Scott’s Chest of Drawers



I have been working on some other writing that has me stuck. My big sister urged me to post here anyway on some happy inconsequentials. She is always full of good advice.

When I bought this property, it was dark and damp, and had nestled on it an adorable cottage belonging to its long-time owner, Scott. I originally hoped to save Scott’s cottage and spent days cutting back all the balsams that threatened to march in the windows.

Unfortunately the little house, unoccupied and vandalized for twenty years, was completely rotten from the sills through the first floor. It had to be demolished.


There was nothing of real value left in the house, but I did save a few things from the wrecking jaws. One was Scott’s chest of drawers. As an elderly man Scott had been sleeping in the downstairs front parlor, so it had not been too hard for me to wrestle the chest outside.

The chest sat in my garage here at school from 2004 until Alex’s last days of work after school this fall, when he helped me lift it into the truck to carry it “back home” — to the farm garage I’d built twenty-five yards from the old cottage site.


The chest had never been a valuable piece of furniture. It appeared to me to be an inexpensive mass-produced item. Since it had originally had casters, I guessed it might be from the 1920s. The top and frame were oak but the drawers were cheap pine. Still, I thought with some attention it might be charming.

After decades of neglect in unheated spaces, none of the drawers could open or close. There was a large, stinking mouse nest — complete with mouse skeleton — in the lowest drawer.

The top of the chest was marred with spilled paint. The finish everywhere on the chest had bubbled, so that it looked faintly diseased. (Double-click on photo to enlarge.)


The hardware was greenish-brown and tacky with some sort of sludge.


I had never refinished furniture but I thought it would be fun to try. Over several weeks this fall, every so often I would take time from some other project to give Scott’s chest of drawers another lick.

I removed the hardware and stripped the chest on a tarp on the driveway. When that was done, I sanded it. I planed and repaired the drawers.


Then I carried it inside in pieces to my little workshop and painted it first with stain conditioner, and a few days later, golden oak stain.


IMG_1693I have always cleaned brass with tomato sauce. Accordingly I brought the hardware home to soak in a bowl of marinara. (There were a number of anxious queries — no one really likes to question my cooking but there was an obvious need for reassurance that this was not part of the plan for dinner!)

To my surprise I discovered that the “sludge” on the hardware was actually the corroded brass itself. When the brass plating sloughed away, the hardware was revealed to be stamped copper with rusty steel handles. The look was not prepossessing.

Hmm. I investigated the cost of replacement hardware online and immediately decided against it. In that case, I would have to make do. I cleaned the copper hardware as best I could and then sprayed it with shellac to keep it from tarnishing green again. Lucy and I decided I would spray paint the handles matte black.

Then I hauled the chest up the stairs to the apartment bedroom, assembled it, and lined the old drawers with white contact paper sprigged with tiny flowers, for clean interiors.


And now it is done. I hope Scott would be pleased. It is very satisfying to cross something off my to-do list — after eight years.

6 Responses to Scott’s Chest of Drawers

  1. Jody says:

    It looks beautiful!

  2. Jane Wellker says:

    All I can say is WOW! 🙂

  3. Dinerdon says:

    From one who has stripped and refinished too many pieces of furniture I applaud you on the outcome!

  4. Missy says:

    That’s really pretty. Good work!

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Thanks, everyone. I had a lot of fun with it! Don, I thought I remembered that you had done a million refinishing jobs. I can see how it could become slightly addictive. I found it very satisfying, even when (as in this case) it doesn’t turn out perfectly. Despite the stain conditioner, the pine drawers absorbed the stain differently than the oak, and with some blotchiness. But the chest is now reclaimed and that makes me happy.

  5. Michele says:

    Great job! The oak stain looks great. I am loving your blog!

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