Saturday, August 27, 2011

DIY Dresser: The Tutorial

Continued from this post, it's time to go step by step of what it took to refinish this amazing piece of furniture. With the help of my DIY savvy mother and my wonderful husband we turned this:

Into this:

I'm still waiting to find the perfect drawer pulls

The How-To:

1. Make sure you have a location where the piece can reside safely from the outside elements. A garage works best - but I suppose if you have a room that isn't regularly used and well ventilated that would work too. If you do choose to refinish your piece inside make sure all items that could possibly be ruined by the stripper, stain, sawdust, and polyurethane is taken out or covered up. Make sure if the carpet / floor you're on could get ruined that you lay a tarp down before bringing in your project. Lastly, make sure you have an adequate amount of light. When sanding and stripping and staining it's extremely important to have a direct light source so as to make sure everything is being done evenly. 

2. Wipe down your furniture. 
If you're going to skip the stripping and move straight to the sanding, this isn't really necessary - but I prefer to give my furniture a quick wipe down (especially after it's been in storage for x amount of time...) before I add any chemicals to it.

3. Remove any drawer pulls / knobs or other elements that may be hard to strip / sand / stain around.

4. Apply your paint stripper (if needed)

Any stripper will do, but I prefer the globby / not so runny kind. If you remember from the above picture, the dresser I bought had stickers all over the drawers. Some of them were pretty stubborn to come off so I chose to apply stripper to aid the process. This is a super simple step, but requires a lot of effort when it comes to scraping it off, so if there isn't any need for you to use stripper - don't. The process will take twice as long if you do. To strip your piece - don gloves and, depending on how sensitive you are, a mask. Pour a few gobs of your stripper into a bowl / piece of tupperware, grab a large paintbrush, and liberally brush your stripper onto the surface you're stripping.

Let the stripper work it’s magic for 20-30 minutes. If you have more than one surface that needs to be stripped, I find it makes the most sense to apply all your stripper to all surfaces at the same time. By the time you’re down brushing the stripper on the last piece, chances are your first piece is ready for the stripper to be scraped off, and by the time you scrape all the other pieces the last piece will be ready to be scraped as well.

Once you’ve let the stripper soak in for an adequate amount of time, take a putty knife and a paper towel and scrape all of the stripper you applied off.

Make sure you get in all the cracks and crevices.

4. Sanding - Now that all of those hideous stickers are gone, we can move on to sanding. Because of the lack of detail on this dresser, we were able to sand it using an electric palm sander. If your piece has a lot of intricate carved woodwork and detail it’s probably best to sand your piece by hand so that you can effectively sand all aspects of the piece without sanding any of the detail down.

Sand paper comes in many different grades or “grits.” For an explanation of what grits are appropriate for what projects you’re taking on, look here. We used a 60 grit sandpaper for this job. When sanding (moreso with an electric palm sander) it’s important to make sure you’re applying even pressure and not staying in one place for any extended. When you leave the sander running in the same spot for too long, it’s going to cause a divet, which you would then have to fix by sanding down the rest of the surface to match.

5. Wipe it down.
Now that you’ve finished sanding all surfaces, you need to wipe it down to get any sawdust off. This is extremely important. Wiping it down with an old rag and some water will get the majority of the sawdust off, but it isn’t going to be able to get everything – enter the Tack Cloth.

Tack Cloth is basically sticky cheesecloth. Most home improvement stores have tack cloth, I was able to find mine at Wal-Mart, right next to the stains. Rubbing it over the entire surface of your piece you’ll see just how much sawdust was left after your previous wipe down. Make sure to get in all the nooks and crannies for this step as well.

6. Staining. Now that you’re positive that your piece is free of all dirt and sawdust you can move on to staining. There are all different colors of stain. I chose the darkest stain I could find for my piece. One cool element of stain is that one color of stain can be used to create all different colors on your wood. You can apply the stain and immediately wipe it off for the lightest color, or you can apply the stain and leave it on for the deepest and darkest color. I chose not to wipe my stain off.

Since (most) stain comes in a can similar to what paint comes in, I just dip my brush directly into the can. Less waste. When applying the stain it is important to remember to go WITH the grain of your wood. If you brush the stain on against the grain it will be extremely obvious you had no clue what the hell you were doing because it WILL look like shit. Since I didn’t think to capture this aspect of the process until after the fact, I’ll provide a visual:

During the application of your stain it is important to make sure that you’re applying the same amount to the surface the whole time. Nothing’s worse than a piece of furniture that is stained darker on one side than the other or that gets progressively lighter/darker across the piece. Also make sure there are no “puddles” of stain and that the stain isn’t running down the sides. I find it’s best to brush over the piece again (without applying any more stain to your brush) just to make sure all puddles and runs are taken care of.

You can see in the picture that I chose to only stain the drawer fronts rather than the sides and fronts. Typically the sides aren’t stained, but if you want to – go for it.

8. Let your piece dry overnight.

9. Apply your polyurethane. If you want the a la naturale look, you can choose to skip this step, but I love the way the gloss makes the piece look and the protection that it offers the wood.

So there you have it! A step by step process of how an ugly garage storage piece was turned into a beautiful nursery dresser. I couldn't be more happy with the way this piece came out. I'm still on the hunt for the perfect drawer pulls, the ones I have now just kind of blend in with the color of the wood. Let me know if you guys come across any I might like!

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