Another Dresser Turned Wine Cabinet

Last year my wife and I bought an old dresser at an antique show in Columbus, Ohio. We had a spot in our dining room we wanted to make into a bar area and the dresser was small enough that it would fit nicely in that spot.cabinet

I had to remove the drawers to make room for the wine bottle storage I was going to build so, I cut off the rail and drawer runners that were between the two drawers.

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The dresser was old and someone in the past tried to repair the case by driving nails through the side of the case into the end grain of the tenon. I took the tenon out and drove the nails back out through the side.

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After the nails were gone, I glued the case back together to make everything sturdy and square.

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The cabinet was going to be painted so, I bought some birch plywood and cut up pieces to make a box that would slide inside the case. I also trimmed the edges of the plywood with oak to match the rest of the case.

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The old dresser had a bit of detail to the rails that I wanted to match on the box I was building.

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I took my No 8 hollow molding plane and planed a shallow recess down the middle and rounded over the sides with my block plane.

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I had to carefully build the box to fit inside the case. It needed to be loose to slide in, but not too big that it wouldn’t fit. I made the box an 1/8″ smaller than the length and height of the opening of the case so that it would fit. I used simple rabbet joinery to join the sides together and a dado down the middle for the divider.

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The moment of truth. After building the box I prayed that it would slide in the case. Thankfully it did.

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My wife painted the case with black milk paint. She also sanded and stained the top and drawers with a gel stain. I then applied two coats of Waterlox varnish on the top and drawers.

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I wanted the left side to hold wine bottles so, I built diagonal grid out of solid oak and used dadoes for joinery so that the other side of the grid would slide through. This too had to be fitted carefully so that it wasn’t too tight to slide in. After everything fitted well, I took it out, stained and applied Waterlox varnish to the grid.

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Here’s the final cabinet sitting in the same spot. We removed one shelf as we felt the wine glasses hung a little too low. The cabinet came out well and was dirt cheap to build.

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Refurbishing a Dresser into a Wine Cabinet

Back in the summer, my wife bought a dresser from a couple in Kentucky on the Longest Yard Sale for $20. The dresser wasn’t in the best shape as most of the drawers were beat up , but we decided to buy it anyway because we knew we would be able to re-purpose it into something other than a dresser.

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We decided to turn the dresser into a wine cabinet so I had to remove the rails from the middle of the case. I grabbed my Fein MultiMaster and cut off the tenons that attached the rails to the frame.

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I cleaned up the middle of the case and strengthened the case where it needed with glue and clamps.

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The cabinet opening was 25 1/2″ square so I designed the inside to accommodate as many wine bottles as possible. I played with different measurements until I decided on 4″ square holes to fit the wine bottles.

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While building a couple of grids, I test fitted them to make sure they would hold a wine bottle without falling through. I made the grids from southern yellow pine and each bar is about 3/4″ square, 12″ long with a chamfer on the front.

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I built the rest of the grids and tested their fit again. The cabinet would be able to hold 25 wine bottles.

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Since the bottom of the cabinet was now open to the floor, I added a piece of 1/4″ plywood to the base of the cabinet.

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And because I added the plywood to the bottom, I had to trim a 1/4″ off the bottom to all my grids. Using my panel cutter and a hand clamp, I was able to cut all the grids to the same length.

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After test fitting everything together, all the grids came together nicely. I installed a 1/4″ piece of plywood to the back of the grids so that the wine bottle wouldn’t fall through the back.

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Satisfied with the grids, I turned my attention to the drawer and glued a new piece of wood to the bottom of one side as it was damaged. The drawer wasn’t opening smoothly so this repair helped out a lot.

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Because the grids were freshly cut wood, I wanted to age them to match the piece, so I brushed on an apple cider vinegar and steel wool solution to darken them up.

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My wife painted the inside of the case black and the outside grey with milk paint to let some of the original finish show through. She then stained the top with a gel stain and applied three coats of Waterlox varnish. This cabinet is now ready for years of use under its new life.

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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 Dresser

My wife won this Empire style dresser this week at an online estate auction site for a mere $50.00. When we went to pick it up the guy who ran the auction was telling us it was probably built around the early 1800’s and was a cross between Empire and Federal styles. The dresser was beautiful with its carved columns, mahogany veneer and old brass hardware.

The dresser was in pretty good shape with the only major damage being the bottom drawer was broken off. Fixing the veneer and making it match with the rest of the piece would be a challenge so my wife and I are thinking of taking out all three bottom drawers and turning the dresser into a wine bar with storage for wine glasses and bottles.

While taking the drawers out I was looking for a makers mark just in case this is some rare piece made by famous cabinetmaker. The last thing I want to do is to retrofit some dresser that if left alone and restored could be worth $20,000. Unfortunately I found no makers mark but I did notice that the piece was made by hand.

The drawers were made with hand cut dovetails and the bottoms were chamfered into grooves in the drawers side. No plywood was used which gave me a clue that the dresser was pretty old. Plywood wasn’t being used in furniture until around the 1920’s.

I also noticed that not that much care was taken in cutting the drawer bottoms. One of the bottom’s edge was wavy and looked like it was cut with a bow saw. Why the cabinetmaker didn’t use a hand saw to rip down the bottom is baffling. Maybe he was in a hurry or didn’t have a hand saw around at the time but, it looks like crap and wouldn’t be considered top-notch craftsmanship by todays standards. However, it was perfectly acceptable back then. Maybe there wasn’t as much scrutiny about how things were built as there is today. If I did something like that, all my woodworking friends would call me a hack.

  

I also could see where the cabinetmaker reused boards that he first cut dovetails for as the drawers backs. The back and the sides are simply nailed together with some finish nails. It’s possible he was planing on dovetailing the back of the drawers but changed his mind for some reason. But nevertheless, apparently back then if the part was not being shown and was hidden from the customers view, then nobody cared what it looked like inside.

The back of the piece gave me another clue as to its age. There were two pockets drilled to accept screws to hold down the top. As I unscrewed one of them, I saw that the screw had a point at the tip. Due to increased machinery technology, manufacturers didn’t start making screws with points until the 1840’s. Before that they were simply blunt and craftsmen would have to pre-drill the hole.

So my guess is this piece was probably built between 1840-1920 by a local cabinet shop who didn’t bother signing their pieces. With no makers mark, there is no way for me to determine who actually built it. I searched the internet for “Empire dresser” in Images to see if a similar dresser appeared with no luck. So in the end, with its major damage to the bottom drawer, I think it’s safe to retrofit this into something new.