Waterfall Makeover to the Rescue.

3 Materials
3 Days

After buying some beautiful stencils I could not wait to try one of them out. The perfect vehicle for this was a Waterfall Chest that needed a major makeover.

The chest had great bones but three drawers were broken and several pieces of veneer had broken off. The drawers were an easy fix by gluing and clamping them back in place. The veneer loss was tougher. I used Durham’s Water Putty to fill the gaps. Cleaning with Windex came next.

Once the holes were filled and dried, I sanded them with an orbital sander. I sanded the top and did a light sanding to the drawers. The problem with these old pieces is the veneer is so thin, you can be through to the bare wood in a second. For this reason, I opted to paint the sides of the chest.

Painting the drawer fronts and the sides of the chest came next. Two coats of Black Velvet from General Finishes covered nicely. The next step was stenciling.

I positioned the stencil and taped it down. Using Alabaster White I applied very little to the stencil brush. I dabbed the stencil brush up and down following the stencil from one side to the other. If you use too much paint it will bleed through and not look as sharpe.

The original pulls once cleaned were an amazing brass. You can see the side by side difference when boiled in three parts water, one part white vinegar and rubbed with steel wool to clean the 100 years of tarnish and dirt off. I cringe when I see people paint over these works of art.

Three coats of polyurethane and two coats of General Finishes Satin sealer and we have a beautiful Waterfall rescue.

Here is an Art Deco Chest with the same treatment.

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Frequently asked questions

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  2 questions
  • Dolores Dee Hughes Dolores Dee Hughes on Mar 12, 2021

    Gary. Your project was amazing. You are very gifted. I too love the very old wood furniture with brass. Thank you for the tip on cleaning the brass. Your stenciling was fabulous, the top section was done so great that at a glance it looks just like the other drawers. But I wished that you would have told us how you treated the veneer; the top part at a glance looked like you removed the veneer, but I looked again and realized that you sanded it. What did you use to bring out the color of the veneer and wood?

  • Karen Karen on Mar 12, 2021

    I have the dresser that matches that with the mirror. It is water spotted on the drawers and water stained on the top to the point it is bare wood. Any suggestions as to how to fix it?


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4 of 59 comments
  • Donna Donna on Mar 19, 2021

    Beautiful, A wonderful job.

  • John Biermacher John Biermacher on Apr 16, 2021


    Another well done project. Like everyone else has said you did a great job balancing paint and stain.

    years ago, I rescued a waterfall headboard for a client. Re-veneered a lot of it. There was one spot that bubbled and by the time I got done trying to fix it, it was a huge blemish that I tried to disguise as a knot. Reality was it was the only “knot” in the middle of clear veneer. Luckily the clients didn’t care. They literally used the cliche that it gave the headboard character!!

    keep up the good work and stay safe.


    • Gary Hardman Gary Hardman on Apr 16, 2021

      Hey John. Thanks. Yeah, sometimes no matter what you do it just can’t be fixed or hidden. I use the word “distressed” a lot and then it’s acceptable. Hope you are doing well.