Header image 3_April 2013

Before & After: Antique Oak Dresser

Although I’m not a huge fan of oak, my love of well made furniture does not discriminate. When I stumbled upon this wide grain oak keyhole dresser on Craig’s List for $50, I knew I had to have it. The photos really don’t do this dresser any justice. It’s amazingly well built. The wide grain in this wood is really pretty cool, but because I really hate the orange honey oak look, I decided to give this old beauty an update. So, without further ado, here’s the (dare I say) stunning transformation.



Paint Stripper, 100, 200, and 400 grit sand paper, an old paint brush for applying stripper, a plastic scraper, glass dish for stripper (it will eat through plastic), heavy rubber gloves to protect your hands from the stripper, mask (for both vapor and dust), old rags, stain color of your choice (I used several coats of dark walnut to get a nice dark color), Zinsser primer, Conco paint off the shelf Ultra Bright White, clear polycrylic, foam fine finish roller, new drawer pulls.


I went ahead and applied some stripper to the top of the dresser before I took the drawers and hardware off  just to try it out. Just brush it on with an old paint brush. You’ll see the finish start to bubble and get soft; then just scrape it off with a plastic putty knife or scrapper. It really comes off pretty easily. I’d suggest reading the directions on the back of your stripper to ensure you get the best results from the product.


I wouldn’t worry about getting every last bit of finish off when you’re stripping a furniture piece. It might take a few coats to get to a point that you feel like you’ve removed enough of the finish to move on to sanding. Because I was going to be going over the surface with a darker stain color I wasn’t too worried if a little bit of the old stain color was still showing on the dresser. I’d suggest stripping and sanding in a well ventilated area. I also use a mask for both chemical vapor and dust.


I used a small palm sander to prepare the surface, sanding by hand in places that I couldn’t get with the palm sander. Starting with a coarser 100 grit and moved to a finer 200, and then 400 grit to get a nice smooth surface to refinish.  After wiping the surface clean I moved on to restaining the body of the dresser in a dark walnut finish by Minwax. I used old socks to apply the stain to the dresser.


The first coat wasn’t dark enough, so after allowing it to dry, I applied a second, and then third coat of stain. Check the back of your stain and follow the manufacturers instructions for application. Do you have a person favorite stain color and/or brand?


I decided to paint the drawers to give it a more modern look. The drawers, after being sanded the same way I’d sanded the body of the dresser,  got two thin coats of primer, two thin coats of Ultra White Conco paint in semi gloss, and two coats of polycrylic with a foam fine finish roller. I typically lightly sand with 400 grit sandpaper in between each coat of primer and paint up until the clear coat is applied.



So, there you have it. My $50 Craig’s List dresser gets a makeover. I love the extra storage it provides as a console table in the living room. It could also be used in a dinning room, entry way, as a kitchen island. or a bathroom vanity. Are you working on any furniture projects this spring? Feel free to comment below;  I’d love to hear about the projects you have lined up. :)

before and after

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