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How to restore a chest of drawers

Listed under Adam Bermingham, Blog, hand-painted furniture, Wooster Posted Jan 22 2014

Hand Painted Chest of Drawers Traditional Painter for Ireland, Adam Bermingham discusses the method behind how to restore a chest of drawers with a traditional beeswax finish for the top and hand painted drawers and carcass.

If I could finish every piece in the workshop this way, I would. It’s a pleasure to carry out the work and the results are exactly to my taste (and hopefully my customer’s).

Sourcing Pieces of furniture

I picked this piece up from a customer a few weeks ago. I had just completed a restoration job on a table for him, and before that, a small cabinet, & he asked if I would be interested in buying some things he no longer had any use for. You never know where the next great piece will come from.

This is what it looked like when we found it out in his shed…

hand painted chest of drawersAlthough very dirty, the chest of drawers was in perfect condition. All the drawers ran smoothly, it was free of woodworm, rot or dampness & had a full compliment of handles.

Cleaning Process

Methylated Spirit is always the last resort when it comes to cleaning a piece of furniture. Citrus based cleaner such as Krud Kutter Original would be a first resort, but one look at this chest of drawers & I was reaching for the meths bottle.

traditional chest of drawersThe whole piece was scrubbed clean with meths and 00 grade steel wool before I could start sanding… (I would advise you clean the piece before removing the drawer handles, it’s easier)

Where the job combines different finishing methods, in this case wood-stain and a white satin finish, a different level of sanding is required on different areas.


For surfaces that you intend to paint, a smooth surface with a good key is what’s required ie a surface your primer can adhere to. Sanding all the way back to bare timber is often unnecessary.

On the other hand, for surfaces that you intend to apply transparent finishes to ie. wood-stain, I would always advise that you sand back to a bare surface. Take more care with these areas, filling and sanding with finer and finer grades of paper as you go through the finishing stages. Any imperfections on transparent areas will be amplified by your wood finishes…

traditional chest of drawers traditional chest of drawers

Wood-Stain Finish

The process for finishing the top and the handles of this traditional chest of drawers is relatively simple, once you have followed the preparation steps outlined above.

First apply 2 coats of wood-stain with a light sand between coats. For this piece I used Ronseal 5 year in Walnut

traditional chest of drawers. In the past I always used oil based stains (and still do on occasion) and I would always use a pure bristle Hamilton or Morro brush for oil-based stains and clear finishes, but for water-based coatings, my go-to brush for wood-stain is a * Wooster Alpha. Try it out, you will not be disappointed with the huge pick up of paint and the fine laying off.

For the best paint brushes on the market today, for both trade and D.I.Y, we always recommend you pay a visit to *My Paint Brush.co.uk

Once the stain is dry apply coats of natural bees wax until you achieve the level of sheen you require. This piece required 2 coats for this result…

traditional chest of drawers

Painted Finish

I have covered my process many times in previous blog posts but there’s no harm going over it again…

– Once you have completed the sanding process outlined above apply a first coat of primer. In this case I applied Colortrend Primer/Undercoat with a * 2.5″ Proform Picasso.

– Fill any holes and imperfections, leave to dry & sand the entire piece once again making sure to remove all filler residue on the surface.

– Apply a second coat of primer, allow to dry and sand again.

– Apply 2 coats of white eggshell paint, sanding between coats

For this piece I applied Colortrend Satinwood with a Corona Knight

Traditional Chest of Drawers

In this post we have covered all the methods, processes and equipment needed to create the look and style I love in a piece of furniture.

All that’s needed now is to replace the stained handles, and it’s finished.

Good luck with your project, happy painting and just take a look at the results…

Traditional Chest of Drawers

Joseph & Sons kitchen painting furniture painting West IrelandSpecialist painter and decorator, Adam Bermingham, is a member of the Traditional Painter UK network. He is the first port of call for hand painted furniture and kitchens Ireland.

Joseph & Son is Adam & Tom Bermingham, a father & son team with diverse backgrounds covering specialist painting and decorating, antiques and interior design.


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One comment to “How to restore a chest of drawers”

  1. Charles Budd

    Lovely job Adam, that chest of drawers is finished to my taste too! And thanks for going into such detail in the prep and finishing.

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