The finish was chipped and gouged all over and there were various parts that were either loose, broken, or missing. But the dresser case was well-built, as were the nice dovetailed drawer boxes, so I thought it was a great candidate for a makeover.
My goals with this dresser were to: 1) restore it to its original functionality, and 2) make it unique and much more awesome.
I'm happy with how it turned out. Thanks for taking a look.
Step 1: Drawer fronts with character
The flat black handles were chosen because they were simple and inconspicuous, and they allowed the colorful drawer fronts get all the attention. I think they fit the piece perfectly.
Step 2: Acquire some signs
Don't go out and steal road signs. That's just idiotic, and there are legal ways to get old road signs. Ask your city or county road department if they have any old signs you can have. Signs get replaced regularly for many reasons, and while some cities and towns are good about recycling, others just throw the signs in a pile and let them sit for years. Just ask around, and be polite.
Step 3: Acquire old dresser
This is what it looked like after lots of sanding, filling up all the cracks and holes with wood filler, and fixing a handful of issues. Many parts of the dresser just had to be re-glued and clamped in order to bring it back to its original, solid condition.
Step 4: Stain dresser
I stained the entire drawer fronts even though I knew they would mostly be covered up by pieces of road signs. This worked out well because certain pieces of sign had holes in them or rounded corners, and the wood left showing through was already stained.
Step 5: Cut and arrange sign pieces
I wanted to make the collage of colors appear balanced and interesting to the eye, so I spent quite a while deciding what pieces to use and where to put them before I made any cuts.
When I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, I used my circular saw and a straight edge to cut out all the pieces and trim them carefully to fit on their respective drawer fronts.
Aluminum cuts easily enough, but cutting it produces little aluminum flakes that get everywhere. Be sure to use safety goggles if you try this.
Most of the scrap pieces of aluminum were kept to use for other projects later on.
Step 6: Attach signs to drawer fronts
A file was used to take off the sharp edges and to file down the sign pieces to precisely match the exact size of the drawer fronts.
Step 7: Polyurethane finish
To get a super-smooth finish, I sanded between each coat with 220 grit sandpaper, followed by a buff with super fine #0000 steel wool. After the final coat of poly, I buffed the finish with the steel wool again, and polished the entire thing with regular household furniture polish. Make sure each coat is fully cured before sanding or you'll end up with gummed up sandpaper and awful marks in the finish.
This same finish was applied to the sides of the drawers, and to the road sign faces. I did this thinking it would seal them up nicely and prevent further chipping and cracking. If nothing else, it brought out the colors and made them a bit more vivid.
Step 8: Add hardware
Step 9: Fine tune the drawers
A little bit of sanding here and there, and a couple of slight adjustments to the center guide rails in the drawer openings fixed these issues. I used a chunk of paraffin to wax all the parts of the drawers and drawer openings that come in contact with each other so the drawers would slide in and out more easily.