DIY Mad Scientist Molecule!

My goal with this post is to give you a brief, get-you-started-YOU-CAN-DO-IT! overview of refinishing furniture so that you know the basics and maybe feel empowered to go off and do the damn thing yourself. If you're hoping for a super thorough, detail oriented post about how to refinish furniture you will be disappointed. I am not qualified to write that post because my "method" involves a lot of trial and error. However, there are like, 1,000,000 good ones out there and I will share some of my faves after you read mine. :) So here's how I conquered this dresser for the Mad Scientist Nursery: babydressercollagetext In my previous posts (here and here) I mentioned that the dresser needed to be between 37"-43" high so that it could double as a changing table. I knew I wanted something that was solid wood so that I could refinish it. So I found this one on Craigslist for $60. It's 41 inches high, solid wood, complete with dovetail joints and plenty of grime. Yes, the finish on this guy had seen better days and was now something resembling dirt mixed with polyurethane. Basically, it had to go. So, first things first, I needed a power sander. I bought this one as a "starter" power sander. See, not scary at all!


Look! So easy even Salem can use it!


Okay, so even though it's so easy my intern could use it, you should practice on something first. You have to sorta get into a groove with power sanding or you'll make sanding marks in the wood and those are a real bitch. So maybe while you're at the hardware store get some practice wood. Then, commence sanding (always WITH the grain). First use a low numbered sandpaper like 60 or 80. Then go for something in the 100's like 140 or 160. Finish with something to smooth it out like 220 grit. Sand like your life depends on it. Sand for a long time. Sand until your furniture looks like this:


And maybe a little further. Sand until your furniture is stripped of all its dignity previous finish. You'll know because it won't be shiny anymore and will look like raw wood. Even when I thought I had sanded enough, I hadn't.

You may want to try walking away from it after a while so you can come back with fresh eyes rather than stare at it constantly for hours and hours like me. (You know how if you look at a word for long enough it no longer makes sense? It's the same kind of thing here.) I was working on this thing non-stop for so long that my eyes played tricks on me.

Anywho, once you're done sanding (happiness!) you can start painting/staining. For the drawer fronts and insides I opted to paint using "Warm Welcome" by Mythic. For the staining (just follow the directions on the can, stain on, wipe off) I used "Early American" by Miniwax for the first 2 coats and then "Dark Walnut" for the last coat to deepen the color a little. Here's a picture of the dresser with one coat of stain/paint.


From there I added 2 more coats of paint, 2 more coats of stain and 2 coats of MiniWax Polycrylic Protective Finish over the wood. I also stained the little handle cutouts to match the rest of the wood. I think it came out great and I learned some important lessons while doing it:babydresserangleedit

1. You can do anything with the internet. Although I had very little re-finishing experience I was able to get many of my questions answered with google searches.

2. I like getting dirty and maybe you will too! Having spent a huge portion of my life all gussied-up working in hair salons, I had no idea how incredibly rewarding this work could be. Even though I was sweating in jean shorts for hours and hours, the time flew by and I loved it.

3. With a little practice you can make stuff you really, really like. Just get started. Now. Do it!

My dad used to say, "Be the Nike girl and JUST DO IT!" and while I found that incredibly trite and obnoxious when I was younger, I totally get it now. Especially as I hear and read stories about how much trouble people have just getting started. Things like this can actually be very simple- don't be intimidated. Start small if you're scurred and practice.

Okay, now here's those links I promised. These were very very useful while I was covered in sawdust and paint:

DIY 101 Building Your Toolbox-Sanding

Before and After Basics Sanding 101

Refinishing a Veneer Dresser

The moon is in Leo and the witches say: "Cast a spell"