that the piece I got was in the wrong spot and I didn’t double check before I bought it. Have you ever heard of measure twice, cut once? When buying materials, check your measurements twice, buy once. It was after 9 PM when I got home and I was just about done for the night. I did attach the new top to the old top with Liquid Nails, clamped it and let it dry overnight. When you use Liquid Nails, make sure you put it on all over both of your surfaces. Once I have it all over, I set my top down and move it around to smear the Liquid Nails and help it adhere to the existing top. I did put some full gallons of paint on top of the wood to hold it in place and then I clamped the edges all around. Make sure you clean off any excess that comes out the sides.
The next morning, after I took my girls to their schools, the new top was on and looking good! I already had the shelves cut to fit, most hardware stores will cut your pieces for you, but will tell you that they might not be perfect cuts so expect to have to do some final cuts for it to fit. The length and width were perfect, that doesn’t happen to me very often. I only needed to cut the notches out where the shelves would sit inside the dresser. I just measured the side and middle supports and used my circular saw to cut the end notches out. For the middle notch, I cut many little cuts and then used a flat-head screwdriver and hammer to remove the wood pieces.
Both shelves will have support at the front and back of the dresser, so I just applied a thin line of Liquid nails along the rails and the edges of the shelves. I put the shelves in place and clamped them down. While they were drying, I sanded the whole piece, getting it ready for stain and paint. I wiped it all down with a damp cloth to remove all the dust from sanding. I measured, cut and applied my trim to go under the top of the dresser. This will hide the original top and the area where a chunk was broken off.
I decided that I would stain the top and drawer fronts and paint the rest of the body. I applied a wood conditioner to the new top and drawers. This is a must for the top because it is “new” wood. The wood conditioner will help the wood to absorb the stain evenly. You apply a generous amount and let it sit on your piece, wait about 5 minutes and then you wipe the excess off. I was then ready to apply my stain, I used a Red Cedar color because it will really make my silvery green pop… I hope. Applying stain is pretty easy, you just apply a liberal amount evenly and let it sit for a few minutes, then you wipe it off. I used a foam brush to apply my stain and a clean old rag to wipe it off. Use even strokes when wiping off. Here is a short video from my FaceBook page on applying stain.
This is what the top looked like after one coat of stain. I wanted more color so I applied a second coat of stain. I liked the color much better so it just needed to dry.
While my stain was drying, I moved on to the interior of the dresser. I removed my clamps and I used Rust-Oleum Spray Paint in Blossom White to paint the sides and shelves. Using spray paint for hard to reach places is faster and easier than trying to paint by hand. I love Rust-Oleum Spray Paints, they have a great selection of colors, they are easy to use and they dry fast. I applied 3 coats to get the coverage that I wanted. I was finally ready to add some color to the outside!! I used a sample size Behr Ultra in Agave to make my DIY homemade chalk paint. If you want to know how I make it, click here. DIY or Homemade Chalky Paint
I applied two coats of the paint for complete coverage. I like a real smooth finish so I lightly sand with 400 grit sandpaper after each coat. Painting the trim took more time than painting the body! I used my Zibra Square Paint Brush to get in all the little nooks. I really like using this brand, Zibra makes some good paint brushes. I painted my new back panel the same color as the body with 2 coats of the Agave homemade chalk paint. I sanded it and applied 2 coats of polycrylic.
At this point, I noticed that my top had a few blotchy areas on it. These are areas where the stain was not absorbed evenly, they can be lighter or darker than the rest of the color. In this case, they were lighter and stood out only when you looked at it from the side. Looking straight at it, it looked fine but from the side, you could see that it looked lighter. The first thing I did was to apply a little more stain with a rag to each area, that didn’t work and it still didn’t match. I let it dry and lightly sanded the areas that didn’t match and applied more stain with a foam brush, let that sit for about 5 minutes and then wiped it off. No luck, the areas were still lighter. I applied more to those areas, let it sit longer and then I applied more stain to the whole top. I let that sit another 5 minutes and then wiped it off. Finally, it matched! I put another coat of stain on the drawers so they would match the top. Here is the before and after of the top. I love the look of stained wood!
I secured that backboard to the dresser after the polyacrylic dried with finishing nails. I applied 3 coats of Wipe-On Polyurethane to the top and drawer fronts. I sprayed 4 coats of polycrylic to the shelf area and body of the dresser. When you use a spray, the coverage isn’t as thick as wiping or brushing on so you will need more coats. After the drawers dried, I put on the new pulls.
I love how this baby turned out, even my hubby liked it. My hubby, Stephan, doesn’t like colored furniture but said he didn’t even notice the green color and he wouldn’t mind having this in our living room!! That is big!
Here is the supply list for this project.
Pre-made wood top
Stain grade plywood 1/2″ thick for shelves
Wood paneling for back
Wood trim, if needed
Minwax Wood Conditioner
Minwax Stain Red Cedar
Minwax Wipe-On Poly in satin finish
Minwax Polycrylic in matte finish
Behr Ultra Paint in Agave
Rust-Oleum Spray Paint in Blossom White
Liquid Nails Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive
Sandpaper Grits 120, 220 and 400
Clean lint-free rags
Zibra Paint Brushes
TSP (trisodium phosphate) Heavy Duty Cleaner
I hope you enjoyed and learned something from my post. I have started working on another long ornate dresser and will be using a stain glaze! Stay tuned.
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Until next time!