Now without further ado, here is how you can deal with a piece that has lost it's innate beauty, and needs some stripping and care:
I learned some valuable lessons with these two products that will hopefully save you time:
1. Apply Citristrip liberally on the places you want paint removed. Then cover with a bag of some sort immediately so that it doesn't dry. The bottle doesn't say this, but keeping the stripper wet for longer allows the process to work more fully. Learned this the hard way and had to apply a few times.
Those mid-mod handles were a pain in the neck! SOOOO annoying to work around through every step of the process. This is what the drawers looked like after peeling away the paint. You can see that there is still black gunk on different parts, and that is where the TSP Substitute comes in.
If you are like me you wonder what is TSP Substitute? The P stands for Phosphate and TSP used to be the go to for a great cleaner for lots of things including prepping furniture for paint or stain. However phosphate is harmful to the environment and thus has been removed. Some people say TSP is more efficient than the Substitute version, however other say they can't tell the difference. This was the only option I saw at Walmart, but other stores might sell TSP still.
Anyway, TSP Sub. is a-mazing. It is like Magic Erasers in liquid format (which if you have never tried Magic Erasers, they are magical. They even clean upholstery!) Anyway, I got some very soft steel wool pads and dipped them in an old pie pan filled with TSP and scrubbed the drawers in the direction of the grain. For small nooks and crannies I used an old toothbrush. It removed the black paint as well as the top coat of stain. Magic.
You can see the areas it brought the drawers down to the raw wood. I then needed to use my hand sander (and I used my Dremel small sander for the hard to reach areas thanks to those dumb doo-dads in the middle). I started with 150 grit then finished with 220.
I then mixed up a solution of a small part of General Finishes Brown Mahogany gel stain (because I already had it) with mineral spirits (probably 1:2 ratio). I got a rag and wiped it on to the drawers as you can see above. The wood soaked it up and I did two coats. If I had kept the ratio 1:1 I might have got away with 1 coat, but was afraid the stain would be too thick and hide the wood grain. You can buy regular stain and avoid the mixing of the mineral spirits...I only did that to thin the gel stain since gel stain is well, gel.
I let it dry overnight and then sprayed polyurethane over them to give them a richer color, sheen, and protection. If I had had polyurethane in the gel topcoat version I would have used that. It gives more even looking results and I like applying it that way better since the end result looks more professional. I am impatient so I used what I had on hand
I then sanded down the dresser just to even out uneven levels of black paint (as well as help the new paint adhere better). In the past I have used Kilz primer because I thought that was the go-to brand for primer. Then a friend told me that Zinsser is better for furniture...not sure if that is true, but I find I like it better. I bought a big can since I will use it again and I have a paint sprayer to put it in. I bought the Zero version cause it was better for the environment and the same price as the other kind. (I know, I know, I should look at saving the whales too while I am on this environmental kick).
After letting the primer dry for about 30 minutes, my son and I had to drag the dresser back in our garage because the rain came. Colorado sure has been getting wayyyy more rain than normal lately. I then changed out my primer in my sprayer to paint, which was Pure White by Behr (copycatting Benjamin Moore's color). Unfortunately the version I had on hand was a flat and I really wanted a high gloss. Normally I like a satin finish for furniture, but I wanted this dresser to be shiny and the drawers more of a matte.
To try and add more sheen I sprayed the now dry painted white dresser with polycrylic which made the paint smoother to touch and more protected, but still not enough shine. I then sprayed with lacquer, but still not enough shine. In the end I accepted the satin finish, but was a little bummed. I was out of product and didn't want to make myself even more high than I already was from all of that poly and lacquer in the air.
Here are some of the pictures I took to sell it on Craigslist (which it sold within a couple days, woohoo!):
Surprisingly those little legs were actually very strong. They also made vacuuming under the dresser super easy. If you look in the Before picture there was a random piece of wood that had been placed near the right legs. No idea why it was there... but before I did any restoring, it was removed and the right legs were put in the right place ;).
See those glossy splotches? Darn, you weren't supposed to.
But that is why I prefer working with General Finishes gel topcoat.
So much easier to avoid spraying too much in one place and too little in others. Ugh.
Such cool little details.
And that is it. This dresser from the 1960s provided a lot of learning opportunities, (and patience) but I loved how it turned out (even with its imperfections).
Have you ever worked with a heavily painted furniture piece that you had to strip? What did you use and what were your experiences? I'd love to learn what to do and not do for future projects!