How I Removed Paint from a Wooden Chest of Drawers (Furniture Restoration)

I will share a quick step-by-step journey on how I removed green and white paint to reveal the stunning veneer of an old chest of drawers, bringing it back to its original but stunning look.

Step 1: Preparing for the Stripping Process

I started by applying a generous amount of paint stripper on the drawer and the full chest. I wrapped the piece in plastic garbage bags and left it overnight. Some areas dried up, like the drawers. I didn’t wrap it air tight which is likely the reason the stripper dried up.

It is also possible the finish over the paint was making it challenging for the stripper to activate. Sometime paint stripper works first try like a charm, other times you need to apply 2-3 coats. Patience is key; I allowed the stripper to do its job on a few applications and I used a scraper tool to peel it away.

Step 2: Cleaning and Scraping

Once the paint was stripped away, I cleaned off the residue with mineral spirits, using steel wool 0000 to scrub the wood gently. For the stubborn areas, my carbide scraper was put to work.

I also used a scraper pick tool to remove paint that was stuck deep in the corners. Then I used a brass brush to do one last brush through to remove all the paint deep in the corner areas.

Step 3: Sanding to Smoothness

After all the paint was removed, it was time to sand. I started with a 150-grit sanding mesh and eventually to a finer 240-grit sandpaper, working my way through the entire piece of furniture. To reach the tricky corners my random orbital sander couldn’t reach, I switched to an oscillating tool with a sander attachment.

Step 4: Re-Veneering the Top

The top required special attention. The old veneer on top was water-damaged, and I decided I was going to apply new veneer on top of it.

I patched the areas missing veneer with bondo, sanded it down to create a level surface, and applied the new veneer. This involved cutting the veneer to size and then spreading contact cement on both the veneer and the surface. After waiting for the contact cement to become tacky (15-20 mins), I carefully placed the veneer on top and pressed it together with a piece of rounded-off wood.

Step 6: Staining to Perfection

I chose General Finishes’ “antique walnut” gel stain. I applied it to the entire piece, working in sections. The gel stain was easy to work with: it was wiped on and then wiped off, revealing the wood’s natural grain and warmth.

Step 7: Sealing with Water-Based Polyurethane

Once the stain was dry, I sprayed the entire chest of drawers with three coats of water-based polyurethane, which gave it a durable finish while maintaining the stain’s clarity. It dried super smooth and looked/felt very nice!

Finally, this project was completed. After a lot of work, this chest of drawers was back to looking beautiful. The veneer was stunning and I am so happy I could save this piece! Let me know if you have any questions and make sure to watch the full video process.

Materials Used in this Project: