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How to Sand a Dresser

Shauntelle Hamlett

It's possible to furnish your home inexpensively by shopping at garage sales and thrift stores. When buying wood furniture like dressers and cabinets, it’s important to learn how to tell the difference between real wood and particleboard or veneer pieces.

Once you understand this, the next most important skill is knowing how to sand a piece correctly. Perfect your skills on an inexpensive wood dresser for your first project. When completed, this versatile piece can provide storage and decoration in any room.

  1. Remove the drawers from the dresser and wipe it down with a cloth to clean away dirt and debris. You can also use a vacuum cleaner with a hand attachment to vacuum away cobwebs, dust, and small particles of dirt.

  2. Attach the 60-grit sandpaper to the random orbital sander and begin to sand the top of the dresser. Hold the sander lightly (do not press down), allowing it to move freely and directing it in the same direction as the grain of the wood. Even if you can’t see the grain, keep the sander moving in one direction rather than going back and forth. Continue until the surface of the wood is revealed. Wipe with the tackcloth to remove sawdust.

  3. Replace the 60-grit sandpaper with the 100-grit sandpaper and go over the top of the dresser again. Using this finer-grit paper will help remove any scratches that may have been caused by the coarser 60-grit paper. After completely sanding the top of the dresser with the 100-grit sandpaper, wipe the top off with the tackcloth again. Feel and examine the surface to see if any scratches, paint, or stain remain. The top should feel completely smooth and be bare of color. Repeat the sanding if necessary; otherwise, move on to sanding the next section of the dresser. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you’ve completed sanding the dresser.

  4. Sand the dresser drawers, using the 60-grit sanding block. Depending on the style of dresser, you may be able to do the initial sanding with the orbital sander, but a sanding block (or simple sandpaper) will give you more control when sanding decorative drawer faces. If you want to do a thorough job, sand the left and right sides of the drawer, and the inside back of the drawer face as well. Repeat steps 2 and 3 on the drawers, using the sandpaper blocks. Continue until you have completed all of the drawers.

  5. Wipe the dresser and drawers a final time with the tackcloth. The dresser is ready to stain or paint.

  6. Tip

    Always work on sanding projects in a properly ventilated room and wear a dust mask for added protection. For tight or narrow spaces, try wrapping the edge of a putty knife with sandpaper and inserting the putty knife in the tight space. Be patient. Sanding does take time, but doing it correctly will give you the best end results.