Antique Waterfall Dressers - Hardware Makeover

12 Materials
6 Hours

The previous post gave insights on how I completed a makeover on a 1940's Waterfall Style dresser set. This post however will be about the icing added onto the cake, the pretty embellishments. This style of dresser is known to characterized by brass handles with molded bakelite...a.k.a plastic. They stole the show on the furniture as you can see below.

Original Hardware Shown

It was beautiful but my problem was one of them had the bakelite missing, gone, poof, no more! I searched online and they were not like the ones I had and the used full sets cost up to $100!

Handles Removed

I was going to resort to buying new handles when my sweet neighbor said, "you can make that sure girl." With that tiny seed implanted in my head, the process began to take root and grow! I'd first need to make a template, then find plastic to cut it out of. Luckily for me I keep things others toss, these sheets were part of an outdated geometry kit. I rolled and stretched it with my pen to get the curve and I drew the flower markings on the back of the plastic to make them pop on the front.

I had the shape, I had the bend and I had some floral markings but I didn't have the curved 3D look of the original handle? Hmm, how can I do that? Ding, ding, ding with my brand new heat gun I had just gotten at Amazon! So with limited tools, actually I used the round edge of my seam ripper to push and mold the heated plastic into shape, it worked perfect! I was screaming,"I did it!"

Forming a Bakelite Replica

Of course when I showed my neighbor she laughed and said, "I told you that you could make it." It was a wonderful feeling to have saved the original handles to use on my furniture treasures.

The new accent I made was glued onto the metal with my reliable E6000 glue, it was secured with painters tape until the glue set up.

Gluing Plastic to Metal

Once it was dry, I lightly sanded the plastic to give it some teeth for the paint to grip onto and primed all of the bakelite with a super adhesive primer. After it had dried I then spent the next few hours shading with two shades of green chalk paint seen in the photo. If I applied too much I added more primer on again as I tried to achieve a marbled look to hopefully detract from the fake bakelite! Last but not least, I applied 3 coats of polyurethane to the marbled designs to protect my masterpieces!😉

Painting Steps

The brass was last, it would undergo a transformation too but to protect my hand painted portion I used plastic wrap to seal them up from the spray paint I was going to use.

Prepping for Spray Paint

Okay, okay, hold the applause until you see them close up!

Refinished Hardware

Here are the fruits of my labor, a side by side comparison for you to judge me on how I did. Remember please though I have no prior experience in doing this and I tried my best!

Side by Side Comparison

To make the insides of the furniture as pretty as the outside I purchased these beautiful, scented drawer liners at the dollarstore.

Scented Drawer Liners

You simply measure, cut and fit them in each drawer bottom, there were 6 sheets per box. I stained the interior of the drawers too so this pop of pretty white lining the bottom really pops.

Fitting and Cutting Drawer Liners

Here's the final test, showing you the before and the after please give me a pass! The only thing I see wrong is the top single handles need a hint of the peacock color to stand out against the brown wood. I haven't found a way yet...but I will! Any and all suggestions appreciated, be sure to check out how I updated the wood and mirror finishes here" target="_blank">

Before & After Total Look
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Have a question about this project?

3 of 4 questions
  • Ilene
    on Oct 23, 2019

    This is an amazing upgrade. Your made pull was perfect. Why did you change color to blue? I want to do this project and thought there was some issue you didn't mention and that's why you changed the color. On another post, some time ago, it was suggested that you can use hot glue to make a mold for a missing piece of trim. Have you tried this method? Did it work? Again, Great Job!

    • Skilled Thrifty Creatives
      on Oct 23, 2019

      I changed the color to coordinate with the color that my furniture was painted with. That paint was wgat I had so its what I used, the marbeling technique helped hide flaws. Thanks for your question. This was my very first attempt at restoring old furniture like this so no I'm not familiar with how to make a mold.

  • Ilene
    on Oct 23, 2019

    In my comment I mentioned using hot glue to make a mold for the missing trim piece. Randal, Is that you are referring to? You didn't give a link.

  • Deb
    on Nov 5, 2019

    You are amazing. What a great idea

Join the conversation

4 of 58 comments
  • Debra
    on Nov 12, 2019

    The hot glue/bondo method was the first thing I thought of, too.

    Additionally, try using a tiny artist’s brush to create “veins” in the Bakelite making it looks like a piece of turquoise.

  • Lou
    on Nov 21, 2019

    You did an absolutely AWESOME job!!!

    the “homemade” looks great!!! If you didn’t point it out, I’m sure no one would notice. =)

    For a first timer, you get a five star!!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    never in a million years would I have figured out how to do what you did!!! WOW!!!

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