Print Friendly and PDF

Restore antique or vintage chest of drawers

Auction sales and online auctions are a great way to discover antique or vintage pieces that have been locked away in storage for years, or left behind as part of an estate. When they have value, these pieces are worth restoring to their original beauty, especially when made of hardwoods that are difficult to come by these days.


After spending many years in storage, this 1950s chest of drawers was in desperate need of attention.The previous owners had applied a new coat of paint approximately every year, which meant that there were about 20 coat of paint applied to the chest of drawers. Some serious paint stripping was required before anything could be done! If you find that stripping paint takes hours - or even days - it might be faster and more effective to use a heat gun. A heat gun melts the paint layers, making them easier to scrape off with a plastic scraper. What's left can then easily be removed with Plascon RemovALL..

After stripping there is still quite a bit of work to be done. Restoring pieces is either a joy or a nightmare. Not everyone relishes the task of spending hours stripping and sanding to reveal the beautiful wood beneath. But if you are one of those that loves to find what's hidden underneath layers of paint, the satisfaction of discovering hidden hardwoods is hard to beat. It's important to start off with a rough grit sandpaper to remove any paint or varnish that might be left behind. The rougher grit papers don't clog up as easily, which means you end up using less sandpaper and actually spend less time sanding. With the paint removed you will also be able to see damage that needs to be repaired before you continue. With products such as wood filler and Alcolin QuikWood almost any damage can be repaired these days. However, bear in mind that these products don't stain well, so try to use them as little as possible.

If the piece you are working on needs quite a bit of repair and you know you are going to be using wood filler or QuikWood, invest in small tubes of craft oil paints. You can mix these to match the finished stain you will be using, and they are ideal for covering up patched areas that don't stain easily.
I have previously experimented with adding a tiny bit of oil paint to QuikWood to give it a less obvious tint, and this works well.

Moving up to 120-grit sandpaper will assist in sanding away scratches and minor dents and it's important to always finish off with 240-grit sandpaper for a smooth finish before you stain and varnish the piece.

Although this piece was restored, in order for it to fit in with the existing decor of the home, some updating was needed. After applying wood primer, two coats of Plascon Kitchens & Bathrooms paint was applied to the side sections of the chest of drawers. This waterbased enamel paint is easy to use and leave a matt finish. Applying a wood primer to soft and hardwoods is important, as it prevents the wood from absorbing moisture from the paint, ensuring the wood doesn't expand and then contract, which would cause the painted finish to crack or peel.

At this stage in the process you have the choice to lighten a dark wood, or darken a light wood. To lighten you can use liming wax or a homemade alternative as the finishing for your top or drawers. Stain is available in a selection of tints, or you can use a tinted varnish to finish off. The Plascon Woodcare range of products offers suede or gloss finish in various tints.

To contrast with the white sides, a dark imbuia stain was applied to the top of the chest of drawers before applying three coats of Plascon Woodcare Ultra to ensure maximum protection for the surface. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly and give a light sanding to the first coat using 240-grit sandpaper before applying the second coat.

Finishing off
New cup handles were added, as the original hardware was too badly damaged to restore and replace. You will find a selection of vintage brass and pewter knobs and handles at reasonable prices at your local Builders Warehouse.

back to top