What kind of wood is this?

franksmom_2010September 6, 2010

I was thinking pine, but just wanted other opinions.

I'm planning to sand this down, remove the formica(!) top, and paint it white. Would Zinnser 1-2-3 seal that mess, or would you go with BIN?

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Is that wood textured? There is a wood from the tropics that looks like that when they sand/however they texture it.

It does look like pine, but if it is really light in weight, it is probably the tropical wood.

BIN is the better primer for that.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 1:33AM
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Looks like a chest made from fir plywood (from a plan published in popular mechanics or the like) in the 50's.
If it was or is sanded too much, the grain will translate through the primer. The softwood is very soft, and the darker hardwood rings are quite hard in this type of fir.
I will clarify by saying that the softer grain is now the darker parts, because it absorbed more stain, but if you sand deeply enough, you'll see them lighten, and the current lighter/harder grain stay the same color (nearly).

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 9:32AM
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Thanks so much! This was given to my husband in the 80's as a hand-me-down, so we have no idea who made it or when. Structurally, it's very sturdy, and has survived many moves and some measure of abuse. I always thought it was a homemade piece, and not mass produced.

The wood doesn't really feel textured, but the lighter areas of grain are slightly more raised than the dark. I was planning to sand it just enough to smooth out that grain a bit. The goal isn't neccessarily a glassy smooth finish, but just to not make it quite so obviously grained through the paint.

Casey, do you think BIN will solve that problem, or will the sanding just make it worse?

New/better/different furniture isn't in the budget anytime soon, but like I said, it's a sound piece, and we need it for storage. It's just not quite the look I want for our bedroom.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 10:02AM
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With BIN, heavy sanding is not usually necessary, if it is needed at all.

Just wash with warm wayer and soap---Dawn is my choice---and let dry. Use a good brush---Purdy is my favorite. Man made bristles.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 7:49PM
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The problem with Fir ply is the grain texture. Sanding has already pronounced the soft/hard grains of the wood because the sander tends to remove more from the soft areas. More sanding will not remedy this. When you paint, the surface will still have the texture of the wood grain.

Can the drawer fronts be removed? Are they a separate piece from the drawer box attached with screws? If so, I would replace them with MDF or Birch ply. The painted surface will look very smooth. Spray the paint and sand between coats; it will look professional too.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 10:48AM
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Very interesting! And thank you for all of the info!

The drawer fronts are a separate piece, but I can't see how they're attached. Maybe glued?

The sides of the carcase are the same wood, so replacing the drawer fronts still wouldn't solve the refinishing issue. Besides, that's way more work than what I was planning!

You know, whoever built this, used inch-thick solid wood for the drawer sides? And underneath the formica, the top is solid wood. Too bad they didn't use nicer wood for the rest of the exterior. Unless this look was popular at some time? And I'm thinking the formica was supposed to look like leather?

So, I'm going to lightly sand out a few scuffs and gouges, clean the whole thing, prime with BIN, and paint. I'm using a satin finish paint, so maybe the graining won't be quite so obvious. I was also going to add some carved trim to the edge of the top, and was thinking about adding feet. I'm sure it'll turn out to be an interesting piece, one way or another!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 11:17AM
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"Nicer" is in the eye of the beholder. While I think the information and recommendations Casey provides are informative and accurate for the majority of the posts I've seen him(?) comment on I would verify that it is indeed plywood before I painted it. If it is not I would try to sell it first.

I currently have a chest of drawers (circa 1890, chestnut) that has been refinished a few times, someone routed an ogee on the top and it is missing the mirror but there is a bidding war going on between 4 people for it. IMO it is totally trashed. It was a cheap piece of mass production wal-mart/Ikea type piece of furniture when it was made. At this point it exceeds the value of the lumber I was going to use it for.

Any more pictures of your piece?

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 9:46PM
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Jey, are you implying this might be a collectible piece of furniture? If so, what kind of value does it have in it's current state? And what would be lost by painting it?

All of the construction that I can see is either glued or nailed. There's no screws, no dovetail joints, no mortices, etc. The finish looks like poly, although I haven't tested it with anything. I don't have any indication that this is an antique. We know it's at least 20 years old, and it was already showing some wear when my husband got it.

I'll see if I can get a few more pics of it tomorrow, and maybe get more insight, but otherwise, the plan is to paint it. It's a sturdy piece, and it's a good size for the area it's in, but we're not loving the current finish at all. New furniture (especially real wood) isn't in the budget anytime soon.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 12:23AM
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Casey is right; it's plywood. The species is probably fir, as Casey suggested, but it's definitely a rotary-cut veneer. No solid wood looks like that.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 2:58AM
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No not a collectable piece of furniture but lumber that is desirable to some.

A popular joint of many DIYs to secure draw fronts is a single dovetail or "T" joint coming up from the bottom. How thick is the face of the drawers, 1" like the sides? Do the sides look like one board or two or three glued together?

I don't think anyone wants my piece for the furniture but rather for the chestnut. If it was in better shape and had not been irreparably damaged someone might consider it for the piece. Even the lumber is all over the place with mismatched quarter sawn and flat sawn boards glued up.

Other people have already commented indicating the problem with painting it and the reflections on the top drawer seems to confirm that you will indeed have a textured finish. Much of the "look" you have is from way the tree grew and possibly excessive sanding and not necessarily a rotary cut. There is nothing to confirm a rotary cut on such small boards. A rotary cut is the same as plain sawn only continuous. There are plenty of pieces of solid wood with the same characteristics they are just difficult to find and collect enough to do an entire job with them. Often times they become glue blocks or other non visible parts. It would be graded #2 or better if it were Yellow Pine, D. fir,Redwood or WR Cedar etc.. There are other woods including hardwoods that could have the same type of characteristics but I would think it is yellow pine or fir as they are most common in 5/4 thickness.

Only millwork shops who lack quality control or common sense would even consider sending it to a job unless they collected enough of the the one or two board that came with each 3� thousand bf of lumber they milled. Boards like this are found in the first few cuts of a tree especially on flat sides or in the crotch where two (or more) trees grew together.

If you can sell it for $225� you've made a good sale for both you and the buyer and saved yourself some time and hassle. Wether plywood or solid lumber you will not get a smooth painted finish. I got $8.50 per board foot as is in this down market for the lumber in the house I am living in. It starts to come down Oct 13. All the door jambs and the coffered ceiling have a similar plain sawn grain pattern as do the flat panels on the doors and the rest is all vertical grain. There is no plywood in this house except for some "repairs" that were done in the 80s.

Below are two solid fir boards along with one rotary cut piece of fir plywood. The plywood is from a house built in 1960 and the solid boards are from 1870.

Not sure what's going on with these forums but have been unable to reply and now it looks like there is a problem with the galleries.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 5:21AM
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So, I started work on this piece today. The drawer fronts are definitely plywood. As nice as it would be to get $200 for the wood, I just think that's highly unlikely, so sanding and painting it is!

I have no idea how this project is going to turn out, but I have low expectations. Normally, I'm a bit of a perfectionist with these types of things, but...it looks so bad to begin with, and I realize that no amount of sanding will make it silky smooth. I realize that a good portion of the grain texture will show through the paint, and that's ok. At least it won't be orange and brown anymore. It may turn out to be interesting!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 8:04PM
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