Introduction: Refinishing an Old Dresser

About: Terminal tinkerer.

During the quarantine, I decided to start an overdue refinishing project and give my dresser a new finish. I found this one on OfferUp for $60. It is an Ethan Allen dresser which usually means it's well built and solid wood construction. I wouldn't have attempted this with non-wood laminate or particle board. Even though this particular piece was well built, it had some serious scratches and needed some TLC.

Step 1: Step 1: Start Sanding

The top is the most visible part of any dresser. In this case the top is a veneer ply with a few cracks from years of neglect. I gave it a light sanding with a 220 block. You'll want to do this outside or in a well ventilated area.

Step 2: Step 2: Fill Any Cracks, Scratches and Imperfections

Since this is going to get paint as a final coat, I wasn't too particular with what type of wood filler I used. I went with a water based product from a big box store. This particular product goes on pink and dries white. I have even used auto bondo in the past for painted projects (but those usually work best for outdoor projects).

Once it's dry sand it smooth. You may need to repeat this a couple of times depending on how imperfect the surface is.

Step 3: Step 3: Prime & Paint

I've refinished many kitchens and the quality of finish is one of the most important things when painting wood. Ideally spraying gives the smoothest finish. A close second is a high quality roller with a good leveling paint. And since this is basically cabinet project, I decided to forgo the mess of spraying for the convenience and easy cleanup of rolling.

What I used...

I have always been a big fan of General Finishes products. I've always used their milk paints, glazes, stains and topcoats and had great results. When they introduced their new primer and brushable water based enamel, I decided to try it despite my troublesome experience with rolling water based paints on wood. But...I tried. Also, the General Finishes primer and paint isn't cheap. At the Rockler I went to it was about $30/each for a quart.

After 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of enamel, I still couldn't get a consistent smooth finish rolling. I had high spots of glare and roller tracks.

So I went back to what I know. For cabinets, I love Sherwin Williams ProClassic oil based alkyd enamel. It is very thick and rolls on heavy. But where water based coats dry quickly, oil based coatings dry VERY slowly. Figure on 24 hours in a room temperature environment before a second coat is ready. However, I think it gives a smoother and more durable finish. After my second coat of the Sherwin Williams product I was very happy.

Step 4: Step 4: Finish Hardware and Attach

These handles have a swivel pull and needed a new coat of paint to cover the un-kept brass. I went with a silver spray paint but had to think for a minute on how to paint all sides at once while keeping the pull extended. I rigged up this box to hang the handles so the pull was extended. Voila. Let gravity do your work.

Once everything was dry, attach your hardware and admire your "new" dresser.