Refinishing a Dresser

My wife had a dresser that belonged to her grandmother before she passed away. It had been in her room since before high school and was quite the worse for wear. When we found out we were having a child, we decided to fix it up and I decided to try my hand at a little refinishing.

Bolstered by my successes in building a changing table (what a difference learning how to paint on YouTube can make), I decided to paint it in a similar color scheme to the one we had for the nursery. Here’s how it looked before we began:

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I used my Black and Decker Mouse sander with 120 grit paper to take the initial varnish off as well as even out some of the lighter scratches. YouTube taught me that if you sand against the gran, more wood comes off, and with the grain produces a smoother finish. Also, I found that more pressure, while getting you faster results, produces more lines, gouges, and roughness, which may not be what you’re looking for. Also, varnish is a pain because it gums up your sandpaper. Buy lots of the stuff, it’s amazing how much faster fresh paper goes through work than an old, bad sheet.

The deep scratches, gouges, delaminations, and holes I patched using Elmer’s Wood Filler. I was painting the end result, so I didn’t care about the color. I found that a technique of squeezing the putty into the hole, pressing it flat with the putty knife to really get it in there, then scraping it off like wall spackle worked well in many cases for small holes. For larger gouges, I opted to leave a slight rise in the putty, then sanded it flat after it was dried solid. The end result was excellent.

After the filling, sanding, and prepping, this was the result:

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Painting was done with Benjamin Moore Latex indoor paint from Home Depot and a foam brush. I understand the importance of a good bristle brush, but I’m not there yet. I could imagine how good you could get with one of those, but I’m currently to the point of “put paint on the furniture, not on your hands and clothes.” One sweatshirt, one pairs of pants, and one painted wedding ring later, and I think I was actually doing well by the end. Things I’ve learned: slow painting = more paint on the surface, your first dip doesn’t have enough paint on it yet, so don’t do detail work till your brush is well-loaded, paint toward the edges, and don’t paint the top, back, and the bottom of the inside of a 4-inch space at the same time–that’s how you get paint on your hands.

In between coats, I sanded the top and sides with the Mouse sander and 220 grit paper. The result is happily smooth, and not tacky (yet). One of the problems with latex paint seems to be this tackiness. The changing table has it, and I’m hoping it fades with time as the paint completely dries. Until then, I’m not putting anything that can bond to latex on either piece of furniture, though I’m concerned about the drawers joining to each other.

The end result looks greatly improved and fits with the look of the nursery well. I hope our son enjoys the furniture I’ve made him for a long time to come.

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