Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Restoring a Dresser found on the curb

One evening while walking my dog I noticed that a neighbor put out this nice dresser on the curb for garbage collection the next morning.  It was a nice dresser.


So after my dog and I were done walking I grabbed my dolly and walked over to the house and brought the dresser back to my workshop.


It was too late to do anything, so I waited until morning.  The previous owners painted the top of this dresser black and the rest of it white.  I'm not sure why someone would paint it.  The brush strokes were heavy and easily seen on all the surfaces - even from a distance.


Looking at the back and insides of the dresser I could tell that it was once a nice mahogany colored wood underneath.  


I won't be able to tell too much more about the wood until after I begin stripping the paint off.


On closer examination the front 3 drawers are made up of actual wood fronts and sides, while the bottoms are plywood.


To the left the door opens to reveal 2 more wood drawers.


The door on the right was missing the screws on the hinge, but also had 2 wood drawers behind it.


I found some screws in my collection that fit and the door works again.


Next I went out to buy materials to strip the paint off.  This time I'll try using a brand called Citristrip, which supposedly works well and had no strong odors.  At the time I was doing this it was the beginning of February and still a bit chilly out, so I wanted to do most of this indoors.


I began by removing the drawers and doors.


The 4 drawers (that go behind each door) have nothing wrong with them other than needing a little cleaning.


The 3 front drawers will also need to be stripped as well as the doors.


I removed all the drawer pulls and handles.  These I think I'll paint up later to look nicer.


The doors and drawers will be easier to strip, so I put them aside, as I wanted to get the carcass done first since it would be more time intensive and difficult.


Before stripping the paint I examined the drawer at all angles to see if there was anything else wrong with it.  Surprisingly this thing is solid.


So following the directions I began applying the stripper.  I started with the top.


After waiting the allotted time, I began removing the old finish.


The wood underneath looked very nice, but towards the left hand side there was a noticeable stain.  This was probably the reason it was painted over.  I eventually was able to remove most of this stain with some lacquer thinner and some elbow grease.


The wood design on the top is nice, but it is most likely a thin wood veneer laminated on top of some MDF.  Since MDF is easy to shape, a lot of companies use this material for tops, as it makes very nice and smooth contours on the sides.  


With the top mostly done, I began working on the sides.


To make things easier to me, I put the dresser back-down on my benches to work off of.


The stripper I bought works well, but I don't think it works as well as those industrial strength strippers.  But I'll continue working with what I have.  After about 7 hours working on it I called it a day and cleaned up the workshop.


At this point I removed about 75% of the paint on the carcass.


The next day I started by laying out some tarps first - something I forgot to do the day before.  I also laid out the drawers and doors on tarps.


Once again I started working on the carcass.  It took about 5 hours to remove 99% of the paint.  This is working with the stripper and more lacquer thinner.


I still have some little spots here and there to tackle, but for the most part it's looking great.


I took a break for a while from the carcass to give the drawer pulls and knobs some gold colored spray paint.


I wanted the hinges to be the same gold color, but first I needed to remove the white paint that was stuck on them.


I used the same stripper, plus some lacquer thinner to remove all the paint.


Then I spray painted them as well.


I then began removing the paint from the drawers.  These were easy to do.  Next the doors...


For some reason the doors were being very stubborn.  It might also be that I was tired on working on the floor.  


So I cleaned off my work table and worked on the doors there - and what a difference it made.


But it was late and I was very tired, so I cleaned up for the night.


By the end of day 2 I had 95% of the paint off of the dresser carcass...


99% off of the front drawers...


...and about 50% of the side doors done.


Tomorrow is another day - one that I should be able to completely finish stripping this whole thing!  When the morning arrived I began with those doors again.


It didn't take a terribly long time to get these done.


Next I went about getting rid of the little bits of remaining paint and the previous finish from the insides...


...as well as the tiny pieces of white paint left over in all the small crevices. 


To deal with both I added more stripper and removed as much as I could with all the tools and materials I had.  It took a few more hours but then I finally finished.


Looking at the top, I realized that stain was back.  Not as bad as before, but still noticeable.


So I used some 220 grit sandpaper on my orbital sander to sand down the top, giving a little extra time around the stain.


After sanding I used some thinner to clean the area around the stain.  It disappeared when wet...


...but a little bit of it showed up when it dried.


So I switched to 150 grit sandpaper and did the top again.


This time the stain was gone - although I think I sanded too much - especially towards the front.  But that little bit looks better than a big stain covering a quarter of the top.


Since this dresser is very curvaceous, I decided to sand the rest of the dresser by hand with sandpaper.  This took quite some time, but not nearly as much time as it did to strip the whole thing.


Once sanding and clean up was done, I popped the drawers and doors in place.


What a nice looking dresser!  At this point it took 3.5 days to get these results.


Next I removed the drawers and doors again.


I need to tackle the MDF showing from the top.  Since everything else is wood, the MDF is sticking out a bit, and not in a great way.


So I broke out some stain...


...and applied some to one side of the MDF as a test.  As soon as I applied it, I wiped it up.


The result was a better looking edge, but I wanted it to be darker, so I added stain to all the MDF showing and let the stain sit there for about 30 minutes.


Then I wiped it off.


The MDF looks much nicer now, but the stain did something else.  It brought forth all the little imperfections in the MDF, especially a piece that looks like it was once damaged and fixed up.


The stain also filled in all the little crevices that I worked so hard to clean out - but in this case the darker stain looked nicer than the white paint.  I then tested the stain on parts of the wood itself, wiping it away almost as soon as I applied it.  This had a similar effect and also made the wood coloring a bit warmer.  So I proceeded to stain the whole dresser.


I repeated the process on the doors...


...and drawers.


Then I let the stain dry for a few hours.


Once fully dry I began applying some clear coat.  I first started with the insides and outside.  I didn't touch the top yet as the carcass was still on my benches.


Then I applied clear coat to the outsides of the doors...


...and the front of the drawers.


While I waited for the clear coat to fully dry I began cleaning the other drawers.


When the fronts of the doors were dry I applied clear coat to the backs and let dry.


Then I lowered the carcass and applied clear coat to the top.


While I once again waited for the clear coat to dry I attached the drawer pulls to the drawers.


At this point the carcass (with the exception of the top) was dry, so I put the drawers in.


An hour or so later the doors were dry, so I attached the hinges and knobs.


I also attached the door clasps and realized that I forgot to spray paint them.  But it's okay since the paint will likely chip off quickly on these - that and no one will really see them.


Then I attached the doors.


This thing looks great!


Even with the few scrapes and imperfections this is still a great looking dresser.


And I was able to completely get rid of that large stain on the top!


Even with the clear coat dry, it smells strongly of clear coat.  So I let the whole thing air out in my workshop for a day.


The next day I moved the dresser into my office.  I offered it to my fiancee, but we both agreed that it would not match any of the other furniture in our bedroom (style-wise).


Where the dresser now is used to be a bookshelf with a lot of my stuff on it, so it took all day to move the bookshelf into the spare bedroom and reorganize both rooms a little.  But it was all worth it.


The side drawers are the perfect size for organizing files - which works out great since I wanted to either buy a file cabinet or make one in the very near future.


I still have a lot of reorganizing to do, but for the time being I'm storing my tapes and glues on the top drawer...


...one the other side I have my air brush and compressor on the bottom...


...and at the moment just some of my 3D printing supplies on the top.


In the middle drawers I keep spare cardboard, foam and construction paper on the bottom...


...my stamp sets and airsoft BB's in the middle...


...and on the top I have a lot of various tools including pliers, screw drivers, rulers and knives.


I love this dresser!



Below is a before and after.


All the photos above can't really picture just how much work this was for me.  I found this dresser on Monday night and finished it Friday night, and moved it into the house Saturday.  Including the lifting, moving, waiting (for things to dry) and organizing, this dresser took 5 days to complete.


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