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The Oak Dresser Overhaul

First of all, let’s talk numbers.
Project Hours = 40 (oak is a bitch to strip)
Project Cost ($12 stripper, $10 sandpaper, $6 wood stain, $6 clear coat, $4 gold leaf paint = $38 total)
Here is what we’re working with…

This looks like a Dr. Seuss dresser
Here is the dresser loaded into our mini van
No picture can capture the extent of how filthy this dresser was.

When I reclaimed this dresser from a trash pile I gleefully exclaimed that it only had one coat of paint. Never did I imagine that it would be so difficult to cut through decades of grime.
The first coat of paint stripper (the orange stuff) dripped off the dresser like watery puke. It was completely ineffective and therefore we had to go back and wash the dresser with a mixture of water and amonia.

Then I blew through a contractors pack of sandpaper sanding the paint off such a hard wood.
In the process, a neighbor stopped to say he restored the same dresser (circa 1920) and he took the whole thing apart to make the sanding process easier. Holy cow, that was not going to happen with me.

Another point I want to make: If you look at the photo to the left, the dresser actually looks worse than when I picked it. If you get to this stage, don’t set it on your front lawn and pray that someone steals it. Stay with it. I assure you it will all be worth it.

The banding on the sides was near impossible. Instead of dismantling it, I used a metal, single blade wood scraper (pictured on top of the dresser to the right).

Once I completely stripped and sanded the piece, I painted the inside of the dresser drawers. I think it gives a piece a very clean look.

I salvaged the wooden dresser knobs by sanding and painting them. I drew the design with a compass and pencil and hand painted the design, finishing the look with a gold leaf outline. Then I sealed it with a triple thick gloss.

I love the look of paint incorporated with wood stain. I feel the combination bolsters the appreciation of both elements. All of one – stain or paint – can be boring. Reusing the original knobs (2 needed to be replaced) kept down the project cost considerably, while elevating the look.

I chose gunstock wood stain for the dresser unit and a clear gloss for the drawer fronts.

restored oak dresser

A few people on Facebook commented that they have the same dresser. I also saw it in an American Oak furniture book. This dresser, according to the book, is valued at $595.

If you have a similar dresser that you restored, I’d love to share your photos as well!

Eve of Reduction: Free Seasonal E-Newsletter; Extra tips and wit on Facebook; Reduction Beauty on Pinterest ; The debut DIY lifestyle book (includes 10 upcycling tutorials); and the guide to creative streams of income ebook (only $2.99).

I’m Cristin Frank (AKA Eve). I love all things frugal and crafty. My mindset is always on upcycling, repurposing, reducing waste and saving money – and Eve of Reduction is my roadmap. You might also want to check out my book, "Living Simple, Free & Happy."

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4 Responses to The Oak Dresser Overhaul

  1. Anonymous October 18, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    Fabulous! How in the world do you find a piece like that?

  2. Debra Aubin February 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    What a BEAUTIFUL job. I LOVE IT !!! I have some old Oak pieces that I want to refinish (not paint) and you just gave me the inspiration to do them. Thank you very much. The dresser is just wonderful.
    Thank you


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