Project 5 | The Dresser From Hell
February 19, 2008, 4:27 pm
Filed under: DIY, projects



This is the image of the dresser as it appeared on Craigslist. The grand total for both this and the nightstand was $15. That obviously should have told me something.


Sanded down the drawers first. Everything was still hunky-dory at this point. The drawers turned out to be a nice solid wood with dovetailed joints. Lookin’ good! They ended up sitting on my back porch for almost a month until I could get back to the project, but that’s okay.


Ah, summer. Remember when it still used to be daylight when you got home from work? I would come home, change clothes, and sand until the sun disappeared over the neighbor’s house. The front and top sanded down beautifully. Maybe because they too were solid wood. The infill panels, though, they were wood ply. And they would not sand. I got the gloss off them, but I never did get the color off. That was the first grrrr moment.


Second grrrr moment, and it was more like a GRRRR, was when I determined that the back panel of the dresser was too incredibly (water?) damaged to allow to remain, much less to sand. I don’t have documentation of the process, but that back panel took dang near four hours to get out. Notice the missing top. This was no IKEA dresser folks. I had to disassemble it in the reverse order it was made, and it was not made for disassembling. I thought I was going to break it. I would have liked to replace the side panels too, but I gave up on removing things at this point.

At this point, the dresser retired to the back porch for no less than two months.


When I finally get started on it again, I bring it, sans backing, into the dining room to stain. I wanted an ebony stain, but I also wanted a gloss finish. Despite there being no ebony stain available with gloss finish at the hardware store, I also wanted it all in one step. My brilliant idea was to mix half and half an ebony matte finish stain with a dark mahogany gloss stain. The guy at OSH said, “Sure, that’ll work alright.”

Not really.

It dried in weird matte and gloss patches. See above. GRRRR^3.


I eventually get a new back for the dresser at Southern Lumber, where they kindly cut it for me as well. I glue it in, since all the nail holes are stripped and I’m not in the mood to patch them. The side panels really deserve new veneer. Instead I slop stain all over them and hope the darkness of it hides imperfections. I no longer think this is a dresser I’ll be keeping. I’d be too tempted to kick it every time I passed it.


I finally make peace with having to do the stain in layers and put on the ebony matte, then the mahogany gloss later. This works much better than mixing. The fumes in my dining room are enough to euthanize a horse, but it’s mid-winter by now and I’d plasticized most of my windows. I open what I can and turn on the fan despite cold fingers.


The top finally goes back on. I’m starting to see glimpses of a finished piece, and that spurs me to finish.


When I first got the dresser, I envisioned switching the hardware to something silver and contemporary. At this stage, I just couldn’t see it anymore. I put the original hardware back on.


As done as it will ever be. I post pictures on Craigslist and sell it within two days to a new college student around the block. The drawers stick, I should have sanded it with a finer grit paper before staining, and I spent more on supplies than I made back in the resell. But I learned a heck of a lot. Nothing like baptism by fire to burn a lesson into your brain.


I hereby swear to never do this again without possession of a workshop. And next time I will paint it. Amen.

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

“I no longer think this is a dresser I’ll be keeping. I’d be too tempted to kick it every time I passed it.”

i like that you say those things outloud that we all think.

sometimes the project becomes so arduous and tedious that all you want to do is finish. it’s a triumph of will that you did finish, instead of giving way to the impulse to write it off. congratulations on fighting your way through it.

Comment by lucy

lucy, thank you for always being my cheerleader. i love you! hope the bar exam studying is going a well as it possibly can.

Comment by architheque

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