Today I have another piece that was finished last fall and then kind of forgotten about. I had a few craft shows to prepare for, then it was the holidays and then it was January when I was in self imposed work exile to take a break. Now I have lots of makeovers to write about!
I found this dresser because someone needed to get rid of it and was trying not to throw it out. Holy hell was it in bad shape.
This was the top. Poor thing just looked abused and tired.
Here is a shot of the whole thing which actually makes it look better than it did in real life. The whole back was broken up and falling apart. The bottoms of 3 of the 5 drawers were being held together with clear shipping tape. The edges looked a bit like someone had been teething on them.
What it did have going for it were five drawers with all of the matching handles AND key hole covers which I am guessing are all original and very old. And then of course there is that beautiful oak grain. Each drawer is curved into a wave with such craftsmanship. When people talk about the reasons old furniture is a cut above, this dresser had them all. And here it was falling apart in my street. These pieces are the ones I feel an obligation to redo, sometimes just so someone doesn’t slap teal chalk paint all over it. (Why is it that whenever I see something I think shouldn’t have been painted, it is always painted in teal chalk paint?)
I want to first say that I have no intention of making pieces like this look “new” again. I think they should grow old gracefully like a beautiful woman. Most 70 year old woman don’t look better with shiny new boobs and their eyebrows at their hairline. And you know what? 70 year old dressers work the same way. They look better with their wrinkles and dents. The chip in the veneer or the wear mark from the handle – they are like our wrinkles and laugh lines. They show our history, where we have come from, where we have been. I try not to sand away all the patina the wood has developed over the years, especially in an open grained wood like oak where it can really make a piece shine. And that is why I have come to love pure tung oil and why you see me talking about it so much. It feeds the wood and highlights all the cool things about the piece. The grain pops out at you, it becomes deeper and richer. It gives the wood a warm feel that you simply feel you must touch. It’s unlike poly that puts a barrier between you and the wood. Pure tung oil requires you to rub your hand along the grain, even my toddler will do it. The piece comes alive. And you want to sit down, buy it a coffee and hear all about it’s crazy adventures.
After sanding, the wood was very light and kind of unremarkable as you can see on the left side in the pic below. The right side just had some pure tung oil brushed on and you can see the horizontal grain popping out and being more defined. But what also has happened, the subtle grain that goes in waves diagonally are now coming out. This was taken in my basement shop with terrible lighting (I will one day get a good picture of this to show). In real life wet tung oil makes the grain look like a hologram and get so excited every time. Hence the terrible picture
So what about that hardware? The top is the cruddy before. And look how pretty they are after being cleaned up!! And nothing toxic. A short soak and scrub with some lemon juice then a little buffing with an old 320 grit sanding block that has virtually no grit left. And of course elbow grease which is both non toxic and free.
There was also the matter of the broken back and drawer bottoms. Brian took pity on me and rebuilt everything. We kept whatever wood was still in one piece like the cross pieces in the back that hold it together. There was a moment of exhaustion where we talked about just doing one piece of wood to cover the back instead but the cross pieces are too important, and I love the look.
So here she is n all her glory. Wrinkles and all. I think she is beautiful and one of my favorites.
In this closeup you can see the beautiful grain on the drawers. Also notice the hardware and key hole covers all cleaned and polished. It is so rare to find a full set of original hardware.
This dresser is for sale in the newly opened Ridiculous Redhead Design right on this website! You no longer have to leave and go over to Etsy to see what furniture is in the shop.