How to refinish a dresser that's meant to be painted

poodlepupMarch 24, 2008

Hi. I am usually on the garden side of things but was delighted to see this forum too!

Ok, here's the situation..

-Dresser 5 drawers hight b-eautiful ornate brass handles.

-Beautiful curves to the fronts of drawers.

-Beautiful claw foot legs

-Nice wood beading details

It had been painted. I stripped it to within an inch of it's life, and got it down to the bare wood with no damage/knife marks etc. (My toothbrush method is awesome).

I wanted to stain it cherry or mahagony, and got going on that, but the worst of my fears was realized. The dresser appears to be constructed of several different kinds of wood which all take the stain differently, some parts barely take the color, others parts take deep color wherever the sanding left a little roughness. I'm guessing this baby was never meant to be anything other than painted with paint. -Or what we call "paint grade" wood.

Ok, but I am not a big fan of painted wood furniture.

Is any attempt to refinish it futile?

I did pull out a small can of the dreaded "polyshades" (Bombay mahogany), and believe this will leave a wood stain "like" color evenly on the wood, especially if I do a few coats. I would 00000 steel wool it at the end so it wasn't excessivly shiny.

Anyone have advice for me? If it's bad news or advice that I am wasting my time,.... bring it on, I can take it.

Thanks so much!


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You could check out the faux finishing technique of 'graining'. You apply paint with combs, brushes and rollers in such a way that it looks like wood grain.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 8:05PM
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How old is the piece? Could it be a piece of antique "cottage furniture"...or perhaps you have not stripped it as well as it should be.
Can you post a picture?
Linda C

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 7:18PM
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I am guessing this piece is from the forties or fifties.
It looks like it was originally painted a cream color with gold (metallic) details. It was also sprayed, not brush painted.

I am just not a big fan of painted furniture.

So, here's what I've done.
-Just testing it out on 1 drawer. If it sucks, I'll just paint the thing white & be done with it.

It's completely stripped.
I did 1 coat of "polyshades" -Bombay Mahogany
Then 1 coat "polyshades" -dark walnut
Then final coat of polyshades -Bombay mahogany.

Steel wool the hell out of it between coats.

After the last coat I will sand it with 220,
then put 2 coats of oil based varathane.
The handles are solid brass, and look nice agianst the dark color.
I know everyone hates polyshades, but I don't know what else I could have done, except paint it with paint, and that would not have looked good with the brass handles.
The paint store guy told me polyshades is crap, (which I know) but if I use a good oil based varathane over it, it will just be providing even color.

It's still not too late to talk me out of it. I have only done 1 drawer.
I'll take pictures

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 12:15AM
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Even if the piece was made entirely out of maple, different maple boards will take stain differently than others, resulting in the problem you were having. In order to even out the stain, a lot of woodworkers/refinishers will first give the piece a "spit coat" of shellac, which seals the wood and allows for an even color of stain. If you want it to look dark and even, I would probably use a gel stain (Varathane makes a decent gel stain), or else you can just keep brushing on your oil stain like paint and let it dry until it is as dark as you want it.

I've used polyshades before, and can't say that I'm a fan. You're more likely to go nuts before you get a decent finish.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2008 at 4:35PM
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