Painting a Lane Cedar Chest? Advise?

whitdobeJune 17, 2010

Hi, I just picked up a Lane Cedar Chest on CL. The interior is in excellent condition but the exterior is really rough. I'd like to paint it black.

I've done some searching on here and I see that folks recommend a bit of sanding then a couple of coats of Zinzer 123 primer. Paint on top of that.

First, what kind of primer is the Zinzer 123, water base or oil? Next, do I use oil or water based paint on top of it? I usually try to avoid oil due to yellowing but, since I'm painting black it really doesn't matter and if folks think the oil would hold up better then I could do that.

Any advise? It's a veneer, that worries me too. I've never painted furniture before and I haven't got a clue! I did paint my kitchen cabinets and bath vanity but, I wasn't dealing with a "finished" piece of furniture with them.

This is the very nice interior of my $60 chest.

And this is the very sad and rough exterior.

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Oh I wish I'd not even opened this thread. I love waterfall furniture with it's gorgeous veneers. I'd try Restore A Finish on it myself. It's looks as though there's not any major veneer missing.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 4:42PM
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I have that same one! My neighbor gave it to me when he was moving- I saved it from the dump! It holds my fabric stash- or some of it ;)
I have used latex primer and paint on furniture and it holds up very well. I have never used oil based paints.
If you bought it to paint- then go for it. But if you bought it and then decided it needs refinishing- you may want to try the restore a finish.It is easy to use and you might be pleasantly surprised - I have taken off rings from my dining room table that are like the ones on the top of your chest.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 6:34PM
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The inside looks just like mine, but the outside looks much older, and mine is about 45 years old. I would restore it to the beautiful finish and not paint.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 6:58PM
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Oh wow, I have one almost identical to it, it even has the original sales papers with it. I think mine is about 70 years old.

But I didn't know you could paint veneer? I definitely wouldn't paint it though. I'd try the Restore-a-finish first.

Mine's in the bedroom with the TV on it, and my wedding dress and other mementos inside. I may move it to the LR one day, but those things are so heavy!

Oh, they're great to hide Christmas presents from kiddos! lol

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 7:09PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

That IS an excellent candidate for Restor-a-Finish.

You can paint veneered furniture. Scuff sand, clean it up and use an oil based primer or just use oil based, premixed black paint. Definitely consult with a local pro paint store about their product rec's.

It's the waterborne aspect that could affect the glues involved with adhering the veneer. Same principle as painting raw wood - waterborne products raise the grain. So, oil is the better choice.

If you use primer - you don't need more than one coat. Two coats of primer does absolutely nothing. I don't know how or why people think two coats of primer are better than one, but it's a waste of time and product.

One coat of primer, two finish coats is the magic equation - always and for everything. (really, I can't think of any exceptions)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 7:17PM
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Isnt it funny that many of us here have that same chest? mine has the papers still attached to the inside of the lid.
Funcolors- what oil paints do you use?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 8:08PM
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Thanks so much for the paint advise and explanation Funcolors! I will paint with oil based paint. How much of the chest I paint is yet to be determined.

This afternoon I did a light sanding of the lid with first 100 grit then 150 grit. Tomorrow I'll do a final light sand with 220 grit and take a look at the lid. Right now I'm considering staining the lid and painting the bottom/box black....but that depends on how the lid turns out. So far I managed to get all the rings off the lid with one exception. Unfortunately, the exception is large and just about smack in the center of the lid. (The ring almost looks like half of a heart.) If I can carefully get that last ring out tomorrow then I may stain at least the lid and paint the remainder. If I can't get the ring out then I'll paint the whole thing.

It's evening so this photo, unlike the one above, was taken in artificial light. That's why it looks a bit "orange". Regardless, the top looks tons better than it did....except for that one ring.

Sorry wood lovers. I love wood too but, I'm a very traditional/cherry gal and this just doestn't speak to me at all.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 8:18PM
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I think you should make a template of that ring and use a stain marker to draw the other half of the heart LOL!

Zinnser 123 is shellac/alcohol-based and shouldn't cause the veneer to lift either, shellac pretty much sticks to anything and anything sticks to it so it's a good stain-blocking primer.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 11:15PM
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I also have a cedar chest very similar to this one. I restored it to the original and it came out beautiful. I used shellac. If I were to paint it black I would use black lacquer. You can purchase a couple cans of aerosol undercoat and four or five cans of black lacquer from a auto paint store. Do it outside though and wear a mask. Spray a coat, let it dry about a half hour, sand out any runs and and do this five or six times. Let it dry for a few days and then rub it out with a felt block and some 3M medium rubbing compound. Finally, if you want, you can apply some black wax.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 2:07AM
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If you're oil-painting it, what difference does the ring make - it will be well covered.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 4:35AM
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Cooperbailey, it is funny because I don't know anyone IRL who has one!

I said I kept my TV on it, oops. I use it as my nightstand..had the TV on it years ago.

Whitdobe, have you thought about using a darker stain for RAF? I'm just concerned after you paint it you wouldn't enjoy it as much.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 6:33AM
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I guess I need to give a little more explanation. My DH travels a LOT and we've had a luggage rack in our bedroom for 15 years. He just finally mentioned that he would like something "sturdier" to put his bag on and he did it at the same time that I was (yet again) picking up his camping bedding from the floor near the luggage rack. *light bulb moment = get a cedar chest* He can put his suitcase on top and I can toss his camping bedding inside.

Since I was getting the chest for DH to toss his bag onto, I didn't want buy a beautiful new one that I'd obsess over scratches. I figured I'd get an old one on CL and paint it.

That's the explanation for "why" I got the chest I got. I never planned to refinish it, I always planned to paint it. Right now I'm considering not painting the top but, it'll depend on that one ring....and I won't have time to mess with it this morning. Gotta mow the lawn.

Anway, I hope I don't offend all of you who really like that inlay on the front of the chest but I really don't like it and it wouldn't work in our bedroom at all. (I hesitate to say "hate" on this forum but that's pretty much how I feel about the front inlay.)

I think painted black it would. I'll be putting it in front of the window where the cherry luggage rack is right now. It's 1/2" lower than the luggage rack. This is what our room and furniture look like.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 8:36AM
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I'd paint it.

The Zinsser 123 is water based. Zinsser BIN is shellac.

Here is a link that might be useful: 123

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 10:08AM
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I agree with you. I don't much like that veneer pattern, either, but I think black on the base and a cleaned-up top would look very nice. Then you can always paint the top if you don't like it. As you undoubtedly already know, a light sanding inside will restore the cedar, if it has lost its aroma.

I also recommend BIN as your primer. The shellac base prevents any bleeding through of the wood underneath.

I would wash the base with Naptha (paper towels are fine for this - do it outside, and spread out the towels to dry before you throw them away) to get it clean of old wax and oil, and then proceed. I like naptha because it dissipates very fast and doesn't linger long enough to soften glues. And I wouldn't use a high-gloss finish myself. I like painted wood to look like painted wood.

I'd use a satin finish oil base paint (one coat of the primer, two finish coats, like funcolors says) and a very good brush. I'd tape off the edges and leave them unpainted to prevent the lid from sticking or chipping the paint. Then if you want more gleam, you can give it a coat of paste wax (I like Butcher's or Antiqwax), which also protects the finish.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 1:44PM
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Oops..123...BIN well, they're both 3 characters LOL. But I recommend the BIN (shellac). Second what bronwynsmom said except even outside I don't care for naptha (fumes too overpowering, though it dries slightly faster than mineral spirits). I use odorless mineral spirits for tack cloths, thinning. I don't think you'd have a problem with the veneer, since you're just wiping it on & off (if wax, etc. gets gunky when you wipe it with mineral spirits, you can dampen a 3M pad with mineral spirits and scrub a little - any scratches can then be sanded out before you prime).

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 2:34PM
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My mother - age 86 - got this exact same cedar chest when she was in her late teens or early 20s. So, figure the cedar chest dates to the early 1940s -- that makes it almost 70 years old. It would be a shame to paint over that wood....My mom's chest still looks beautiful, because she's always cared for it.

I have a Lane cedar chest I got as a newly engaged woman in 1966. And my cedar chest (although in excellent condition) doesn't have the beauty of wood that my mom has on her much older chest.

Of course, it's yours and you can paint it any color you choose. It's just a shame to cover over that wood grain -- especially given the furniture that tries to pass as wooden furniture today. :)

Whatever you decide to do...enjoy your new cedar chest!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 6:21PM
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Here's my b4 and after pictures of mine.This was brought for me by my DH in 1963,and back in those days he smoked and would lay his cigarette down on the furniture~~~~~~~~~I Know!!! Anyway this chest was full of burns,so about 3 years ago i took it out on the patio,sanded it down real good and STAINED it.DS told me stain would be easier and better,and i think he was right.I think it turned out great,jmo.

Here's the b4 and after.It was grey,b4 with that veneer top,that was the hardest part of the sanding.

One thing i did while working on this,especially the staining part,was to bring a fan out onto the patio and turn it on low/medium to keep those little flies/knats at bay.Worked like a charm.

This now sits in my dining room under the bay window.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 9:18PM
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Kathi, will you please come to my house? I have several jobs for you!
Really, you did an aces job...lovely!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 9:42PM
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Here's what I'd do...

Finish the chest with Restore-A-Finish. Put it back on Craig's List and sell it for a profit.

Then buy another $60 chest and paint it.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 9:47PM
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It's funny, but I think my mom also has the same chest!

As much as I love stained wood and vintage furniture, I do not think it a sin to paint over it--esp. if the piece has been dinged up as yours is. Most important thing with repurposing vintage furniture, is to continue to use and make it work for you and keep them away from the landfills! It obviously has lots of life left. Seems there are plenty out there--at least if the responses on this forum are any indication. This chest is obviously very well made and your plan to paint it should bring new life and beauty to an old piece of furniture. Since you mention your DH will be putting his suitcase on top, I'd definitely use a hard, no scratch paint.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 10:42PM
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Kathi, you did a fabulous job on your chest! From the looks of it, I'm guessing your husband quit smoking or finally learned not to leave cigarettes on the edge.

I went to SW today to talk with my guys and tell them my chest story. (Hey, I'm there so often they greet my by name.) I've got primer, XIM oil base is what they recommended so I went with it. I've also got oil base paint in tricorn black. When I explained about the beating the top might get, I was actually steered to a paint that I've used once before....I painted the metal bay window roof with it! Odd, but they thought that it would hold up the best.

Hey bronwynsmom, can I put wax on top of oil based paint? I did buy satin finish but, if I did want a little more shine it would be nice if I can wax it. I never thought about waxing painted furniture. BTW, is your daughter a frequent competitor on food network challenges? I ask because I'm a fan of Bronwyn!

I finished prepping the chest today and I'll probably prime it tomorrow. I tried everything I could (carefully) to get that last water ring out of the top but I just couldn't do it. I'll be painting the entire chest.

As I was prepping the chest I did notice that it has a few more dings than I'd realized. Easy to miss them in the locations they are. I'm trying to decide if it's worth filling them with plastic wood after I prime then priming again....or if I'll just leave the dings. Character. I dunno.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 11:01PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

I went to SW today to talk with my guys and tell them my chest story. (Hey, I'm there so often they greet my by name.) I've got primer, XIM oil base is what they recommended so I went with it. I've also got oil base paint in tricorn black.

Excellent recipe! :~D Tricorn black is one of my favorite premixed SW blacks - my front door was Tricorn black for years and I've spec'd it oodles of times. It's a good one. You did a great job, Whit! Can't wait to see afters.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 12:58AM
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A lacquer finish is not high gloss if you don't want it to be. Most fine furniture finishes from semi gloss to flat are lacquer finishes. Also, stain is a the medium used to color the wood prior to applying a finish. Sometimes a stain and varnish are combined, but the results are usually not too good.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 2:02AM
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Yes Whitdobe,dh quit smoking in 1999 after surviving a stroke.Dr told him he had to or the next stroke could be fatal.He's doing great,but i sure am glad he quit!! I used to tell him if anyone stole anything from our house,we could identify it by the burn marks.Oh and it's soooooooo nice not to have that smell around anymore.Thank Goodness.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 3:36AM
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Kathi, what an awesome transformation.
Whitdobe, I promise I'll forgive you. I think.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 3:58AM
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Oh my kathi, I'm glad your DH quit. Pretty funny and unique way to be able to identify your furniture! I quit smoking on Jan 18th this year and every so often I'd still really like one.

Justgotabeme, I hope you and the others do forgive me. I really do! I will say that there were more imperfections in the veneer than I'd realized when I got it. It really wasn't in great shape.

So I primed it this morning. It was weird, before I started in I figured that I'd apply the primer on the lid lengthwise. It only made sense to do it lengthwise. Well, that may be what made sense to me in theory but it didn't work out that way in practice! As soon as I put the first few strokes on the lid lenghtwise, I almost imediately had to brush them back out crosswise. I was amazed at how much the grain of the veneer showed through the primer. Before I brushed them crosswise, those first strokes of primer looked almost crosshatched....the primer going one way and the grain going the other way.

In some ways the top looks very odd to my eye with the brushstrokes going crosswise. In other ways, it makes perfect sense and seems to *fit* with the curved edge on the front.

I guess I could try sanding down the primer and perhaps recoating to see if I could "fight" the grain and switch the paint to lengthwise but I think I may just go with the flow and paint it crosswise. I'll make a final decision tomorrow when I'll be messing with the primer again. No, I'm not going to do a complete second coat but there are a few small areas that I'm not 100% happy with so I'm going to do another coat on them.

This is what it looks like now. It looks very "blotchy" in this photo because I took the photo about 5 minutes after I finished with the primer.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 11:42AM
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I love painted furniture! Can't wait to see what you create...

Loved reading all the cedar chest stories. Makes me want to get ours out of the back closet and attempt a refinish or paint job on it.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 8:05PM
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Yes, you can wax over oil-based paint.
And, no, that isn't my daughter on the food network. (I'm always glad to see that lovely Welsh name used, however. The more, the merrier!)

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 11:39PM
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Thanks bronwynsmom. If I did want to wax it, how long should I wait before doing so?

Actually, here's a general question for everyone/anyone. I would expect that it would be best to let the chest "sit" for a while before I let DH put his suitcase on top. It just feels like I should do that, let the paint harden. Of course, I may be wrong and maybe the paint is as hard as it's gonna get 24 hours later. I don't know.

Is there any reason to let the chest "sit" before putting anything on the painted surface and if so, how long should I let it sit?

This certainly is a learning experience for me!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 9:22AM
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I've always had a difficult time determining weather the paint has really "cured" enough.
The luggage rack that has been there for 15 years could probably last a week or so.
Pop over to the "paint" forum and ask there.
There's too many factors though ...
how long you waited between coats
the pigments
I know it's so much work to began with that you would hate to get a mark right on the top of it..(That's why i decorate "shabby chic" style... LOL)
Good luck and really look forward to seeing the finished chest.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 10:42AM
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Thanks forboystoo. I did as you suggested and posted the question on the paint forum.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 12:13PM
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Finished the second coat of paint this morning. I think two coats will be enough but I'll have to wait until tomorrow and then carry at least the lid into the backyard so that I can take a good look at it.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 11:07AM
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Thank you for posting your progress with this project here. I have a cedar chest with similar lines, but without the veneers (solid cedar all the way through). I've been thinking about painting it for years. My plan was to paint it white, but your black one is looking very nice!

BTW, mine is in our guest room for use as a luggage rack. ;)

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 4:51PM
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It looks nice whitdobe.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 11:33PM
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Thanks justgotabme! Hostalover67, how funny is it that I got a chest to use as a luggage rack and you're doing that now! Glad my thread may help you make up your mind about painting your chest.

Last photos for a while. DH is out of town until next Monday and I can't put the chest back together without another set of hands.

As the paint dried, the sheen toned down quite a bit. I'd bought satin finish paint so this is more in line with what I wanted. Not great photos but, you'll get the idea.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 8:25AM
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WOW! I have to say, I was a little mortified when you insisted on painting that. I paint a lot of old furniture, but generally think that if an old finish can be salvaged, it should be, and paint should be reserved for finishes too far gone to be saved. That chest looks fantastick painted! Really, it brings out the sinple clean lines of the thing. Good for you!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 8:41AM
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Look forward to seeing it all together in your room. I've got one eye on my cedar chest as I type.
Just a note ...Since the tape has been on for so long through priming and painting you might want to run a blade across the edge to avoid "lift-off".
Also which line of SW paint did you use ?
Great job

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 9:58AM
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Thanks so much! You know, even if the inlay had been in fabulous condition I wouldn't have like it as much as I do the chest in black. The chest itself has a very pretty shape to it and I think painting it black really allowed that shape to shine. I'm pretty sure that it'll look great in our room!

Good idea on the razor blade, I will do so. I'll probably "peel it" today.

I used SW XIM primer (oil base) that was tinted to the deepest primer gray tint that they have. (Still looked blue when it was brushed on.) The paint was actually SW All Surface Enamel (oil base) tinted tricorn black. Both those items were per SW recommendations and I have to say that I'm very happy with how they worked out.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 1:51PM
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Thanks for the reply..I'll have to give that All Surface Enamel a try.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 3:23PM
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resurrecting this thread--hoping for finished pics of your project! :)

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 9:01AM
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If damage is not superficial, and paint is the only option (veneers intact or secured), I like the look of tole in the Russian lacquer style. Practice first on other things or on materials for this purpose. Michael�s has all you�ll need. Once at ease with your brush strokes, then you can go with motifs of your choice -- dramatic or subdued. There�s a bounty of books by teachers of this technique on websites and bookstores. An internet search of painted furniture using the query term tole painting Russian lacquer will give you some inspiration. Note: Pleeeze do not decoupage.

Here is a link that might be useful: Russian Laquer painting -- Google image query

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 5:42PM
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Found the exact model as shown on the lead posting by whitedobe. My 90-year old dad was going to throw it away as it had been stashed in his garage for over 60 years. The veneer is missing down at the bottom front (about a 3" piece).
I'd like to paint it with some designs and give to one of the grandkids. Should I use some sort of filler to cover the missing piece of veneer and then sand and prime the whole exterior before painting the artwork in acrylics on top of that? The interior is in great condition. Thanks, Lin

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 12:09PM
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