Furniture Refinishing 101

I recently inherited a beautiful deco, cherry-wood dresser from longtime pal Eddie who’s downsizing to a condo.  He also gave us a gorgeous marble-topped cabinet but that’s a story for another day. 

The curved lines of this dresser’s drawers are very much in style again.  New versions, that aren’t incredibly cheap or put together with allan keys, go for $1500-2000. This antique was in near mint condition except for the bottom drawer, which had chips in the veneer on both bottom corners. “No problem”, said Eddie, who became a first class furniture refinisher in his downtime between movie roles and national voice-over projects in the US.  He gave me a swatch of veneer and a few tips on how to mix stains to match the original hue.

A veneer chip, especially on a dark wood, really grabs your attention.  At the very least you want to make it less obvious. At best, you want a seamless fix.

So I did as Eddie suggested and used a sharp Xacto knife to cut out the broken part and make it into a perfect rectangle.  I measured carefully and cut iron-on veneer to fit.  Yes, you take a strip of this unfinished veneer and actually iron it onto the drawer.

This is what I ended up with.

view of the bottom dresser drawer and a pine-coloured rectangle set into the corner of the cherry wood

My attempts to mix stain to match were futile, either too dark or too light.  It wasn’t really working out and then I remembered something. In my little basket of tricks I have Minwax furniture markers in various shades.  If a piece of wood gets nicked by accident, this little marker comes to the rescue.  Did I have one in cherry?

I did.  And it worked perfectly. No one will never accuse this drawer of being mint but it’s now saleable (not that I would sell it) and virtually unnoticeable unless it’s pointed out.  Two coats of the marker brought the bare spot to the same hue as the rest of the piece.  The rectangles only show up because they are waiting for a little varathane so they will gleam like the other drawers. Minwax markers are about $6 each.  I have a whole bunch of them and they’ve come in handy over the years.  But never as handy as for this unexpected little project from Ed.

full dresser with corners matching the rest of it

2 thoughts on “Furniture Refinishing 101”

  1. Lisa, I would never have noticed! Looks great. Whouda thunk there was any good reason at all to ever break out the iron again! From the founder of the “I’d rather NOT be ironing” club of women.

    1. I hear you Kathy! That’s why I pledge allegiance to Downy Wrinkle Releaser. I rarely iron anymore. I’m glad I could find a brief use for the poor, neglected appliance!

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