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How to Refinish a Damaged Dresser

Updated on May 12, 2013
Faux painted touch-up. Broken edges of natural wood has darken with age.
Faux painted touch-up. Broken edges of natural wood has darken with age. | Source

What a Deal

I am always looking for good deals and ways to save money. Stretching a dollar is not only a way of life for me, it is an exciting challenge and an adventure. Recently, I thought I would try my hand in buying storage lockers. I think I have the knack for it. It was almost the last locker this day. When the locker door opened, the crowd of treasure seekers peered into the room in hopes to find a valuable item they can sell off for some quick cash. In this locker, it contained a mattress box spring, a large old painted bookcase turned away from the door, several trash bags and boxes containing mystery items and this beat up old dresser setting front and center of the room. Most of the crowd saw only trash and the undesirable chipped, scratched, and stained dresser. My eyes fixated on the beautiful birds eye maple veneer and simple but elegant lines of this shabby piece of furniture. Immediately, I saw potential. The auctioneer starts the bid at $5.00. Then $10.00 followed by a long pause. Finally, a taker followed by an even longer pause. I knew then the next bid was mine to secure. He calls out, "Do I have $20.00? Yes! I win the bid!


Keep it or Junk it

The condition of the dresser was not the best but with a little work, skill, and the proper materials, I have a beautiful treasure. If I want to restore it to perfect condition, I would have to replace the veneer. I like the imperfections in the wood and distress from its age which give it character. Once you put a good quality finish on it, you don't see the flaws. Since I have been in the business of restoring and repainting furniture, I had an endless supply of finishing products.


Supplies and Materials

  • screwdriver
  • drop cloth
  • rags
  • gloves
  • 2 paint brushes ( 1 for applying stripper, and 1 for applying clear finish)
  • putty knife for applying wood filler and removing stripper
  • 220 sandpaper
  • Jasco Stripper
  • Elmer's Carpenters Wood filler or Durham's Rock Hard water putty
  • oil base stain of choice
  • Minwax Fast-drying Polyurethane

Preparing the Wood

First remove the hardware and set aside in a safe place or you can replace the handles later. Using heavy rubber latex or blue nitrile gloves, remove the old finish with furniture stripper. I prefer Jasco since it has worked best for me. Follow manufacture instructions. After applying and removing several coats of finish, sand remaining finish off with 220 sandpaper. Fill all cracks and chips with Elmer's Carpenter wood filler or Durham's Rock Hard water putty and let dry completely; (I used Durham's because it works well for my faux painting touches). Sand flat with 220 sandpaper. Since I am a faux finisher, I used some creative tricks to paint a faux birds eye maple touch up to hide repairs. Apply stain of choice with rags. I used a used a mix of Golden Pecan, Ipswich Pine, and Natural Minwax stain to get my desired color. By adding the Ipswich Pine (green undertone) to the Golden Pecan (orange undertone) it neutralizes the color somewhat. Hint: When mixing colors, if you have to much of one color, add a little color that is directly opposite on the color wheel. For instance, if a color is too red, add a little green. Let dry 24 hrs. Apply 3 coats of Minwax Fast-Drying clear satin Polyurethane. I prefer a satin for a nice furniture grade finish. When applying the clear, a good quality brush like the Purdee brand works well and lays the finish on well.

Faux painted touch-up
Faux painted touch-up | Source

Finished Product

The areas that had to be painted may be a little darker than the natural wood, but the end result isn't too bad. Depending on where you put the dresser, you may not even notice any flaws or imperfections. The corner of a room, the lighting, and items placed on the top of the dresser to decorate the room will hide anything you don't want to stand out.

In the show Storage Wars, they never show you what they do with all the other undesirable items found in their locker purchases.The end results of my less than perfect treasure made a little vision and a little work a great buy for my storage locker purchase. Besides, I needed a good dresser.

Oh, in case you are wondering. It wasn't the only treasure I found that day. I did well!


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    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      I have a birds eye maple dresser almost like yours. I love it. Mine doesn't have the curve. You did a good job refinishing your dresser voted up.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      I am always impressed with those who recycle good pieces of furniture and give them new life. I am going to bookmark this for the future. I have a garage sale table I bought for 5.00 and will get around to doing this. Voting UP+++

    • 4wardthinker profile image

      4wardthinker 4 years ago from Sierra Nevada CA

      Thanks moonlake and carol7777 for reading and sharing your comments.

      It's amazing what people will throw away. Old furniture make great recycling projects.

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      One of my best memories is of refinishing a dresser with my dad when I was a kid. I still have it in my home. Voted up. And congrats on the storage locker success.

    • 4wardthinker profile image

      4wardthinker 4 years ago from Sierra Nevada CA

      What a nice treasure to keep in the family donnah75. Thanks for sharing and voting up!

    • profile image

      brendin 22 months ago

      How do touch up birds eye maple what pigments must i use

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