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Paint and Restore Grandma's Old Dresser - How I Did It

Paint and Restore Grandma’s Old Dresser – How I Did It

The things we do for brownie points.  I guess painting another dresser for my “best ole ex-friend Ray” wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.  I thought maybe a Target gift card would do, but I suppose I was in real trouble and needed to give it a little extra effort.  Here’s the problem, this was that old 60’s era super glossy and plasticy furniture.  You know what I’m talking about.  I guess that kind of laminate was all the rage back in the day.  The problem was that I just really did not know how to go about painting it with a good result that would last for years.  I did not tell her that I had concerns and just went for it.  Guess I figured I couldn’t be in any more trouble than I already was.

So I gathered the supplies I thought I would need.Gram's Dresser 7

Sandpaper:  220 grit and 400 grit.

General Finishes Enduro Sanding Sealer

General Finishes Antique White Milk Paint

General Finishes Extender

General Finishes Glossy High Performance Water Based Polyacrylic

Fuji Mini-Mite 4 HVLP paint sprayer



Gram's Dresser 8I started by knocking off the glossy finish with some 220 grit sandpaper.  I did it by hand because I wasn’t sure if a hand sander would dig too deep into the laminate and cause me all kinds of aggravation.  Once I started breaking the finish loose I let up a little.  I wanted to be careful to take off just enough but not too much.  I sanded until the surface was dull and a little roughed up.

Once I dusted it off with a dry rag I then wiped it with a wet cloth to get rid of the rest of the dust.  Then I sprayed about four really good coats of Enduro Sanding Sealer on the surface.  I have used this product many times and I felt pretty confident that if this would hold then the paint would apply and stick well.  However, I wasn’t absolutely sure it would take.  I really felt that without some kind of primer/sealer coat then the paint would simply scratch and peel off the surface.  We had gotten lucky with a really warm September day so the sealer dried really fast.  Once it set up for a few minutes I mixed the paint for the HVLP sprayer.

Gram's Dresser 9

When I mix paint I usually mix paint with about 10% water and about three really good squirts of Extender.  The Extender not only thins the paint but, more importantly, it slows the dry time so the paint can “settle down” a bit before it dries.  This is critical if you get a little heavy on the trigger and get a run, especially on a warm day.  Since this type of HVLP machine is pushing the paint with hot air, the paint wants to dry fast anyway.  The Extender helps with this too.  I have a comprehensive tutorial on mixing paint in the project video at the bottom of this post.  There’s a very scientific way to mix paint using a viscosity cup and a stopwatch, but the truth is, I have done this so many times I just know how it should look and feel.  I mix it until the mixture flows freely and quickly off the mixing stick but does not form droplets.

Now it was time to shoot a few coats of paint.  She wanted to use an antique white color.  I really like General Finishes products so I had her pick up a quart of their water based milk paint.  The paint dried fairly fast so I just kept on applying coats until I was about out of paint.  There’s probably ten good coats of paint on this dresser!

Gram's Dresser 10Gram's Dresser 11


The final and most critical part came next.  I used General Finishes Glossy High Performance Polyacrylic for the top coat.  This one has UV inhibitors so it should not fade or yellow for many years.  I laid it to it!  Most of the pint can was gone when I finished.  There’s probably about fifteen coats of poly on this dresser!  The top coat is what makes the finish pop.  The challenge is keeping the bugs out until it dries.  If you do get a bug you can very gently hit it and knock it loose with some 400 grit sandpaper and just apply a new coat.

At the end of the day I was satisfied with the result and she was ecstatic.  I’m glad it turned out so good in her eyes.  I still kinda don’t like it but hey, if she’s satisfied then all is good.  Regardless of my taste in furniture, what a transformation we made with this dresser.

Gram's Dresser 1

Gram's Dresser 13Gram's Dresser 3

A list of all the products I used is below.  Scroll all the way down and you can see the video I made of doing this project.  All in all I think it turned out great, she is happy, and I believe I am back in good standing.  Oh, and after she left with her new dresser to go home, here’s what crawled out from where she was standing all day….

Gram's Dresser 16