A few years ago, my grandparents had to face the reality that they could no longer live in their 2-story home. They needed to cull their belongings in order to fit into the 2-bedroom apartment that was being added on to my aunt’s house.
Grandma had a 1920’s bedroom set that she got from a neighbor back in the 60’s. She decided that it would not be coming with her to the new apartment, so I bought it from her, and brought it home. The dresser and vanity lived in my dining room for several years, housing Grandma’s Heritage Hall china, candles, lamps and various other “stuff”.
The dresser had definitely seen better days. Some of the veneer was chipped, and parts of it had pulled away from the sides and warped. The wood was dry, the finish was hazy, and some areas were gatored. Since a lot of the surfaces were walnut veneer, I knew that I couldn’t afford to have it refinished and re-veneered. I just washed it down with Murphy’s oil soap and occasionally gave it a fresh coat of orange oil.
Recently, I came across a blog post from Centsational Girl, that detailed how Kate had used a product called Howard Restor-A-Finish to refurbish the finish on a vintage dresser for her sister. Bingo! I could afford to give that a try.
The first thing I needed to do was figure out how to remove the petrified band-aid residue from 3 of the drawer fronts. You see, Grandma and Grandpa’s old house is located about 2 blocks from the railroad tracks, and also directly under the flight path from Eppley Airfield. Grandpa got tired of listening to the drawer handles knocking against the drawer in the middle of the night, so he fixed the problem by using band-aids to cushion the handles:
A little Goo-Gone, some gentle scraping, and some patience got rid of the white band-aid crud. Then I scrubbed the dresser down with a sponge and some Murphy’s soap and let it dry.
Once it was dry, I got out the rubber gloves, 0000 steel wool, and the bottle of dark walnut Restore-A-Finish and set to work. I read the directions at least three times, and still missed the bolded part that states "work in small areas and wipe off the excess" but the dresser forgave me. I could not believe how the product brought back the richness to the dry, faded finish. It darkened the areas where the veneer had chipped off, making them a little less obvious, and it also toned down the very bad water damage on the top.
After giving the finish restorer a chance to dry, I went back over the dresser with Howard Feed & Wax, to condition and polish the wood. It added a nice luster to the the finish, without being too shiny. I hope this will help keep all of that beautiful walnut moisturized.
The dresser doesn’t look like new (the top especially), but I think it looks 30 years younger than it did just a couple of hours before. I haven’t put the drawer pulls back on because one was missing, one was broken (and then I broke another one) and also because I don’t like brass. I’m not sure what I will replace them with yet.
I plan to pick up a stain touch-up pen the next time I’m in town, and see if that will help with the white water stains on the top and side. Those are the only areas that did not drastically improve, but the damage is pretty bad.
I am so pleased with the overall results, (especially with only 2 hours and under $20 invested), that the matching vanity, bench and bed frame, as well as my antique walnut piano and my poor, abused dining room table will be receiving the same treatment soon.