Refinishing a Dresser With Oil-Based Paint

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Sometimes I joke that all of my furniture is either used or from IKEA--and it's true! Aside from our couch, I really don't own any new furniture. Buying furniture second-hand means you can usually get higher quality pieces at a fraction of the cost of their new counterparts. However, used furniture often needs a little TLC. So I thought I'd put together a post detailing how I have refinished several pieces of furniture. 


This dresser was priced right at a mere $20 at a yard sale, but it was in sorry shape with many gouges, scratches  and water marks on the wood. I decided that painting the dresser would be the best way to revive it. Here's how I went about it:


First, I used a putty knife and Elmer's Wood Filler fill the worst of the scratches and gouges. After letting it dry, I sanded it with a fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the putty. Next, I used a barely damp rag to wipe off the sanding dust from the dresser's surfaces and let it dry.



Remove any knobs or hardware, and remove the drawers to paint them outside of the dresser. I covered the entire dresser with KILZ Latex Primer. I like KILZ (and also BIN) because it does a good job of blocking stains, and I prefer a latex primer, since it dries faster and is easier to clean up. Priming is an essential step for painting any piece of furniture--it cannot be skipped! My preference is to use a paintbrush, not a roller, as I hate the way a roller looks on wood. When you paint, go with the grain of the wood. Don't worry if the primer looks streaky and sort of messy--you won't see your brushstrokes once you paint it. Let the primer dry according to package directions before painting. 


To paint the dresser, I used Rust-Oleum's Gloss White. In general, I find Rust-Oleum's pre-mixed colors to be pretty good (check out this post from Little Green Notebook for examples of the colors). Oil-based paint gives a much nicer finish than latex paint, and I really think it's worth the extra hassle. Yes, it's a pain to clean up, and yes, it takes forever to dry, but trust me, it will give you excellent results. Use a high-quality paintbrush that is labelled for use with oil-based paints; it'll make the job easier. I used two coats to get a nice shiny finish on this dresser. Again, paint with the grain of the wood, and if the first coat doesn't look totally perfect, don't worry, the second coat will smooth it out into glossy perfection. Keep an eye out for drips as you work.


Last, I polished up the knobs on the dresser, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover they were copper! I used Noxon Metal Polish because it was what we had on-hand. This product is nice because it works on so many different metals, but be sure to use it in a well-ventilated space, as it's rather noxious. Some of the drawers didn't open smoothly, so I rubbed the glides with a bar of soap before putting them back in the dresser.

I've refinished many pieces of furniture with white oil-based paint, and it's a surefire way to make an old piece look brand new. Give it a try!

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