Prepping a Dixie Dresser

Painted furniture is very “in” right now.  Ever buy something you think is a steal only to find out later that it’s really not?  That’s what happened with this dresser I got from a second-hand store.  Prep work is a pain but a very important step.

Here’s what you should know…

Mahogany dresser painted black

I thought I was gonna be able to just put this in my bedroom after purchasing it but it turns out the paint job was done…well I’ll just say poorly.  So I decided to do some stripping…of paint…off the dresser.

Nice wood 

I use CitriStrip when I want to remove paint, it works really fast and without all the horrible smell and it’s not as harmful.  This time I ran into a problem that I hadn’t encountered before.  While stripping, I noticed I was getting a lot of gummy residue that just wouldn’t come off the piece.  It was turning into a ooey gooey mess in random places.  See those dark spots on the side, that was like trying to get sticky tar off the bottom of your shoe.  What a mess!

Looks better after removing the paint and varnish

I had to use the stripper several times in certain places to remove all the residue of varnish that was under the paint.  Yeah, this piece was not prepped correctly before it was painted.  So be very careful when you purchase a painted piece of furniture, which is very popular lately.  Ask questions, a lot of questions!  They should be able to tell you how they prepped it, what type of paint/stain and finish sealer was used.

Sanded drawers are in the back and this one has a pre-conditioner applied

All furniture should be clean and free of dirt, dust, debris and wax.  You can use Simple Green, TSP or any number of cleaners.  When I clean a piece I use a simple vinegar and water solution, which works fantastic.  There are many different brands of chalk or clay based paints that don’t require a ton of prep work but you still need to use a good cleaner before painting it with those.  To be on the safe side, clean it and very lightly sand before using either.  Some of the more expensive brands work wonderful (Annie Sloan, CeCe’s, Debi’s DIY, Beyond, American Paint Co.) but there are others not so great.  Do your research and ask questions.  Many people are flipping furniture to make a quick buck and using inferior products or just not putting in the prep work required so be careful.

If a latex or enamel paint is used, more prep work is required for a quality finish.  The polyurethane or varnish should be removed and then the piece should be sanded and primed before painting.

If you’re re-staining furniture, even more work is needed to get it back to bare wood.  (This is typically what I do, all the hard work some people don’t want to do cause I’m weird like that)  Yep, just settle in and give yourself some time to get that done.  It’s time-consuming but well worth your effort if you have solid wood that you’re working with.  Stains come in an abundance of colors now other than various shades of brown.  I have a gray and blue wood stain that I really like working with.  Just make sure to follow the directions carefully to get the best finish possible and seal with a quality finish product.  I like Miniwax’s polyacrylic because it’s water based and easy to clean up after.

I still don’t have this dresser finished because; well because I wanted to make sure it was done correctly.  I stripped off all the layers and years of mistreatment and ya just can’t rush through that.  I’ve sanded it all down to a smooth finish and applied the wood conditioner to achieve a uniform finish for the stain when it’s applied.  Right now it’s resting safely in my little workshop waiting for the perfect shade of stain.  I ‘m hoping to breathe some new life into it this weekend.  I’ll post the finished dresser next week.

Until then, have a great weekend.  Hmmm, maybe next week I’ll take ya on a tour of our 5 acres and you can see how spring looks around here!


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