DIY Project: Old World Finish

  Hi Everyone!  I haven’t been around lately, life has shown up on our door and I haven’t had time to sit down and write.  That is going to change, our family finally has our schedule on track!

  Today, I will be writing about one of my all-time favorite finishes–I call it my old world finish.  I’m sure there is a more technical term for it, but I like Old World and in my world, that is what we will call it!!!

  This is the piece that I am going to be writing about, a long dresser from the 1970’s.  It is big, brown and drab, but it is solidly constructed, has amazing details and character!


  This is the finished piece!

long dresser 1

  The first thing you must do is clean your piece very well!!  Your paint or stain will not adhere to dirt.

  Your finish is only as good as your prep work, I know, there are so many paint brands that say no prep but if you watch or follow any furniture painter, they will tell you that they always clean their pieces before they paint!   I take off all the hardware and put it in a plastic baggie, I will be cleaning it and painting it later.  Next take out the drawers and wipe them out with either a dry rag or for gross stuff, your Shop-Vac.  Turn the dress on it’s top so you can clean off the underside.  I will take my Shop-Vac and get all the cobwebs off then use my rag for anything else.  Turn it back over and begin the actual cleaning.  I mix TSP(Trisodium phosphate) and water in a bucket and use old rags and fine steel wool(0000) to clean.  TSP is a heavy-duty cleaner and can take the finish off of a piece, so be careful when using it.  I wipe it down with my rag and if I come across areas that are caked on with dirt, I use my steel wool to gently scrub.  After I’m finished, I dispose of my dirty water and rags and get clean water and new rags.  You need to “rinse” your piece off and get rid of the residue left by the TSP.  Normally, a simple wipe down will do just fine.  Let your piece dry.  The pictures below are of another piece after cleaning with TSP, do you see how much of the finish came off just by scrubbing with TSP and a rag?  The top picture is before and the bottom is just after cleaning!!!

buffet before-COLLAGE

 After we have let our dresser dry, I applied a stripper to the top of the dresser.  I am going to stain the top and paint the body.  I use CitriStrip Gel because it works really well and I work in my dining room during the winter months.  This doesn’t have an overwhelming odor and is pretty safe to use indoors.  Put a tarp or old sheets under your piece to protect your floors.  I just applied the stripper with a cheap chip brush all over the top and sides of the top.  This is a really thick gel so it doesn’t drip much and let dry.  You don’t want it to dry completely, but the gel will change colors and start to look crusty when it’s time to scrape it off.  After I scrape the stripper off, I clean it with mineral spirits and a rag to remove all the traces of the stripper from the top.

This is a video from my FaceBook page that shows the process:

 Strip old finish off wood

  You want a clean and dry surface when you sand your piece.  I use an electric sander for the top starting with 120 grit sandpaper and going up to a 330 grit.  The lower the grit of sandpaper, the rougher it will sand.  I used 120, then 220 and finished it off with 330 grits.  I used 120 and 220 on the rest of the body.  Make sure you clean the dust away in between sandings.  After the final sanding, I wipe away any dust and then use a tack cloth to make sure I have gotten all the dust off.  I used an electric sander on the top and hand sanded the body.  I hand sanded because I just wanted to rough up the surface so my paint has something to adhere to.

 Next step is applying a wood conditioner and stain.  This is very easy but for many people, an intimidating step.  I have another video showing how to do it!!


  Did you like those “Pro” tips I gave out?  Those are why I love inserting videos, besides getting to see what is actually going on, I talk a lot and give out little tidbits here and there to make things easier for beginners!

  At this point, you have your top stained and ready to be sealed(protected).  Now we move on to painting your base and drawers.  I used Valspar Signature paint in Mesquite, it is a creamy white latex paint.  I put 2 coats of paint on, letting it dry in between.  You can use chalky or mineral type paints for this too, but you would need to lightly sand in between coats and seal your piece before you move on to the next step.

  We are almost done at this stage, this is the most time-consuming part of the process.  We will be applying the same wood stain that you used on the top to the rest of the piece.  You can use glaze or wax for this, but I just love the way stain looks.  This was the first technique I ever used when painting and it holds a special place in my heart!  It is hard for me to use glaze when I can use stain, I’m just more comfortable using wood stain.  Here is another video showing you how to apply and wipe the stain off for the Old World Style finish.

Old World Style Finish

  Now we are ready to seal and protect our finish.  I used 2 different products for this piece.  I used a brush on gloss polyurethane for the top and a spray on gloss polyurethane for the body and hardware.  You can use any finish you would like from flat to gloss, depending on what your style is.  I have a video that shows you how to brush on your poly below.  In the video, I am using polycrylic, but the polyurethane goes on the same way.  I like to use a spray when I have pieces with a lot of details, that way I know I’m getting in all the nooks and crannies.  You will need to use 7-8 coats of the spray to get the same protection as 3-4 coats of the brush on.  The sprays dry really fast, so don’t be put off by the number of coats.

How to apply Polycrylic or Polyurethane

  I cleaned the hardware with the same TSP mixture, rinsed and dried them and then spray painted them in an oil rubbed bronze color.  I sealed them with a polycrylic spray, make sure you turn them over when they have dried and spray the backs.

  On the piece pictured, I have stained the top but you don’t have to stain if you don’t want to.  In the video, I had to paint the top because it had too much damage to stain.  Both ways work and look great, that is a personal decision for you to make.  Painting is faster and less intimidating but staining really makes your piece pop!

  This is a painted and stained top.


  This is stained.

top dresser 1

  Thank you for dropping by and please pin and share!

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