We purchased this Stanley Furniture piece in Lynchburg, VA, where it was stored in a basement. Unfortunately, mid-century modern (MCM) pieces are hard to find at a reasonable price point, even those that need a little bit of love. We ran across several challenges with this piece that made its restoration a bit frustrating at times, but we think it turned out great. More finished pictures are featured at the end of the blog.
Fun fact, Josh interned at Stanley Furniture when he was an undergrad student and has always enjoyed restoring some of their beautiful pieces.
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Materials and equipment list
before picture / design stage
We sometimes get so excited about starting a project that we forget to take good before pictures (primarily Josh). Also, we purchased this project when we still lived in Lynchburg, so it took us a while to get around to actually restoring this dresser since we have been in North Carolina for about three years now (we may have lost some of the before pictures that we took when we were inLynchburg).
Some of what makes MCM pieces so appealing are their sleek lines and minimalistic style. The veneer was in such bad shape on the drawers that we had to develop a restoration design that would respect the essence of the MCM style while providing a refreshed look that will last for years to come. We took some risks with this piece, as you can see below, but we are really happy that we did and more than pleased with the result. We hope you enjoy the restoration journey that we went through with this piece as highlighted below.
Furniture Restoration Steps
Step 1: Sanding the Body of the Dresser
We had to be careful when sanding the body of this dresser as to not go through the veneer on the body. We start our sanding process with our orbital sander using 60 grit sandpaper. Then, we use 80 grit sandpaper to make sure all of the original finish has been properly removed. Finally, we hand sand with 120 grit sandpaper to get a smoother wood before applying paint.
Step 2: Peeling off the Veneer
Unfortunately, the veneer on the drawers had so many cracks and chips that we did not feel that wood filler would do this modern piece justice. We were nervous about chipping it all off because we were not sure of the quality of the wood underneath. We used a hand scraper to lift the edge of the veneer gently. Once we got enough of it lifted, we used a rubber mallet to lightly tap the end of the scraper to pop it loose. In this scenario, we were able to use that method for each drawer; however, you can also use a heat gun if needed to help loosen the veneer.
Step 3: Sand Down the Drawers
After we removed as much of the veneer as we could in Step 2, we sanded down the drawers using a similar process to how we sanded down the body of the dresser in Step 1. We had to be careful not to damage the drawers through the sanding process. Taking your time and going through the grit progression (60 to 80 to 120 to 220, etc.) will help you get the nicest surface.
Step 4: Route out Slats on Drawers
Routing out the slats on the drawers was the primary risk that we took with this project. The original design included two cutouts on each of the outside drawers. Over time those cutouts became less defined, and the removal of the veneer in Step 2 also contributed to the need to route out those original cutouts. We used a Bosch Plunge Router with an Irwin 1/4" Straight Router Bit to cut these slats.
In order to get a straight line, we clamped down a board with a straight edge as a guide. We also set a quarter-inch depth stop on the router to ensure that each drawer was consistent. Josh helped to hold down the drawer while Sydney moved the router across the drawer face to ensure safety.
Step 5: Epoxy Prep and Application
After we routed out the cutouts on the drawers, we decided to fill in the cutouts with epoxy. We saw a post online where someone was able to use paint as a pigment for the epoxy. However, that did not work out the way we thought it would. We are not saying that this might not work with the proper type of paint/epoxy combination, but it wasn't a good fit for this project. We remedied the issue by painting over the epoxy as described below. Next time, rather than using paint, we recommend powder pigment like what is made by Black Diamond. The following are the steps that we took in applying the epoxy:
1. Create an Epoxy Form: Sydney came up with a genius way to create a makeshift epoxy form using stucco tape and paint sticks. Since we didn't have any standard forms (and we didn't want to dismantle the drawers completely), we cut paint sticks to size and wrapped them in stucco tape. We used stucco tape because it will easily peel away from epoxy. We taped them around the edges of the drawers with a lip on the top to leave space for the poured epoxy in case we poured too much. However, the sides were not strong enough. We got creative, used the stucco tape, attached it to one side, twisted it, and attached it to the other side. This created enough tension and strength to keep our makeshift mold in place. It wasn't pretty, but it definitely worked!
2. Pour the Epoxy: The next step is to pour the epoxy. We followed the instructions on the box and began to pour the epoxy into our routed grooves. To be honest, we made a bit of a mess. You can use a scraper to move the epoxy into grooves such as these cleanly, but it was difficult in this scenario due to our makeshift form. Then, we used the heat gun to ensure that there were no bubbles.
3. Sand Down the Epoxy: After the epoxy cured, we sanded down the epoxy so that it was level with the rest of the dresser. It pretty much created a flat surface on the face of the dresser drawers. As will be discussed later, we used the lines created by the routing and epoxy to determine where we needed to add gold paint to the face of the dresser.
Step 6: Initial Tape in Preparation for White Paint
Before we started painting the body of the dresser or its drawers, we made sure to tape the inside of the body and the inside of the drawers. It is always important to remember to tape the inside of the body where the drawers slide in and out, and the inside portions of the drawers where paint might drip/or the paintbrush might touch. We will admit that this is not a necessary step, but if you want to have a re-purposed dresser that looks professional-grade, then every detail matters.
Step 7: White Paint
We painted the dresser using Valspar Cabinet and Furniture Paint. We usually do at least two or three coats of paint to make sure that everything is sufficiently covered. We generally use Purdy paint brushes so that we can ensure that we get an excellent finish.
Step 8: Taping for Gold Paint and Painting
After we finished the white paint portion, we had to re-tape to prevent the gold paint from getting on the white part of the dresser (or at least as much as we could). Then we painted with gold paint to give the dresser the gold dip look.
Step 9: Apply Finish
After the paint was dry, we were ready to apply a coat of water-based Polycrylic to both the dresser's body and the drawers with a Purdy Syntox brush. After the first coat, we sanded down the dresser using 320 grit sandpaper; then, we applied a second coat of Polycrylic.
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Josh and Sydney are life adventurers that love to learn and create. We are exact opposites and enjoy gaining new perspective. Our home is where our varying personalities shine, and we use it to gather our friends and family together.