Besides, this was an old piece of furniture, made the way they used to make them... well. It is solid wood and sturdy, it just had some cosmetic unpleasantness. Most notably, it seemed that someone's cat decided to use it as a scratching post. It actually had a thick cardboard backing when I got it, but it was so messed up I had pulled it off prior to taking the "before" pics. Cosmetic issues aside though, the structure was fine and it was an intact, usable piece of furniture, it just needed a little lovin'.
As this is my first real attempt at restoring old furniture, I welcome any feedback, constructive criticism, or wild adulation. My woodworking skills were mostly learned in high school, where I worked in a cabinet shop and also did finish woodworking on custom homes. However, my use of these skills has taken about a ten year hiatus, so I am rusty and may get some things wrong... Which is the beauty of instructables, I get to learn from you even while I share my work! So if anyone has experience with this kind of thing and has some useful hints, please comment.
Step 1: Tools
-Random orbital sander with 120 and 220 grit pads
-Lots of regular sandpaper 80,120,220,320 grit
-clean cloth to apply stain (I used some scraps from a t-shirt)
Step 2: Getting it naked
Follow the belt sander with a few passes from the ol' orbital sander at 120 grit (to smooth things out) and then 220.
Step 3: Get meticulous
There are a couple of tricks you can use to get around the molding without destroying the edges. Wrapping the sandpaper around a piece of scrap that has been sanded to the complimentary shape of the area you are trying to sand, it will fit neatly into the spaces without rounding them all down.
I didn't take any pictures of the drawers, but the process is the same. Remove the hardware from them and repeat the stripping from step 2 on the flat surfaces. After that, its all detail work.
Step 4: Make repairs
Step 5: Stain
Step 6: Rinse and repeat
Step 7: Finishing bits
Step 8: Replace the Hardware
One note: do your best not to lose screws or small bits of hardware from any old hardware like this. It is unlikely you will find a suitable replacement. Plus it is just a dumb problem to have if you needed to replace all the handles and knobs because you lost a screw, as I almost did...
Step 9: Finished!
Thanks for reading! I welcome and comments and feedback.