Today I’m sharing the makeover of two pieces from a 5 piece set of Dixie furniture I picked up earlier this year. This collection of furniture came to me from a picker in the Portland area who contacted me after he rescued some estate sale leftovers. He started researching info about the dressers in order to resell them locally, but his research led him to my blog, and he decided to get in touch and see if I would to buy them.
Unfortunately, the pulls on all 5 pieces had been stripped. We all know that the pulls are the valuable part, so that was really frustrating. I told him that I would try to source some hardware, and if I could come up with something, I would buy the furniture from him.
My first thought was to try Vintage Hardware’s military pull to see if it would fit. I ordered one pull to take along on an overnight trip to Skamania, WA where my husband had to travel for work shortly after I was contacted about the furniture. Skamania is on the WA side of the Columbia River – about 45 minutes East of Portland, so it worked out well for us to stop and try the hardware on the furniture before we committed to buying them. (During this same trip, I purchased the new lenses for my camera that I blogged about earlier this year.)
Unfortunately, these pulls are not an exact fit for Dixie furniture. I could’ve made them work by moving the boring holes, but I didn’t want to create that much work for myself.
So, I kept looking, and just happened across a set of 12 pulls on eBay that were listed with a typo (campain vs. campaign). I knew it would be stupid to think about the purchase, so I snatched them up right away, and paid about $12/each with shipping. I know that sounds expensive if you’re used to cute-but-junky hardware from Hobby Lobby that is perpetually 50% off (like everything else in the store), but that price is a steal for these vintage beauties. Here they are (unpolished) pictured with some brass pieces from other furniture makeovers.
Unfortunately, even with my luck finding these 12 pulls, I need a total of 13 pulls, so I am looking for that elusive piece – and have a back up plan in mind if I can’t find it.
With the pulls ordered, I contacted the picker and we agreed to meet 1/2 way between Seattle and Portland to buy the furniture. We left Quinn with my mom and Wesley was still in my tummy at that time – so it made trips like this easier.
Here is one of the two pieces that today’s post is about in its “before” condition. Other than minor chips to the veneer, all 5 pieces are in great shape and all of the L + T brackets are in place – which is fantastic.
While I have been spraying paint for most of this year, I decided to paint these pieces by hand. The only reason for this is that I chose to use Benjamin Moore High Gloss Advance so I could avoid the hassle of a topcoat, but I wasn’t set up to spray that type of paint in my shop. The alkyd enamel is waterborne, but acts like an oil base paint; it takes a long time to dry between coats which extends the opportunity for debris to land in the surface. We are in process of building a better spray booth which I will be using for my projects going forward, but to keep things moving, these were painted inside.
The hardware was polished using my method that I wrote about last year. A Dixie Campaigner dresser was the very first piece campaign piece that I restored. If you want, you can click on the linked posts to read in detail about those experiences, but I’m going to give you the quick tutorial right now. I have restored several brands of campaign furniture since then, and in my experience, Dixie pulls are the most difficult to polish if you don’t know what you’re doing; here are a few fast tips specific to these pulls:
1. That dark area on the backplate IS PAINT. On the pulls I bought for these pieces, it’s pretty obvious that it is paint, but with my first piece, the pulls were in bad condition and I thought it was tarnish. I scrubbed until my hands were raw and couldn’t get that stuff off! My friends over at The Collected Eclectic Home in Dallas had a similar experience with a custom Dixie piece and spent 12 hours on the hardware alone! TWELVE hours. That really cuts into your profits in this business.
2. The pulls and brackets in original condition have a protective clear coat that delays tarnishing and avoids fingerprints. If you start trying to polish without removing the clear coat, you will find yourself polishing for hours and it will be very frustrating.
Here is a quick 30 second video showing the paint on the backplate coming right off moments after I applied KleanStrip (please ignore my husband’s commentary on current events in the background – I wasn’t planning to use this for my blog when I video’d):
Although you can’t see it, this process also removes the clear coat that makes it near-impossible to polish these pulls if you skip this step.
After you strip the pulls and rinse them off in water, scrub the brass with a sponge and some Barkeeper’s friend. Dry them off with a towel and then use a hair dryer to make sure they are totally dry so water spots do not form.
I was able to polish the pulls in about 90 seconds (each) after the lacquer was stripped…and here is the before /after:
You can use the same method for your L&T brackets.
If you want to paint the backplate a nice shade of gold to match the polished brass, I recommend Liquid Leaf – shown in use for another project below. Personally, I do not paint the backplate, because more than likely, the new owner will not maintain the polished look; as the pieces start to tarnish, the bright gold in the background will look silly. I always advise that my buyers keep a bottle of liquid barkeeper’s friend around the house so they can easily maintain the polished look with a small amount of product on a soft cloth – no need to remove the hardware for touch-up polishing.
And here are a few more after shots. I admit: I wasn’t in a staging mood when I photographed this set. I was rushing to get it done before my kids woke up and had to take the shots early in the morning which resulted in heavy shadows. If the pictures look a bit lazy, it’s true, they totally are. Perhaps I’ll find a moment for re-takes later this week.
I mentioned that I used Benjamin Moore’s High Gloss Advance for this project. I have used it once before on that orange dresser from last year, but overall feel that I had a better experience with it this time. I complained about the long dry time in last year’s post, but this time, I didn’t get so worked up about it. Perhaps it’s because two children mean that it’s virtually impossible to spend an entire day painting, and therefore, painting one coat per day, is the most I can manage.
I rolled the paint, and while Advance self-levels better than most, I was not thrilled about the rolled texture. I sanded between every coat of primer and paint, but it is still obvious that these were not spray painted. They are still lovely and a buyer will appreciate them either way.
I hope you enjoyed and learned a few things along the way!
Thanks for reading!
Miss Mustard Seed | Furniture Feature Friday
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