battle scars.

battle scars

Mr. Q and I drove to Apple Valley to pick up this sweet antique serpentine dresser a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately I have once again neglected to take a ‘before’ photo, drat!  But I can tell you that someone had ‘refinished’ this dresser by applying a thick, drippy and very shiny coat of polyurethane to the entire thing.

The ad clearly stated that the dresser had some additional issues (you’ve got to admire honest people!).  Both of the two lower drawers had holes in the bottoms.  They were caused over time by the drawer bottoms rubbing on the metal drawer stops.  I assumed that the drawers were rubbing because the stops weren’t pounded in far enough to clear the drawer bottoms, easy enough to fix.  In hindsight, I should have realized the problem was more significant.  But luckily I have a secret weapon in my back pocket, or should I say next door?  Ken the handyman to the rescue!

Whenever I bring home a dresser that needs repairs I call Ken to come over for a confab.  We start with trying to figure out what is causing the problem.  In this case, the drawer runners were worn down from years of use as were the bottoms of the sides of each drawer.

Those worn down parts meant that each drawer would sort of fall down about ¼” in the back.  So when the drawer was pushed in all the way, the back of the drawer was sitting about ¼” lower than the front.  That’s why it rubbed on the drawer stops.  It also meant that the drawer fronts would be a little angled and not sit in the openings properly.  I hope this description is making some sense to you.

So, not only did the drawer bottoms themselves need to be replaced, but we needed to build up the bottoms of each side of the drawer where they were worn down.  And by “we”, I really mean Ken.  Here is what he came up with.

drawer bottom

He trimmed the sides down so that they were even and level with the back.  He replaced the drawer bottom, and then he build up new “sides” for the drawer to rest on.

drawer bottom 2

Next, he added extensions onto the runners inside the body of the dresser.

drawer runner

Now the drawers remain level, they slide in and out easily and they don’t rub on the stops.  And they have fresh new bottoms!

Ken really did all of the hard work on this one!  Once he was done with the repairs, I stripped the top of the dresser and waxed it with Cece Caldwell’s aging cream.  Let’s talk about that for a minute.  I am sure there are going to be a few of you who think I should have done something about the stains, gouges and unevenness of this dresser top.  Since the top is solid wood and not a veneer, I could have sanded the life out of it to create a smooth and blemish free top.  But I happen to love those battle scars, and when I say “sanded the life out of it” I mean it literally.  I like seeing some history on my pieces.  As long as these flaws don’t compromise the functionality of the piece (like the drawer issues did), I like to keep them.  I know this philosophy isn’t shared by all.  Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if we all liked the same thing?

battle scars top

Once I’d made the decision to strip and wax the top, I decided to go with chalk paint on the body instead of milk paint.  Remember that very shiny coat of poly that I didn’t get a photo of?  Had I gone with milk paint I probably would have gotten some significant chipping.  Yes, I love a good chippy piece.  But I felt like a smoother chalk paint finish would be a nice juxtaposition with the rustic top on this one.  I also could have gone with a more feminine paint color to play up the curvy-ness, but instead I went with a masculine medium grey (this is Annie Sloans’ French Linen).

Before I move on, I should also mention that this dresser did not come with its original hardware.  I’m sure that was long gone.  Instead there were some of these Early American style drawer pulls on it …

early american drawer pulls

I am not a fan of these.  So I removed them and filled the extra holes with wood putty.  I gave this dresser some lovely glass knobs instead.

glass knobs

I staged this piece with the radio I snagged at a garage sale last summer and of course I had to include Annie Sloan’s Room Recipes for Style and Color.  This is an awesome book, if you haven’t already seen it.

battle scars radio

I also used my grandfather’s water color.  I haven’t used this in a photo shoot in quite a while, so there are probably some of you who have never seen it.

grandpa's watercolor

I have two watercolors that my grandfather painted.  They both have a fab mid-century feel, but this one is my favorite.

french linen dresser

 I love the yin and yang of this dresser.  Feminine curves with a masculine color, battle scarred top with a smoother paint finish and pretty glass knobs.  These choices all create a nice balance, don’t you think?

This dresser is currently available for sale.  If you are local and interested, leave me a comment and I will get back to you with the details.

In other news, since it appears that Ken now needs his own fan club, I decided to get going on a virtual t-shirt design.

fan club t-shirt

What do you think so far?

Linking up with Friday’s Furniture Fix!

61 thoughts on “battle scars.

  1. I get you! I love the beat up wood dressers! I have an old Eastlake dresser that I can’t paint because the whole thing looks like the top of yours.


  2. Really beautiful piece. I too love the battle scars. quick question: what did you finish the body of the piece in! I love the shine


    1. I meant to talk about this in my post, but somehow it slipped my mind. I used Annie Sloan wax on this one. I’ve never used it before, but I had run out of my usual Miss Mustard wax and the place that sells Annie Sloan was closer so I picked some up. I found that buffing the AS wax definitely produces more shine than the MMS wax. However, judging by the smell, the AS wax likely contains petroleum products while the MMS wax does not. I don’t like using a stinky wax indoors in winter, and the AS wax is definitely stinky! Here is what I could find online about the ingredients in AS wax: Annie Sloan Soft Wax combines the best of synthetic and natural ingredients, including beeswax, natural resin, synthetic waxes, and mineral waxes. Here is what I found online about MMS wax: This fine museum quality wax is based on an old family recipe. It is made from beeswax with a little carnauba wax.


      1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply! I don’t like the smell of Annie Sloan wax either. You have made me excited to try CeCe Caldwell’s wax! Thanks again.


  3. I totally agree with you on leaving what I call “character” marks of old pieces. I love refurbishing them, but think they still need to retain the proof that they’ve lived a long, eventful life. Is CeCe cream your favorite for tops? So far, I like to go with just hemp oil, or occasionally stain, then wax if I want to get a certain color, but the CeCe cream always looks fantastic when you use it. Are there any cons to using it?


    1. I love using the Cece aging cream on wood tops. It has a warm brown color to it. I showed a picture of the MMS dark wax and the Cece wax side by side in this post and you can see the color difference. The only con I can possibly think of is that I don’t know where I’m going to find my next can of it! The shop where I purchased it has since gone out of business. It is super simple to use, I just apply it with an old t-shirt. It’s very easy to keep the color even. After I apply, I usually go back 10 minutes later or so and buff it a bit. Easy peasy.


    2. This is truly beautiful…love the gray. Also really liking the glass knobs. Mr. Q had a great idea for the Ken-do slogan too. The shirts would be great to actually order and when worn, be able to give credit for all his “saving” of the furniture! His wife sure is nice to share him!


  4. OMG, I love the “I have a Ken Do attitude”….awesome. I love the color you selected, and the drawer pulls. I’m not a fan of the “batman” hardware either. Excellent job!


  5. I had the same problem with the dresser I used for my bathroom vanity! I like Ken’s solution much better than mine (tracing random shapes and cutting a piece to fill in the worn down areas)… in fact, I may take out those drawers and redo them, lol.


    1. Thanks Teri! For a while there I was struggling with my wood fillers. I tried a couple of products that I didn’t like, but I’m back to Elmer’s Carpenters Wood Filler and it works great!


  6. Love the lines of this piece, the color you selected and the naturally distressed top.
    Right decision to leave the top unpainted. Hooray for Ken!


  7. Beautiful work on the dresser, good colors. Also I love the Ken T-shirt and if they go into print I want to buy one. HA HA


  8. I think what draws many of us to antiques is the character and “battle scars” that are evidence of life and history in the piece. The imperfection is perfect in my eyes. I really love the gray color with the natural wood top, nice juxtaposition! As a card carrying member of the Ken fanclub, I love the shirt! I have used a company to make tshirts before and they turned out wonderfully.


  9. Linda,
    I love everything you refinish, but this is truly a favorite. The trifecta of taste created by the wood top, gray body, and glass knobs is perfection. Thanks so much for linking to Friday’s Furniture Fix. We LOVE having you!!! P.S. I’ll have this little beauty out on social media later today.
    Susie from The Chelsea Project Blog


  10. Just my two cents on wax brands: I have never personally used the AS wax because of the solvents. I used to use CCC until we couldn’t get it any more in the twin cities, and I have also used American Paint and MMS. I have never had any trouble with durability with any of those waxes, and my family is hard on furniture. I have never had to re-wax anything even though my furniture has survived Minnesota winters in the garage and a flood.

    The first time I saw furniture that had been waxed with AS wax was at a stockiest. At first I couldn’t believe it was wax. It seemed to have more of a plastic feel than what I was used to, like a hard shell on the furniture. I am sure it is very durable, but since durability has never been an issue with the nontoxic waxes that I use, it comes down to looks and smell. The smell is a dealbreaker for me, and I prefer the subtle sheen of the natural waxes to the hard shell look of the AS.


    1. I am with you 100% Teri. Pretty much everything you said mirrors my own feelings about wax. The smell is also a deal breaker for me. And I also felt the same about the ‘hard shell’ sort of appearance. I won’t be going back for more Annie Sloan wax, but will stick with my MMS. In fact, I just popped over to Farmhouse Inspired this weekend and stocked up on it again! However, since I’m kind of frugal about such things, I’m sure I’ll use up the can of AS wax that I have, I’ll just wait until summer when I can use it outside!


  11. Quandie! You put so much work into this piece and it shows! The finish looks of quality! Well done! I love that you used your grandfather’s watercolor to stage it! What a special piece of art! I hope you have a great weekend!
    The Curator’s Collection
    Making Broken Beautiful


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