If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past year of professional furniture up-cycling, it’s that MOST of the work in creating a beautiful piece of painted furniture happens long before you crack open a can of paint.
What? You mean I can’t just slap on a coat of semi-gloss and expect to see a Pottery Barn finish? Well, if you’re extremely lucky maybe, but let’s face it -- most of us are redoing furniture because we’re trying to use our creative skills to save a dime. We want the look, but not at the price. Slapping on paint without doing your homework ends up looking like . . . well, like you slapped on paint. You get the idea.
So here’s a little tutorial to help you get the skills to make furniture rebuilding and mending easy and professional.
Sorry, I’ll apologize in advance. You’ll never be able to buy a new piece of furniture again.
Welcome to world of “hum, I think I can build that better . . .”
It’s the planet right next to “hum, I think this recipe would be better if I just added this . . . “ Which is of course in the solar system of “Oh, well I can just make that . . .”
Here’s my before pic of a little volunteer dresser.
Looks cute, right? Well, it was not really the quality I put in my store. Parts were sound, but the drawer bottoms were broken and the back was a cardboard replacement. Well, I’m gonna show you how to turn this candidate for the local dump into a cute storage, shabby chic shelf.
Let er’ rip! I stripped the back off with a hammer claw and ditched the drawers, except for the one that had a nice bottom. I used that same hammer to bang out the side, front and back cleats - the pieces of wood holding up the drawers. I cut two pieces of ¾” hardwood plywood for the new drawer shelves. No, table saw work is not the skill I’m talking about, I have Home Depot cut this wood for me.
Clamp, Glue, and Screw.
90% of the furniture fixes I do require clamps and a drill, so these are great investments for any novice furniture repairer.
Why am I not just nailing it together? Yeah, right. I might get one nail in straight -- after I spend 15 minutes driving them in crooked. For this project I needed to attach the new shelves to the existing cleats. I applied a thin layer of wood glue to the cleat, clamped the plywood and cleat together, and used 1 ½” screws in 6 spots. The clamps make this job soooooo much easier since everything holds in place while I put the screw in. The glue will ensure a quality connection.
Counter sinking screw holes.
Ok, not a biggy, but really if you want a professional finish you need to recess your screws just a bit so that you can hide them with wood filler. There are two ways to do this. One, just buy a drill bit for counter sinking screws. Use this before you drill for your screw and it makes a nice big well for your screw to hide in. See the photo below.
Two, drill your screw hole as you normally would. Then using a bit slightly larger than the head of your screw, drill down just ¼” to create a little well for your screw.
Wood fill your holes, dings, ouchies, and boo boos.
I tell all my students: "Paint doesn’t hide, it highlights!" If you can feel it before it’s painted, you’ll be able to see it once it’s painted.
Since wood filler shrinks while drying, overfill your hole. This first application really needs to dry at least 2 hours if it’s thick.
Next, sand it down with 120 sandpaper till it’s smooth. The next step is critical.
Don’t skip the second layer of wood filler.
Apply another layer of wood filler with a putty knife to ensure a smooth finish.
Allow the filler to dry completely and sand with 220 sandpaper until you cannot see or feel a ridge. See the photo below -- look at the left side where the wood filler almost seems transparent. Like that.
I added wood fencing to the back for a rustic effect, and it turned out perfectly. A friend took the piece to her store to be a cash register stand.
I painted the entire piece in a color called French Linen, and the trim in Old Ochre. A coat of poly seals it all and new knobs on the bottom drawer add a bit of pizazz.
Some wood lathes worked perfectly as trim.
And there you go! Gotta love a dresser with a new lease on life. Have fun projecting!
Thanks for stopping by!
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