Today I'm sharing how we transformed a cheap laminate campaign dresser - making it more durable and look more expensive!
I feel like I turned a corner painting furniture, so I included those using CAPS and bolding. These are tips that I'll be using from now on!
It's come a long way ..
Here's the before. Peeling plastic finish - it's primarily MDF with this finish. BUT look at that hardware! It was missing one pull (I'm hoping to find one or make one soon ..) At $40, it was hard to pass up.
First, I tackled the hardware.
It has a lot.
I removed all of the corner plates, carefully! I used a thin wide trowel with a pointy tip. On the underside of the plate (if I messed up, at least it would be on the underside, since most of the time you're looking at it from the top) I pushed it in a small gap and wiggled it back and forth.
Then I removed the remaining pins by wiggling the trowel back and forth. The wide surface helps distribute the pressure, reducing the risk of damage.
I was able to remove all the corners without any damage.
For the pulls, you just remove the screws from the inside of the drawer.
Place all of the hardware in zippered baggies, you don't want to lose anything!
Then, I started polishing. I love the look of shiny brass with crisp white, but you could just give it a gentle cleaning with soapy water if you want to keep the patina.
I tested mine with a magnet, it didn't stick, so I think they are solid brass instead of brass plated. The process is almost the same, but you can polish solid brass a little more aggressively.
First, here's what didn't work for me.
I tried a brass polish (my local store didn't have Brasso, but I think this is the same). This stuff is stinky, so it should be done outside. I covered it with the polish and let it sit for about 30 minutes. It was hot, so I didn't scrub it too long (I used a 3m scotch brite pad cut into sections), I rinsed it and it still needed some polishing. It was messy to clean up too ..
Then, I tried lemon juice and salt .. I still wasn't able to get the look that I wanted. I rinsed and dried it .. it looked like this.
Not sure what I did wrong, maybe mine actually aren't solid brass?
Then, I tried Bar Keepers Friend. This is the stuff to use! It easily polished up. I'm not sure how it would work when starting with it (instead of Brasso/lemon+salt), but next time, I'd try this first. It didn't have an odor, so I could use it inside and it was easy to remove the excess cleaner from the hardware. Plus it's cheap, I think under $2.
Here's how I used it. First, I got two containers of water (easier than turning the water on and off at the sink), 3M Scotch Brite pads (cut into small sections), a plastic drop cloth to catch water/cleaner, and a few old towels. I dipped one or two pieces of hardware and the Scotch Brite pad in a bucket of water, then I sprinkled it with Bar Keepers Friend and scrubbed. Then I dipped it in the same bucket of water to remove the excess cleaner, then I dipped it in the clean water to remove the rest of the cleaner and throughly dried it with an old towel. I did this one round and then found that the finish oxidized again, so I repeated and at the end, applied a layer of spray on car wax to protect the finish (wiping off the excess) and it still looks good!
Clear furniture wax would work as well, though the car wax is thinner, so I'd guess it would be easier to remove the excess.
This took a lot of effort, trial and error, as the first time doing something typically does .. just a reminder not to give up, next time will be much easier!
INCREASE THE DURABILITY.
Then we started working on the dresser. Like I said earlier, the quality wasn't amazing, including staples instead of dovetailed drawers .. a few of the drawers were falling apart so we fixed with a little wood glue (We like this wood glue from Elmers). It's amazing how strong this stuff is! We also ran a bead of glue along all the bottom seams on the drawers to increase the durability down the road - a great, quick solution! You could also remove the staples and replace with screws, but we felt that the glue was strong enough - down the road we could always add screws.
First, fill any gouges, dents, etc. with wood filler (we like this wood filler from Elmers), let it fully dry.
Next, prep for paint. USE A RANDOM ORBITAL SANDER. I've been using a mouse sander, which I loved because it is light and can get into the crevices, BUT it did leave some sanding marks .. not ideal. David had a random orbital sander in his tool box in Maryland (we don't take everything with us for our rental .. ) and I recently used it. This is the thing to use!! It doesn't leave sanding marks and you don't have to press as hard. It's more powerful, so you have to be careful not to over sand .. I found that it worked best when sanding a horizontal surface (verse holding it vertically) so I rotated the dresser as I went so I was always sanding a horizontal surface (placing the dresser on styrofoam to protect the finish). The mouse sander is good to have since it's easier to control and gets into tight spots, but I won't use it on an entire piece again ..
I used 100 grit and then 220 grit to finish. Moving the sander in a small circular motion as I went.
Wipe it down with a micro fiber cloth. Tape the edges of the drawers and the interior drawer openings with painters tape. Remember that the drawers don't fit perfectly flush, so make sure to paint about 1/4" to 1/2" into the dresser so you see white and not wood.
GET A DURABLE SMOOTH FINISH.
I was recently sent a new bonding primer from Kilz, and THIS is my new favorite primer. It's water based (so easy clean up verse oil based), goes on easily and resists brush/roller marks, bonds well to slick surfaces (I also used it on a plastic trunk), and it's durable (super important for furniture!) It is amazing, you MUST try it.
I was sent this to test out from Kilz, but I wasn't compensated for a review, all opinions are all mine.
Now, the top coat. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I'm a fan of Sherwin Williams Pro Classic paint. It gives a hard, enamel like finish, but it's water based. Last week, I read Mandi's post about using mohair rollers - stop by Vintage Revivals for the full how to, you won't want to miss it!! It does work SUPER well to get a smooth finish.
I used the mohair rollers to apply the primer to and found it difficult to apply to the thinner sections of the front since the brush doesn't hold very much paint, so next time I'd probably use a small foam roller or brush for those. The mohair roller did well on the entire dresser for the top coat, since it goes on a lot easier than the primer (the first coat of paint soaks into the dresser).
For this dresser, I applied two thin coats of primer, did a light sanding with a fine foam sanding block, wiped it with a microfiber cloth, Finally I applied three thin coats of Sherwin Pro Classic in Alabaster, my favorite slightly creamy (but not ivory) white.
This dresser is nothing special without the hardware ..
I let the paint cure for a few days and reinstalled the hardware.
The tassel draperies are Ikea Lenda panels with a tassel trim (found from this seller on eBay) sewn on the edge.
This dresser has come a LONG way from the plastic finish and chipping MDF. It now looks bright, fresh, and expensive! I'm in love.
These tips have been a game changer for me, I hope that they help you too!!