How to Restore and Old Dresser

Made by Mitch
by Made by Mitch
14 Materials
5 Days
My great grandfather was a woodworker. I don’t remember him, but much of his work is still very present in our family. Anytime I go to my parents or grandparents house, his legacy lives on through his woodworking. This dresser is a piece that he made for my mother when she was a child and since then, she has given it to my wife and I. In this project I am going to show you how I restored this dresser to look updated and new.. I am excited to share this with you because it is a part of me and who I am. I hope you enjoy.
The first thing I did for this project was take off all of the hardware that was on the dresser. This was a mid-century modern piece made in the 60’s. It was a trending style at the time and is back around. I did want to update the drawer pulls and the hairpin legs so instead of trying to refurbish them, I replaced them. I simply used a hand screwdriver to take the hardware and legs off the dresser and then I took the drawers out. I then took off the rear panel. It was kinda falling off anyway.
Removing the drawer pulls
Removing the legs
Next was the longest part of the project. Sanding. I sanded… and sanded…. and sanded. After that I sanded some more. I started with a pretty aggressive sand paper of 80 grit. This helped me get the old finish off of the dresser and drawers. All I have is a random orbital sander, but a belt sander would work much better for this making it go a lot quicker. After stripping all of the original finish off of the dresser with the 80 grit, I took my time working all the way up to 320 grit. This takes time and patience but it is totally worth all the work once it is all done.
re-enforcing the bracing
Once everything was sanded to where I wanted it, I had to go in and reinforce some of the shelves and the back. I used my crown stapler to go around and do this. Make sure you select the proper length in staples that won’t go through the outside of the wood.
patching the cracks and holes
I also had to repair a few cosmetic places on the shelf. A few knicks and a places where the wood had started to split where the glue had joined them together. I wanted to make sure it looked like new. I mixed the dresser’s sawdust with wood glue to make a paste. Then I applied the paste in the cracks and different spots that needed help. I waited for the glue paste to dry, and then I sanded it to match the dresser. This worked very well.
cutting out the drawer pulls
I decided to make my own drawer pulls. I knew what I wanted and this is something I could replace at anytime if I ever didn’t like them anymore. First I drew up the size on a scrap piece of MDF then I cut it out using a jig saw and set it on a drawer to see if I liked it. First time was the perfect size. I used a piece of 1x4 to make these. I was hesitant to see if the would work but I had it on hand so I thought I would give it a shot. I ripped the 1x4 to 1 ½” wide using a table saw, and then I cut the pulls to length using a table sand and crosscut sled. The small cuts like this are really easy to do with a crosscut sled by you can use a circular saw just as easy.
Sanding the drawer pulls
After they were all cut to size, I used the bench sander to sand them down and then I painted them all black to match the legs I was using.
Painting the drawer pulls
Applying Danish Oil
Next I can could apply the finish. I first wiped the dresser and drawers down really well with a clean rag to get the sawdust off of it, and then I used Watco Danish oil to finish the piece. I just poured in over the dresser and used a rag to wipe on. Danish oil is my favorite. I love how it makes the grain pop!
attaching the back to the dresser
After letting the finish dry for a few days, it was time to reassemble the dresser. I actually had already put the back of the dresser back on before I finished the dresser. To do that I used the crown stapler and went all the way around the outside edge with it.
Installing the legs
Next I installed the new legs which I purchased on Amazon. I placed the legs where I wanted to be and then marked them with a pencil. I then pre drilled all of the holes and used wood screws to attach them to the bottom of the dressor
Hot gluing the drawer pull to the dresser
All I had left was to install the drawer pulls. I used a hot glue gun to temporarily attach each pull where it needed to go. Then from the opposite side I used a drill to predrill through the preexisting hole of the dresser into the drawer pull.
Attaching the drawer pull
I used a countersink but so the screw would sit flush inside the drawer. I also made sure to make and extra drawer pull in case I messed one up, but thankfully I didn’t have to use it. After predrilling, I used 1”  wood screws to attach the pull to the dresser. After doing this to all the drawers, the dresser was complete.
Finished Dresser
Make sure you check out video for this project to see all the steps I took in greater detail. I had a great time doing this type of project. You can also follow me around the web. Thanks for reading!
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Made by Mitch
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2 of 85 comments
  • Carol Cole Carol Cole on Jun 20, 2022

    Beautiful job. I have a few you can do for me. Thumbs up.

  • Linda Moore Linda Moore on Jun 21, 2022

    You really did a great job, I'm sure your grandfather would approve. Maybe you inherited some of his skills.