Finishing Olivia’s Bed and Dresser

Finished footboard

This finishing schedule is my go-to when I need robust color. I learned the basic technique a number of years ago in a class that was put on by the Wisconsin Woodworker’s Guild featuring Jeff Jewitt. Jeff also runs Homestead Finishing.

I wanted the bed and dresser to look like they belonged together, however the bed is red oak and the dresser is cherry so an exact match is not feasible.  The dresser had been my Dad’s and was a mid-century brownish grey color. When I scraped and sanded the old finish off the dresser, the cherry had wide swaths of sapwood in the top and drawer fronts. This was too jarring for my taste. So after removing the top, I sanded the underside of it to match how the top would be and made some tests with dye and stain. This proved my theory, that dye and stain could even out the sapwood -heartwood variation nicely.

Underside of top with wiped on dye and stain
Finished top – flipped but in same orientation as the underside shot

The original finished was scraped and sanded off down to bare wood.
The colors of the cherry then showed through. However there was a lot hf difference between heartwood and sapwood. This may be why the factory finish was so opaque.

Finish schedule

  • 2x Light spray coats of Transtint medium brown dye in alcohol per label instructions.
  • 2x wash coats of 2lb cut blonde shellac also sprayed on.  These must be light coats or the shellac with dissolved dye will bleed back out of the pores resulting in “pimples”. This can be severe on the Oak
  • Scuff sand with green Scotch Brite pad. This is roughly equivalent of 220 grit sandpaper.
  • General Finishes Nutmeg gel stain . Wiped on liberally and wiped off after 10 minutes.
  • Allow to dry for one week as the oil based stain would otherwise cause adhesion problems for the following finish coats
  • 2-3x coats of General Finishes water based polyurethane – matte lustre . These were sprayed on for the head and foot-boards of the bed, brushed on all other pieces. Each coat consisting of a tack coat and flow coat from opposite edges of the pieces.  On other pieces I have used the General Finishes Endurovar or Precat Lacquer. However this was done mid-winter and this was the least obnoxious finish for indoor application (and without risk of explosion).
  • Dresser top was also rubbed down with 0000 steel wool to eliminate the last brush marks.

Progress photos

View of the headboard after the dye and shellac has been applied and the gel stain is half applied.

Headboard with dye and wash coat of shellac and half of the gel stain applied.

The headboard and footboard had plywood scraps attached to the bottoms of the legs this mad handling of them MUCH easier with no worries of tip-overs.

Pedestal drawer fronts
Dresser drawers and top
Bed base with platform and drawers
Dresser ready for hardware