Small Cabinet Restoration





Introduction: Small Cabinet Restoration

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Small Cabinet Restoration

Awhile back a friend tasked me with turning this old yard-sale find into something presentable for his mothers birthday.

As you can see it was in pretty rough shape. It had at least three different colours of paint and the top had been "fix" with an old piece of vinyl flooring. From what I could tell, at some point there would have been some type of upper cabinet or mirror to accompany this piece but I suspect it's long gone. That history I've covered up but we'll get to that a little later.

This is the process I took to bring some life into this old/dated piece furniture.

Step 1: Removing the Old Paint

One of the most painful steps in restoring a piece of furniture, has got to be removing the old paint and or finish. There are tons of different paint strippers out there, and many of which work quite well when removing one layer of paint at a time. I had started this project with one such product, it had worked great on previous endeavours but this one was a different beast. With layers of paint varying in not only colour but in whether it was latex of oil based caused some layers to turn gummy and made a bit of a mess.

Fast forward a day and the learning of the helpful hint of paint removal with a heat gun, the entire cabinet was down to bare wood in a night.

Note: The more paint and finish you remove with the heat gun the less sand paper you'll need to finish things up. Because I was reapplying paint and if you will be too, you won't have to waste your time sanding to a super fine finish. Up to a 80 grit should be more than enough.

Step 2: Sanding Complete & Top Fixed Up

With all the sanding finished up I was ready to move onto fixing up the top.

The top was a bit too small to cover the whole frame. This is because of that original upper piece I mentioned earlier. And the front corner was cut off at sometime over its life. In order to address these issues the front edge was trimmed down on the table saw to remove the cut corner.

A piece of pine 2x4 was planed down to thickness and cut to size, this will become the new front edge. after gluing the pine and entire top was routed with a 45 degree chamfering bit, this matched what was original to the piece.

*When nearing final sanding be sure to fill unwanted holes with wood filler. (Like the ones I encountered in the drawers.)

With the top fixed up I was ready for paint and primer.

Step 3: Primer

Now I'm not a fan of painting, Actually I hate it with just about every fibre of my being. But sometimes its the best and in the case the only finish for the job.

I knew that I wanted the insides of the drawers to be a different colour than the outside of the cabinet. Since I will be painting the final coats with a light cream colour, I figured I would save myself some time and have the drawers be primer white. It took about 2 coats of primer on the outer surfaces and 3 to get to a point were I was happy with the coverage on the interior. Because the only time I get for these things is after work every new coat of paint had overnight to dry.

Step 4: Painting

I took the same approach with the paint as I did with the primer. (And with the same enthusiasm)

Step 5: Drawer Pulls

The final touch was to add new drawer pull, these nickel coloured pulls replaced the old glass ones which at some point had replaced the original (what I suspect were a type of batwing pull).

When replacing drawer pulls, (unlike the person who installed the glass ones) you want to be very careful to centre each one on the face of the drawer. In my case I was able to take a small round file and elongate the holes just a bit so the pulls sat flush against the drawer front and as centred as I could get them.

Step 6: Enjoy!

All that is left is to enjoy your handy work, and hopefully take a great deal of pride in the fact that you breathed new life into an old piece of furniture.

Thanks for reading.

-Wood Crow



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Questions & Answers


That looks beautiful!
After reading this today, I just went and buy a heat gun. Hopefully mine turns out as well as yours!

New to you leave the paint strippers on then use the heat gun??? Thanks for the tips too!

Good job, awesome advice on heat gun too, wouldn't've thought of that. I wouldn't paint though, just stain it and leave the natural wood colour/ornament...

I like this a lot. Will try a heat gun next time I have multiple layers of paint. As far as staining goes I read an instructable about a neat way to get color onto wood. On cedar it turns it the awesome shade of grey that I love. It involves putting steel wool in vinegar and aging this until the vinegar dissolves the steel wool. When applied to wood it makes it look like aged barn wood. So pretty. My last project I tried this with ended up being built from more than one type of wood so it came out different colors for each type of wood. It never occurred to me that someone would build a cabinet out of multiple types of wood but yeah if you have scraps around why wouldn't you build out of different stuff if you were going to simply paint it. Here's a link to the article about the steel wool and vinegar treatment.

I'm just about to tackle a similar project, but am a little leery about painting parts that will touch/rub (in your case, the drawers... in mine, adjustable shelves in a pair of bookcases).

Any advice on the type of paint to use and/or the technique you used in priming/painting?

Thanks, Jim

just add nylon or teflon strips to the corners that will rub.

I didn't take any precautions with painting parts that were going to rub, mainly because I knew that this piece would be mostly decorative and wouldn't see a lot of hard use. If your anything like myself you'll adjust the shelves once and then maybe again in 5 years :P I would think the use of a good quality furniture paint would hold up with no issues.

Good points about the heat gun and the 80 grit sandpaper. A hair dryer can be used if you don't have a heat gun. Most books on finishing furniture advise using much finer sandpaper, but for paint, 80 grit is fine. Sometimes I use 120 if a piece is going to be varnished. It's furniture, not a museum piece.

-- I would have added the pine piece to the rear of the top, where there's no overhang and the glue joint wouldn't be as likely to be stressed by someone leaning on it or in moving. Also, I would have left the bottom edges of the drawers unpainted, along with the surfaces underneath them on which they slide. Many old drawers wear there, and applying some paraffin to those surfaces lubricates them effectively. (Don't use soap, or the dresser will end up smelling like dried up soap.)

Thanks for the tip about the paraffin wax I will be keeping that one in mind.

It appeared that you had it restored to a point where you could have finished with a stain. Also, did I neglect the part in which you talked about the little section of the bottom that was not a drawer. It looked like you had it to a point to have created a drawer to replace or was your intent to bring it back to its original configuration?

Great job, by the way, I hope your friend's Mother enjoyed your work!