Monday, August 6, 2012

The dresser saga, AKA, why I should stick to crafts

Oh, this was such a big project.

I found a dresser that I loved at an estate sale, for $15. It required quite a bit of work, including repairing two big gashes at the top. I fell hard though, and figured I could handle it.

From the start, this dresser was trouble. To get it home, I had to cram it into my Golf. I didn't remember until after I paid for it that our trunk hasn't been opening, so it had to be wedged into the backseat.
As much work as it was to cram into the car, it was a million times harder to get it out. We had to take out the knobs to roll down the windows, and broke a chunk off the bottom of the dresser on its way out.
But I was eager. I was ready to go.

After removing the hardware, the first thing I did was buy a roll of veneer (ugh...$25!) to redo the top of the dresser. I used contact cement to attach it, giving myself a terrible headache for the night, but I was okay with that, because I loved my dresser.

 It looked good at first, but after a few hours, I noticed that the veneer was buckling. By the next day, I noticed that there were huge air bubbles everywhere. No amount of rolling and pushing and working at it could get it to go away. Finally, I realized that I would have to remove the veneer. I figured I could remove the veneer off the top of the dresser, but leave it on the curve, where it wasn't actually buckling. This was also the only part that actually needed to be repaired to begin with. I really should have only worried about that part from the start.
Removing the veneer was the worst. I swear, the contact cement fumes come back tenfold when they're being plucked apart with a spackle knife. The whole top of the dresser had been destroyed from the contact cement. To fix it, it required an entire night of sanding and refinishing the top part using wood filler. By the end, though, it looked fine. Once the top was feathered into the remaining veneer using the wood filler, I was pretty sure I was good to go!

The next day, I began priming it. I used a stain blocking primer by CIL, so that I wouldn't have to stain the entire dresser. I have read about these stain blocking primers, and I have to say, I was super happy with the results. It made that part of refinishing the dresser much easier!
The primer looked beautiful! Except as it was drying, I noticed something... worrisome. The remaining piece of veneer was starting to bubble up again.
It wasn't TOO bad, and I figured that once it was painted, it would barely be noticeable.

I used the color Tempest by Matha Stewart. I was looking for a color that had a nice, antique, powdered blue kind of feeling, and I am really happy with it. Here you can see it against the white stain, to get a feel for how different it is.
But as the paint was drying, I noticed that the veneer was bubbling so, so badly. UGH.

Horrible. The only thing to do was just rip the entire piece off. So even though it was already sanded, feathered, primed, and painted, the remainder of that darn veneer piece had to come off.

If you're keeping track, this is the entire $25 piece of veneer that has been ripped apart and trashed. I was just so frustrated. The worst part is that by now, I still hadn't fixed the initial problem with the dresser, which was those two gashes missing from the sides. I ended up filling them in with wood filler, which is absolutely what I should have done from the beginning. I also hard to redo the whole curved part of the dresser with wood filler, the same way I had redone the top. I didn't even take pictures of this part, because by now, I was so over this dresser.

Once the curve was refinished with the wood filler, I was finally good to re-prime and repaint the top of the dresser. The curve isn't perfect. I didn't sand it as well as I could have, and I didn't take my time as much as I had been. All I cared about, though, was that it was done.

The last little detail I had to do was refinish the hardware using brass finisher. I just love these handles, and I was so happy with how nicely they cleaned up.

So after ALL of that, I can finally present to you... the finished dresser!

I am so, so happy with how it turned out. But if I can offer anyone any advice - stay away from veneer unless you really know what you're doing!


  1. Your dresser is very happy and glad you did not give up on it. It is much happier than it would have been at the Salvation Army or (gack) the dump. Congratulations!


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