Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How I Almost Pulled My Hair Out Refinishing a Dresser

And that title is no exaggeration.  Ask Andy, my brother, my mom, the guy at Home Depot.  This dresser was not easy.  But I am so glad I hung on and kept working at it.  I just love the finished result, so it was worth all the headache.  Sometimes, I go in the nursery just to look at it.  I'm not the only one that does that, right?

Ok, so I will give you the skinny on what I learned by refinishing this dresser.  I am by no means an expert, but I can offer a few pointers.

1. Use Oil Based Primer.  I cannot stress this enough when you are dealing with a piece of furniture that has an old stain on it, especially when you suspect that the stain was oil based.  Here's the mistake I made...I used water based primer, which in the past has been great.  After the primer coat, I noticed a bit of seepage.  I though, eh, the paint will cover it.  Wrong.  So, so, so wrong.  I put four coats of paint on, only to find out that the stain was still seeping through.  Instead of a nice, pale, champagne pink, I was getting a reddish baby pink.  I have nothing against baby pink...just not what I was going for.  I didn't take a picture because I was so incredibly frustrated I couldn't see straight.

2. Oil Based Primer can go over water based paint.  I was shocked!  But the guy at Home Depot mentioned that after I said I would have to sand everything down.  I was skeptical, but he was right!  I did sand down the top a bit just to pull back a few of the layers, but there was still plenty on there.  And to my amazement, there was no bubbling, and she is still going strong!  As you might guess, I was highly relieved to not have to sand that bad boy down again.

3. Sand between coats.  Because the primer, paint, and poly will pull the grain of the wood up, its important to sand well with high grit paper between coats to get it back to smooth.  I was going for an ultra smooth feel, so I used 220 and 310 grit paper between coats.

However, do not make the same mistake I made on one of the drawers.  After applying the primer, I found the grain was pulling up more than the high grit could take back down.  I used some 180 grit (not the mistake) but it took off some of the primer.  Silly me, I thought it was so little that the paint would still cover it.  That was the mistake.  After the poly was on and I was attaching the knobs, I noticed a bit of the old stain coming through.  At that point though, I was so over it I couldn't even fathom sanding that drawer down again.  And, to be honest, a person would have to be looking for it in just the right light to find it.  I am just that picky and Type A to see it.  But I am living with it, and haven't lost it yet.

One last point, something I already knew, but its worth mentioning.  Several light coats are so much better than a couple heavy coats.  Trust me, you will like the results much better.

Now, onto the materials I used.  For the priming stage, I settled on Kilz Oil Based Original primer.  It was applied it with a foam brush and a foam roller.  I didn't want to clean good brushes with mineral oil, so I used ones that could be tossed.  For the paint, I used two test pots of Dutch Boy Composed Bloom.  I could have gotten away with one test pot had it not been for the nightmare in Point #1 above.  For the poly, we used Minwax Polycrylic.  It has a way of not yellowing over time.  I have used it in the past on other pieces, and that statement holds true, even a couple years down the road.

Now, if I could just work up the energy to start working on that rocker....

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