Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Refinishing dresser with gel stain

We needed a decent dresser for the guest bedroom. I found this solid wood one on Craigslist. It was listed for $75 and I got her down to $30. It was missing some handles, was an orangey oak color, and was pretty scratched up. I liked the size and shape of it though! A true solid wood dresser purchased new will put you back around $1,000. No thank you.

I got busy stripping it. This is not fun. Stripping and restaining furniture is a ton of work so please be sure you know what you're getting yourself into. It actually only took me a couple days, but I worked sun up to sun down. Man I was sore! It was a good reminder of how out of shape I am!

Here are some of the materials you will need:

Zinsser StripFast Power Stripper $22.96 at Menards
Klean Strip After Wash $6.96 at Home Depot
Minwax Gel Stain in Walnut $10.78 at Lowe's
You'll also need these items:

The stripper is very strong and can burn your skin if you're not careful. You must wear gloves. I also wore a mask and eye glasses. Safety first!

I had just rolled out of bed. Don't judge me :)
 Remove all of the hardware. 

Then take a paint brush and spread the stripper on. You'll want to work in small sections because if the stripper completely dries before you get there to scrape, you'll need to reapply more stripper. You should leave the stripper set for about 10 minutes or until it starts to bubble. Once it bubbles up, take the scrapper and have at it.

You'll need a trash can or bag to scrap the goop into. Or in my case an old flower pot. Hey it worked!

I don't know if my stripper wasn't as effective anymore (it's a couple years old) or if the dresser just had that much varnish on it, but I had to reapply the stripper and scrap about eight times on certain parts. It was brutal. The worst part is getting into edges and places where the furniture has fine details or carvings. In the future I'm going to try Citri-Stip Spray Stripper. Frugal with a Flourish recommended it in this post.

Once all of the stain is off, clean the dresser well with an after wash like the one recommended above. Sand the piece down and then get ready to work with the stain.

I had not used gel stain before. This is Minwax in Walnut. It was really goopy when I opened it and I had to stir like crazy.

If you've used regular stain before, you'll like how gel stain has a thicker consistency and doesn't drip as much. Here is one drawer with stain and one without. You'll apply the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping off with a clean rag.

These pics are after one coat of stain:

Time for a second coat.

I was going to do a third, but was truly worn out and actually liked how it looked with two coats.

You'll want to add a protectant so that it doesn't get damaged as easily. My dad had Minwax Finishing Wax on hand so I used that.

@ Menards for $9.97
The most expensive part of this whole project was finding the right sized hardware. The new handles had to be 2.5" instead of the standard 3". I couldn't reuse the old because a couple were missing. I had a heck of a time finding 2.5" ones. No one had them in stock. I finally ordered 16 from for $3.14 each and spent more on the hardware than I did the dresser!

I need to find a big mirror to place above it. What do you think of the final results?

Should I have done another coat of stain? Do you like the hardware? I like it, but I'm wondering if I should have made it darker afterall. Oh well!

This whole project cost less than $100 and I have a nice solid wood dresser. So if you have a wood piece, consider staining it instead of painting over it. Although I am definitely guilty of slapping paint over wood items :/

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