I know this is probably a weird thing to hear from someone who paints furniture, but I actually love wood. I try to leave some of the original wood exposed in all of my furniture, sometimes I can’t, which I find really disappointing, but in most of my furniture makeovers I spend a great deal of my time bringing the original timber back to life. The dresser we are making over in this series has some stunning wood veneer that the original craftsman spent a great deal of time applying to the solid wood underneath, I want to pay homage to that so the top is being stripped and stained as well as the drawers. I have special plans for the drawers which I will reveal in a later post.
Stripping varnish (or paint) is SUPER FUN!!! Like, my favourite job ever (note the sarcasm). For this piece I used Citristrip to remove the varnish, the heat gun doesn’t always work and in this case it was way easier to just use the stripper. I use a cheap paintbrush to spread a thin layer of the stripper over the whole top and then leave it for 30-45mins, you want to leave it a while so it melts the varnish. With normal paint stripper the varnish bubbles as the stripper works but with Citristrip you don’t get the same reaction. You just need to give it time to do its job.
I use a plastic scraper to strip and wear chemical gloves, I scrap the goo into a paper plate or piece of cardboard. Once you have stripped the top with a scraper you can do the edges with steel wool to get into the grooves. I then go over the area with Mineral Turpentine (aka. Mineral Spirits) and Steel Wool to remove the leftover stripper.
See how much better the tops looks after being stripped. All the marks are gone and we can see the beautiful grain. I love when that happens, its almost magic (if you ignore all the sweat and goo!).
This dresser is covered in veneer which is a thin layer of expensive wood (they do this to keep the cost of the furniture down as well as to create interesting patterns) and by thin layer I mean millimeters thin. When working with veneer you have to be really careful when sanding. If you sand too much you will sand straight through the veneer and potentially ruin your piece of furniture. After stripping I always give my pieces a light sand especially when I plan to leave the timber exposed and not painted which I will be doing on the top and parts of the drawers. On a side note, I want to explain the difference in laminate and veneer – veneer is real wood and laminate is not! Simple as that! Laminate furniture is usually made with chipboard and not worth your time. Veneer to me shows a certain amount of craftmenship and gives it value. Don’t mix up the two!
I start with 120 grit sand paper on my power sander to get any rough edges off before finishing with 220 grit sand paper by hand. As you sand follow the grain and never sand against it. You want the wood to feel smooth to touch, I always go over me pieces with my hands to check for smoothness, touch is important in this process.
Next I stain the wood (you don’t have to do this but I personally prefer darker stain and I wanted it to pop against the colour I will be painting the piece) I use Feast Watson Stain in Black Japan which is a deep chocolate stain……my favourite kind. You can buy a product called Prooftint Colour Reducer which allows you to reduce the strength of your stain. I mix my Prooftint & Prooftint Colour Reducer in a jar and in this instance I did a 50/50 mix. Black Japan is a VERY strong stain so I do not always use it at full strength.
Once I have my stain mixed I apply the stain along the grain with an old sock (yes, only high quality gear is used here!), when staining I wear disposable gloves and I use two gloves on my dominant hand (right) as I have found on occasion the stain can get through the first glove and you do not want this stuff on your hands.
It will look dark going on and then lighten once it soaks into the wood. It will deepen again when you finish the wood with varnish, hemp oil, tung oil or wax (depending on what you choose).
I also stripped and stained the drawer fronts as I plan to leave some wood exposed on those. If I am just painting an area I will not go to the trouble of stripping and staining.
I have not decided yet how I am finishing the wood but I am leaning towards Tung Oil?! But as I have been known to change my mind I cannot make any promises. The colour I have chosen to paint the outer parts of this dresser is Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Grain Sack, it is my favourite neutral in her line. I am not a huge fan of furniture being painted white, I have tried but I hate it, using Grain Sack is the closest I can get to white without making myself physically sick. It’s not that I don’t appreciate white painted furniture, I do, I just personally can’t achieve a look I am happy with. I actually have a custom order for a white piece of furniture and I am dreading it…..it may kill me! (don’t worry they don’t read my blog!)
Finally, the inner drawers and sides of drawers will be painted……Prairie Sunset…..it did come out as a tie originally between this and Ceramic but I then dropped peoples second votes (some of you chose two, which was fine, but I didn’t want a tie so I dropped the second choice) So finally it came down to a one vote difference and the yellow won out!
Thank you so much for taking the time to leave your colour choice, I really appreciate your help 🙂 The next part in this series will be the exciting part….painting! I am looking forward to showing you what I have planned and how to achieve a similar look yourself. Hope you are enjoying the series and if you have any questions feel free to email me or leave your question in the comments. If you want to go back to other parts of the series the links are below.
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