The welsh dresser is a traditional type of kitchen furniture dating back to the 1600’s. Originally the drawers and cupboard would have been used for food storage, with the work surface being mainly for food preparation. Then as times changed, the shelves were commonly used to display the owner’s finest crockery. And as the dressers became more decorative, they evolved from being a useful part of the kitchen to being a focal point in the dining room. So when my neighbour told me he was getting rid of his one, I was happy to take it off his hands. And so began my welsh dresser upycle project.
Here is a photo of the welsh dresser when I received it. This piece is from the 1960’s, so approx 50 years old.
Cleaning the brass fittings
First I took off all the grubby brass fittings, and left them to soak in tomato ketchup for an hour. Sounds crazy right? However the mild acid in the tomatoes is able to loosen the dirt and grime, and I always try to avoid chemicals where possible. I then took them out and gave them a scrub with a hard toothbrush. The photos show the fittings before, during and after the ketchup bath.
Sanding the welsh dresser
I decided to totally sand back the shelves and worktop, so that I could reveal the grain, and give them a nice modern finish. However the entire welsh dresser was coated in a very dark lacquer, which was a pain to get off. Here is one of the shelves, halfway through sanding. It’s amazing how different it looks once you get down to the bare wood.
I did the same to the worktop, and then put it all together to get a feel for what the finished product might look like.
And then for the final stage of sanding, I scuff sanded the rest of the welsh dresser which I planned to paint. I didn’t worry about going all the way back to bare wood. I just wanted to rough up the surface to give the primer something to stick to. It’s very important to get rid of the smooth lacquered surface, otherwise you’ll probably notice that your primer and paint can be easily scratched off. And believe me it’s a sad day when you have to sand off your primer and start again.
At this point I also repaired any cracks and dents, and replaced any wood that was too damaged to save. This gave me a strong, stable piece of furniture, which now just required a splash of colour.
Priming and painting the welsh dresser
After covering up the shelves and worktop, I used my spray gun to put on 2 layers of primer. It worked ok. and was very fast, but personally I still prefer to use a roller and a brush. I feel like this gives me more control over how much I apply, and I generally end up with a slightly better finish. But maybe I’m just not very good with a spray gun.
I left the primer to fully dry for a few days, and then applied the paint. I chose a pastel green colour called Tabernacle from Little Greene. I’m a big fan of green on wood, as it’s a classic combo found in nature. And I support Little Greene because their paints have virtually zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). They also use recycled steel in their paint tins and are constantly striving to reduce their business waste. This photo shows a door with primer on the left, and a door with paint on the right.
Oiling and varnishing the wood
I chose to leave the shelves and worktop as bare wood, so had to be careful to not get any paint on them. First I used teak oil to bring out the grain pattern. I then applied polyurethane varnish to give the wood a tough outer coat with a nice sheen. I used 400 grit sandpaper in between coats to achieve an ultra smooth finish. It’s often recommended to not sand the final coat. However in this case I did, and I managed to get the smoothness I wanted without compromising the sheen.
New safety feature
I made various updates and fixes to the welsh dresser, such as restoring broken edges, replacing the locks etc. But the one I’d like to share in detail is where I’ve added a new safety feature. The original drawers pulled all the way out, so could easily drop onto someone’s foot. So I added some stoppers to prevent this from happening. The video explains the very simple method I used.
A little surprise
I lined the inside of the cupboard and drawers with self adhesive paper that looks like sweets. This is a great way to add an element of fun and creativity to the project, and you can use any pattern you like. It also has a functional purpose, as it protects the paint from scratches and scrapes. The paper I used is made by Fablon and is available on Amazon. It’s easy to apply, easy to clean, and feels quite tough.
The completed welsh dresser
Here are some photos of the fully upcycled welsh dresser. I was originally planning to sell it but I liked it so much I decided to keep it in my kitchen!
I’ve since found out that this was the first piece of furniture bought by the previous owners when they got married. It has great sentimental value but they no longer had the space for it in their home. This piece will now live on in my family rather than going to landfill. And so begins an exciting new chapter in the life of this timeless classic.
If you’d like to know more about upcycling, feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to help. Or you can receive our newsletter to get the latest news, updates and projects straight to your inbox.
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