Empire Dresser

The Empire dresser is officially done. My wife Anita found some nice oil rubbed bronze drawer pulls on the internet after looking locally for some with no luck. It originally had glass knobs on it, but a few of them were in rough shape and not all of them matched. I think the drawer pulls she picked out look really nice and add to the character of the piece. She applied four to five coats of hemp oil to the dresser. It gives it a warm aged look without making it look too glossy.

I put a few hours in this as well. I had to strip all the old stain off, patch a veneer job, re-band all the drawer fronts with sapele, replace a brass key escutcheon, and reinforce some of the drawer bottoms with pieces of poplar.

She plans on selling this in her booth with her painted furniture and antiques this Saturday at a local street fair in Milford, OH called the Longstone Festival. She was lucky enough to get a booth as there is usually a waiting list every year. Hopefully it will sell there. I will let you know if it does. http://www.longstonestreetfestival.com/

Empire Dresser Veneer Repair

I’ve been working the past couple of weekends on an old empire dresser my wife bought at an auction a couple of months ago. After we got the dresser home, we noticed that the dresser had some old repairs on it. It also had a poor stain job that looked like it was sprayed on with a paint sprayer since it was covered in orange peel. So I stripped off all of the stain with Soy Gel paint stripper and wanted to fix some the repairs.

At the top of the dresser was this veneer repair. What the original guy who repaired the dresser was trying to accomplish I’m not sure, but I believe that what was underneath this veneer at one time was a lock mechanism to lock the top drawer. The lock was long gone and we had no intentions of adding the lock back in, so I decided to fix this area of the dresser with a new piece of veneer.

The original veneer on the dresser was made from a piece of crotch mahogany. I didn’t have any mahogany veneer on me so I decided to fill it with a small piece of sapele. Sapele is often considered a poor man’s mahogany being about half the cost. Plus I really didn’t feel like buying an expensive piece of mahogany to fix this little area. The good thing about this repair is that it was dead center of the case so any new repair would still be symmetrical on both sides even if it didn’t match perfectly with the rest of the dresser.

I used a card scraper and ran a utility knife down the scraper scoring the veneer. I then pared away the rest with a paring chisel. After all the wood was removed, I flattened out the rest of the area as best I could so the new piece of veneer would sit flat.

After measuring the area, I cut a new piece of sapele from a scrap board and dried fitted in place. I gently planed across the face to level it with the rest of the veneer making sure I didn’t cut into the old veneer. After everything fit, I glued and clamped it to the dresser.

The piece fit but I wanted to match the color of the original mahogany veneer. I took another scrap piece of sapele and experimented with a few colors of water soluble dyes to see how well I could match it up to the original veneer. After a few attempts, I decided to use a couple of coats of Early Brown American dye with a very light coat of Mahogany stain.

The color turned out well. Not a perfect match but well enough. Once I get the drawers done, my wife will apply a few coats of hemp oil to bring out the natural beauty of the wood. I’ll post a picture when the dresser is done.

Empire Wine Bar

 A few months ago my wife bought a dresser from a local auction company. When we picked it up, we noticed that the bottom drawer was so badly damaged that is was not worth repairing. Plus the drawers were only 10″ deep which doesn’t really fit with today’s needs. So, we decided that we would turn it into a wine cabinet.

The first thing I needed to do was take out the drawers and remove the frame that held them. It was a pretty easy process as the drawer runners were simply screwed in place.

I knew the part that held the wine bottles would need a cabinet of some sort so I glued 1/4″ panels to the inside to create a box. I also had to add boards to the bottom of the cabinet to support the bottom of the interior.

After much thought about how many wine bottles I wanted the cabinet to hold, I drew numerous options of the interior. I wanted the grids to go at 45 degrees and hold the maximum amount of bottles yet fit the opening of the cabinet. At first I designed the cabinet opening to hold nothing but wine bottles but after several drawings, I finally decided to make one half hold wine bottles with 4 1/2″ openings and the other half a shelf.

I built a divider down the middle and attached it with pocket hole screws. I installed plugs in the pocket holes and sanded them flush.

The fun part was making the grids. I made them from 3/4″ poplar and custom fitted each piece inside the box. The grids are attached together with dado’s and were painted brown before they were glued in.

I kept the girds shy of the face of the cabinet so that I could glue sapele on top of the poplar. Sapele is a poor mans mahogany which is what the dresser was made from. When stained, the sapele, mahogany and the painted poplar will blend together nicely.

After the interior was done, my wife painted the outside with chalk paint. She took the time to tape off the area that is stained and applied two coats of paint. After the paint dried, she rubbed some of it off to distress it, then added a dark brown glaze over the details of the piece to get in the cracks and appear old.

I applied four coats of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal oil & urathane topcoat to the top, the front of the drawers, and the grids to give the cabinet a nice sheen. We dragged it upstairs from the basement which was a big pain in the ass as it weighs nearly 200 lbs and decorated it in our dining room.

You can see how the distressing looks. The idea is to make the cabinet look old which is exactly what it is. After the glaze dries, Anita applied a light wax over the piece to protect the paint.

The design of the inside of the cabinet came out well. The grids hold eight bottles of wine and all of our various glasses. So far one of the drawers stores our wine bottle opener. Unfortunately, the other drawer will probably end up as a junk drawer.

The Empire dresser spent its first 150 years as a dresser. Now it will spend the next 150 years as a wine cabinet. Not a bad 300 year life if you ask me.