victorian dresser in general finishes arm-r-seal and miss mustard seed’s milk paint
This Victorian dresser with drop pulls has come quite a long way since it first arrived in my workshop!
Now its drawers are absolutely glowing with coats of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal oil based poly in Satin. The original Victorian drop pulls are spruced up (and replaced), and the body is wearing a custom mix of Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint.
Let me walk you through the special features of this gorgeous antique dresser!
Disclosure: This blog post contains an affiliate link for a cleaning product I think you’re going to love!
removing pet odors from the dresser
To say this piece has come a long way is an understatement. I think the only direction this dresser could go is up! When I first hauled it home, it absolutely reeked. The previous owner had a lot of cats and unfortunately didn’t take care of them very well (which absolutely breaks my heart). They had free reign in the home and this little dresser suffered because of it.
I took the dresser right out of my Sorento and hauled it outside to get a complete squirt down and soaking with my favorite product to get rid of cat odors – Nature’s Miracle. (Affiliate link)
This product is so effective because it’s an enzymatic cleanser. These types of cleaners have enzymes in their formula that penetrate into porous substrates and eat odor causing bacteria. They continue to release a daisy-fresh scent until all of the bacteria is gone. What you’re left with is a clean and sanitized piece of furniture that is free of any offensive pet odors!
Once the dresser was completely hosed off and cleaned, I let it dry outside in the hot sun to bake away any further offensive odors. That’s another good trick for getting the “funk” out of furniture!
painting the body in miss mustard seed’s milk paint
Once the piece was dry, I took it in the workshop and began working on the body. It came with a mirror that was badly damaged, so I broke it apart and salvaged the usable parts.
The finish on the dresser was badly worn, so it didn’t take long to scuff sand the piece in preparation for Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint! You can watch that process in the video below from my Facebook live broadcast.
For my color, I decided to mix up equal parts Artissimo and Typewriter by Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint. Artissimo is a midnight blue and Typewriter is a soft shade of black. By combining these two in equal ratios, I created a dreamy color that looks black in some settings and blue in others. It plays so well with the warmth I created on the drawers.
dresser drawers sealed in general finishes arm-r-seal
If I had to grade the dresser drawers on this piece when I first saw them, I’d give them a C+. The bottoms needed to be pushed back into their channels and re-nailed into place. The original drop pulls were all in tact but a few were incredibly difficult to remove due to rusty nuts. The finish on the drawer fronts was very worn but I had a feeling they would sand down beautifully.
It took a lot of WD-40 and a bolt cutter to get all of the pulls off. I was able to remove all but one, which had to be cut off, destroying it in the process. Luckily, I found a close replacement online. It’s not an exact match, but it’s close enough! See if you can find it in the photo below.
I sanded the drawers and the top down completely to the raw wood. It was perfectly rustic and beautiful all on its own. Because I wanted to preserve the natural beauty of the wood and not add any color from a wood stain, I opted for General Finishes Arm-R-Seal.
Arm-R-Seal is General Finishes oil-based polyurethane topcoat option. (The water-based option is High Performance Topcoat.) This product is incredibly easy to apply – simply wipe on (they suggest using an old t-shirt) or apply with a foam poly brush, and remove the excess with light feathering strokes. Then, let it be. The finish takes 12-24 hours to dry in between coats. General Finishes recommends applying 3, which is what I did.
Now there are some draw backs to using an oil-based poly, like Arm-R-Seal. It ambers (or yellows) over time. Now that look is desirable over some wood species (such as my dresser drawers) because it actually enhances the color of the wood. But if it’s applied over a lighter wood like Birch or white paint, it will amber which may not be a desired outcome. It also had a noticeable odor so you need to have good ventilation when working with this product. It’s combustible too because it’s an oil-based product, so you need to lay your application materials (rags, etc.) out flat so they dry completely before disposing of them. Also, because it’s not water-based, it’s not soap and water cleanup. Instead, you need to use mineral spirits or waterless hand cleaner, like Goop or Gojo.
Now you may be wondering why you would want to use a product like Arm-R-Seal based on what I just told you. The answer is simple – durability. Arm-R-Seal is called such because it creates an “armor” on your project. It’s crazy durable and perfect for high-use pieces like kitchen and dining room tables, buffet tops, dresser tops and stool seats. It’s a total work horse of a topcoat!
Personally, I think the results speak for themselves…
knapp jointed drawers
The other super special feature of this dresser can be found in the joinery on the drawers.
Instead of traditional dovetail joints, this piece has a scalloped joint called a “Knapp” joint or “cove and pin”. This type of joint was developed by a man named Charles Knapp in the late 1800’s. It was only used for a very specific period of time between 1870 and 1900. That means that this dresser is anywhere from 119 to 149 years old. Whenever you find a piece with this kind of joinery, scoop it up because not only is it unique, it’s old!
To make those Knapp joints shine, I took the time to sand down the sides of the drawers, removing the old stain and cleaning them up. I hydrated them with a hearty dose of Hemp Oil by Miss Mustard Seed.
Another 100 years
I’m so thankful that I was able to work on this dresser and bring it back to life again. It’s lasted over 100 years so far. Thanks to quality paint and refinishing products by General Finishes and Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, it’s ready for its next 100 years!
You can shop for the products I used on this piece in my online shop to recreate this look at home. I’ve provided a convenient shopping list for you below.