Saturday, February 6, 2010

Restoring and Refinishing a Five Drawer Dresser PT. 1

IMG_3338_546x768 My wife and I inherited this five drawer dresser from her grandparents.  It’s a great old dresser.  The current finish has about four or five coats of paint on top of stain.  You ask how I know that it has stain under all those layers of paint, I know because I took a belt sander to the top when we first got it to the house.  I quickly realized what I already knew you don’t take a sander to a restoration project that has paint all over and OLD paint at that.  Not only did I have a ton of dust, it was one of the worst smells.  A combination of a musty sock drawer and that funk you get after about an hour on the treadmill. 


Here is what I was able to do with the power sander before the belt gummed up from all the paint and heat.  I discovered there was some great looking wood under there.  I honestly had no idea what I would find.  You can see in this picture that there is some stain underneath all that paint. 

Formby’s Paint and Poly Remover to the Rescue

I went to Lowes and got some Formby’s Paint and Poly Remover.  This stuff works great.  I really didn’t expect it to work as well as it did.  You paint it on thick to your surface and wait about 20 – 30 minutes.  After that you take a scraper(just a typical plastic spackle blade) and scrape the gunk off.


This is after the first coat and scraping.  I was shocked at how well it took it off in the first pass.  There were some stubborn spots so I reapplied the paint remover on the troublesome areas.  After another 25 minutes I scraped the rest of it off.  There were only a few spots so I just sanded those spots off.  My wife joined in the fun and games and helped with the side of the dresser.  After a couple of coats and a little bit of sanding we have an almost bare dresser side.


There is some wood missing on the bottom foot.  I am going to spend some time figuring out what I want to do with this.  I believe the wood is oak so I could get some oak and make a filler for it.  I might also just leave it as is.  The dresser does rake side to side when you push it.  I will go over how I resolve this in a future post.





We went back and forth deciding if we wanted to repaint it or not.  You may wonder why I would strip it if I was going to repaint it.  Two reasons 1) I really wanted to see what kind of wood was hiding under all that paint. 2) I’m not sure what kind of paint is on the dresser.  It might be lead based as old asIMG_3341_1024x768 it is but I am not positive and even though my shop helper doesn’t go around biting the furniture I would rather pull it all off and redo it, plus I have a better base to paint it.  If we decided to paint it, which is totally not what we decided to do.  We are going to stain it.  Out of curiosity I threw a little Cabot Ebony stain.  You can see that in the picture above.  I gotta tell you we both think it is going to look

great.  A few coats of stain to get a nice dark color on it and I think it is going to be great.  I hope to get this finished over the next couple of weeks.  Check back to see the finial restoration and further posts on shoring this thing up. 

Have a Great Day!


  1. Great start. Can't wait to see the finished products.

  2. Hurry up, Hubby, I want my dresser! ;)



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