MCM Dresser makeover Part 1...a tutorial!

I mentioned here my awesome MCM dresser find! Unfortunately the temperatures have been below freezing and Friday night we had a little snow storm roll in! 

Winter "BLAHS!!!!" For some it is that "depression" caused by the short days and over cast skies. For me, it is the result of being forced to sit and look at something I want desperately to begin working on!

So in spite of the freezing temperatures and mounting snow, I decided to dig into my newest treasure. My plan was to strip and oil the top and drawer fronts and paint the cabinet a soft off-white (similar to these little side tables).

I turned on the little electric heaters in the garage (which worked fine until my daughter turned on the blow dryer in my bathroom!), put on my heavy wool socks and Ugg boots, put on a pair of gloves, slipped my rubber gloves over my gloves....and went to work. 

First, let me share with you what I call "a treasure." Some may look at this and think "Seriously? A treasure?" Yes people...that is why this blog is called "Beckwith's Treasures"...not "Beckwith's Stuff That is Totally Awesome Without Lifting a Finger."  Treasures would imply that one has to search for it, recognize what it is even when it is a mess and then put in the time and effort to make it shine!

This little "treasure" is a mid-century Dixie walnut dresser made in Sweden. Yes, for those of us who drool over mid-century furniture, this is a treasure! (If you want an idea of just how obsessed I am with "mid-century" just use the "search" function on the left sidebar)

I wanted to see how well the top would clean I stripped one little's like "taking a peek." 

Like a lot of old veneer furniture, there was some chipping on both the top (see the corner!) and the drawer fronts. Fortunately, it was relatively minor. Minor enough to "ignore" as long as the veneer is otherwise "stable."

The top had two ink stains that had penetrated the raw wood. Even after stripping with the acetone/lacquer thinner mixture I use to strip old finishes, there were still some little ink stains. This piece is a prime example of why you DON"T sand would have risk damaging the thin walnut veneer. I went online and looked for a "chemical" solution..."how to remove ink stains from raw wood." I tried hairspray, baking soda and even alcohol as suggested. Little by little I was able to get rid of MOST of the ink stain...not all, but enough that (as my very wise father use to say) "You will never notice it on a passing train!" 

When you are refinishing old furniture sometimes you just have to embrace the imperfections. The only way I could completely mask the veneer chips and the ink stain and a few VERY small water rings would be to paint the entire piece...and I didn't want to do that! My whatever you have to do to ENHANCE the piece while embracing it's history. No sense in slathering the entire piece with paint just because of a few minor imperfections!

The first thing I did was strip the drawer fronts and the top. I used a mixture of 1/2 acetone and 1/2 lacquer thinner to remove the old finish. I scrubbed the drawer fronts and top with the mixture and steel wool and then I wiped it down with shop rags with a little bit of the mixture on it. You will go through a LOT of old rags during this process...always keep them handy.

After ALL the old finish was removed I "washed" it with mineral spirits. And remember, the color it is while wet with the mineral spirits is pretty much the color it will be with a clear oil finish.

It is obvious from the pictures that the finish was in pretty bad shape and HAD to be removed. Sometimes the finish appears intact, but has a "muddy" look to it. This picture is an example of what I mean by "muddy"...

The top drawer finish has been stripped...the bottom has not. See how the bottom drawer looks "muddy?" After stripping the old finish, you can really see the beauty of the natural wood color and the wood grain! Old finish does gets "muddy" looking. And over time it gets dinged and scratched, so removing it is worth the effort and not really that difficult if you use the acetone/lacquer thinner mixture, steel wool and LOTS of old rags. 

You can also see a little veneer chipping along the edges of these drawers. No biggy. Again, embrace the imperfections! I did use a little craft brush and some mahogany stain to touch up the chips and make them a tad less noticeable...again, "passing train." 

After I stripped all the drawer fronts I applied 4 coats of tung oil finish. In case you missed the first thousand times I posted about using tung oil finish...1) it is the BEST, 2) it is super easy to apply, 3) it is super durable and 4) it is super easy to "touch up."

I usually apply 3-4 coats of tung oil finish, rubbing with 0000 steel wool and tack cloth between coats after they have dried well. I can not stress enough how important it is to USE TACK CLOTH!!! You will NOT get all the "crumbs" and debris off without it and your finish will look and feel "grainy" or "rough." If you will rub with steel wool between each coat (don't be afraid to really work all the rough spots, even if it seems to "change" the color) and wipe it down with a tack cloth, you will have a smooth, professional both the touch and the eye! And remember ALWAYS rub or sand WITH the grain!

I did not apply a stain...this is the "natural" color of oiled walnut. Since I tend to be drawn to "warm" colors, I LOVE it!

After looking at the pictures of the dresser, I decided I wanted to oil the legs and "skirt" rather than paint them. So this morning I again put on my arctic gear and went into the garage to strip them. 

My plan now is to tape off the top and the legs and paint the cabinet off-white, first applying a primer and then sand and tack before applying the paint. I will do this before I apply oil to the top and legs. Painters tape is pretty good about not pulling off fresh paint or finishes, but I don't want to risk it!  

This is where the weather is stopping me in my tracks. I can bring the pieces into the house to oil them, but I can't spray paint in the house and there is no way for me to warm up my garage enough to again, it will sit and wait for a warmer day. 

So stay tuned for PART II....hopefully that will be next week when the temps hit a balmy 60 degrees for one day...before another winter front rolls in.