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May 21, 2021

Refinishing An Antique Dresser

I’ve been wanting to tackle refinishing this antique dresser for years. But having only lived in condos with no work space to do so, it sat in a storage unit. When we moved to Austin and finally had a garage and driveway (yay!), it was one of the first projects I took on. The whole process took 3 days, with the sanding portion being the most laborious. But in the end, I have a gorgeous, refinished antique dresser that now gets to live in our new home!

Refinishing Step One: Sanding

This solid wood dresser has beautiful details and is built to last. However, it was covered in nicks, scratches, and had spots where the varnish had peeled off. So the first step was sanding the entire piece down. I used an orbital sander, beginning with an 80 grit paper on the first pass.

This part of the refinishing process was the hardest. With the age and layer of varnish and stain, this dresser took awhile to get through to the original wood. I went in by hand for the curved and decorative sections.

But low and behold – look at that gorgeous wood underneath! Unfortunately I’m not a wood expert, and I’m sure I could figure out what type of wood this is if I did some research. But you do want to be careful with the 80 grit as to not compromise any of the original shape. Once you get down to the wood, that can happen fast. Just keep a mindful eye.

After the 80 grit, I went back again with a 120 grit paper to further refine and smooth.

Picking The Stain

Picking the stain was a tough task for me. It was a big decision! I got a scrape piece of wood at Lowe’s and a few different Minwax stains to test the colors. I originally thought I wanted to keep it lighter, but once I tested it on the dresser, it just didn’t take evenly enough and looked patchy. So, I decided to go fairly dark as to mask any patchiness, but still have the grain show through. I landed on a mix of approximately 75% Dark Walnut and 25% Golden Oak to give it a bit more warmth.

Refinishing Step Two: Applying The Stain & Poly

After the stain went on (applied with a foam brush and wiped off with a rag), I let it dry overnight. Then it was time to apply the polyurethane. I went with a fast-drying, clear semigloss.

After brushing on the poly with a natural bristle brush, I let that dry for 4 hours. Then I followed the directions and sanded down with a fine, 220 grit paper (by hand this time). Finally, I wiped the surface with a paper towel to remove any lingering dust before applying the second coat of polyurethane. I went with just 2 coats total, but they say you can do 3 if you want as well. I made sure to let it dry a full 24 hours.

The Refinished Antique Dresser!

I absolutely love how it tuned out! You can definitely see a lot more of the wood grain, which I like. After all, it’s nice to have a solid wood, quality piece of furniture – they are hard to find these days!

This project definitely required some elbow grease and patience, but so worth it in the end to have a fully restored and refinished antique dresser!

Make sure you head over to my Instagram to see a reel of the whole process of refinishing this antique dresser!

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