Welcome to the longest running project I think I have ever done. The Cabinet that went from pink to black to bare wood and seriously tested my patience, but is ultimately bringing so much joy.
When I found this cabinet for $30 I knew I must have it. Little did I know that what lay beneath the surface was about 7 layers of thick paint. Purple, cream, mint, and just about every colour of the rainbow. The determination required to bring this little lady back to life was next level. Good thing I love this stuff right?! Now that she is (somewhat, lol) finished I have to say, I LOVE her. Silver lining to this project? I got to try some new techniques that I know I’ll use again in the future. If I can learn something new and also upcycle something old into something beautiful then I am here for it!
When the cabinet came home with me pink and yellow (not exactly my personal preference) I spent some time thinking about what colour I was going to paint it and I decided I really wanted to go with something a little different that I hadn’t done before. SO even though I was unsure, I forged ahead and painted in BLACK! Because we all know when you’re unsure about something you should go with the boldest option you can think of…
Well, no shock to anyone, I didn’t like it. I just felt it was a bit too boxy in such a dark colour, and it lost a lot of it’s charm. I knew I had to change it, but to what. I put together some ideas of what the next step could be and you guys followed along on Instagram and helped me (as you always do!) in deciding what to do next.
When you all voted it was clear, I needed to strip this baby back and find what was lying beneath. So I went about researching the best way to do that. Now before we get started, I need to say that its important when stripping old furniture to do a lead test on the paint before you begin. I used this one which worked really well and gave me the confidence to move ahead knowing I wasn’t breathing in anything toxic.
My first attempt was to use paint stripper. I coated one side of the cabinet and left it for a while before coming back with a spatula to scrape off the paint. To my despair, the bottom 3 or 4 layers stayed on even after so much time. It didn’t seem worth it considering how much work it was and plus, I’d prefer not to use chemicals like that if I can help it. Onto another method!
Next up, a heat gun. I had heard good things about this so I was really keen to try it out. I used this heat gun.
With this method you use the gun to heat the paint until it starts to bubble and then you scrape it off. I was hesitant because I knew how many layers of paint there were but I was so excited when ALL 8 LAYERS of paint bubbled up and scraped off. I couldn’t believe how well it worked. And talk about satisfying to watch. Funnily enough, the most successful tool I found to scrape the paint was actually a BBQ cleaner. It’s a wire brush with a metal scraper on the end – perfect for this kind of thing. I switched between scraping and brushing especially in hard to reach spots like around the hardware. I can longer find the one I used on the Bunnings website but this one is very similar.
Finally I tested out a detail sander (I have this one). I tested a small patch on one of the drawers and I quickly realised, to get through that many layers of paint it was going to take a loooong time to do even a small section! Although the results were really good once I did finally get to the bare wood, I knew that there was no way I’d be able to sand the whole cabinet.
The final Method
SO In the end I decided the most efficient way of stripping this wood was going to be… *drumroll please* …a combination of the heat gun and the sander – the heat gun to scrape off the majority of the paint layers and finally the sander to get rid of any leftover bits and give a really nice even finish all over.
It took a bit of patience, I’m not going to lie. But once I got going I just chipped away at it and eventually I got there. And boy was it worth it! I absolutely love the wood finish that I got. And while its not perfect, I’m thrilled with where it ended up.
I honestly can’t believe the journey I went on with this cabinet. Months of changing my mind on what I wanted to do and you guys all followed along giving the best advice and suggestions. And just when we thought it was finally done.. there is one more thing to decide on. What handles should I put on her?
Told you it was the project that never ends…