The subject dresser was a very tired, very heavy, well-made nine-drawer dresser from Dixie Furniture Company, which is now part of Lexington.
This piece is the perfect blank canvas for a bit of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint magic!
It definitely has its challenges, though.
According to my research, Dixie was a mid-quality manufacturer before it was acquired by Lexington. I'm not sure what they consider to be 'mid-quality' because this dresser is made completely from solid wood ... except for the back piece of each drawer, which I find puzzling.
Quality joinery throughout! This piece is solid ... which is the most important consideration when evaluating a piece of furniture I plan to redo. (I'm not spending my time putting a new finish on a piece of junk furniture.)
The top of this dresser is getting stained and varnished, so the first step was to take off the old finish.
My 'Go To' tool for work like this is my trusty heat gun. I wouldn't recommend this for beginners who are working on a piece that isn't going to be painted, because it takes quite a bit of experience to get the touch to strip the varnish and not scorch the wood. (I stripped all the woodwork in our house with a heat gun, so I am intimately familiar with the subtleties off this technique.) It's a good thing, too, because the finish on this dresser is lacquer ... which is super flammable. The slightest bit of overheating would ignite the lacquer on my scraper, putting off profuse white smoke. This is DEFINITELY a job to be done outside!
Once the lacquer was gone, I used my trusty palm sander to smooth the surface and to get rid of the last remnants of the original finish. This gives it a nice even surface for the new stain ... my new favorite color, 'Kona' by Rustoleum.
One coat of wood conditioner, one coat of stain, two coats of Minwax oil-based satin polyurethane, and the top is now finished. For the smoothest finish possible, be sure to lightly sand between coats of stain and varnish. (I use a superfine sanding sponge for this.)
The body color is Annie Sloan's 'Aubusson Blue'.
The actual painting is the quickest part of this job. After the paint was dry, and I lightly sanded and carefully distressed the edges of the drawers and the body of the dresser, it was time for the magic of a hand-rubbed wax finish.
Left: sanded and distressed. Right: finished drawer, with clear and dark wax.
When I distress, I use two grits of sandpaper to try to replicate a naturally time-worn finish. Here are a couple of examples.
This is what the applique at the bottom of the dresser looked like after painting.
Here it is with a little bit of scuffing from a piece of 220 grit sandpaper.
The distressing is further refined with a quick buff with a superfine sanding sponge.
The waxing brings out the subtleties of the distressing. Here is one of the dresser feet, sanded and ready for wax.
Clear wax shines the underneath finish that's peeking through, but it looks a bit flat.
Dark wax, and a lot of buffing, brings out the contours and the 'patina' of this piece.
All the hardware needed was a quick spritz of Oil-Rubbed Bronze spray paint, and it was good to go.
I've kept you waiting long enough. Are you ready for the big reveal?
My 'glamour shots' photos had to be staged in my basement workshop, because this piece is big and heavy and I don't have anywhere else to move it. Even in this not-so-ideal spot, this beast is beautiful.
For a finishing touch, all of the drawers are lined with coordinating vintage Waverly wallpaper.
There you have it ... quite a transformation, if I do say so myself.
It went from this:
Now Big Blue is ready for its new home. Even though this piece started life as a dresser, someone could easily use it as a buffet in their dining room or as a media stand for a big flat-screen TV. I don't have room for it in my booth at the antique mall, so I listed this piece on Craig's List yesterday. This is the first time I've put one of my refurbished pieces on CL, so we'll see how it goes.
(2/7/12: Edited to add ... Big Blue just left here with a fabulous new owner. I'm thrilled to see it go to such a great home!)
I'll be back tomorrow with some lessons on exactly how I waxed this piece. Stay tuned.
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