DIY refinishing project goes awry – but professionals save the day |

DIY refinishing project goes awry – but professionals save the day

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

In this case, it was a four-drawer dresser, originally painted white, then blue and finally black.

The old black monster had dovetailed joints and appeared to be of solid wood, not the particle board common today. So if the wood was nice, it might be worth refinishing.

After searching the Internet for advice on stripping paint off furniture, I prepared to do battle. Lots of warnings about dangers of stripping gunk – do it outside if possible, wear gloves, keep the stuff off your clothes or floors – so I was careful, even picking up a bucket of sawdust from a lumber yard.

It was $10 for the stripper gunk and $1 for cheap paint brushes to spread it about after spraying it on. An old putty knife from the tool box would remove the old finish for starters. I decided to try it out on just one drawer, so I spread old newspapers on the patio, emptied a drawer, removed the handles (called “pulls” by the pros), and set to work.

I was liberal with the gunk, spreading it about after spraying, letting it alone to do its work.

Half and hour later, I took to it with the wide putty knife. Much paint remained after strenuous scraping.

A second coat of gunk didn’t improve things much. A third application of the gunk (and a third pair of gloves) didn’t make things much better – so I went to Daniel’s Finishing Shop, 5801 Sheep Drive.

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Daniel turned out to be Daniel Villalovos, a tall, hefty man busily spraying varnish on a door. He comes from a family of furniture repairers. They opened shop in San Jose in 1904, and he grew up in the trade. A few years ago, he decided it was time to seek a happier life in the mountains. His wife, Karen, who is the company bookkeeper and deliveryperson, agreed.

His friend Derek Eshenaur had already established a finishing shop and was able to help Daniel set up shop.

Today Daniel’s is a busy shop with five employees, mostly doing major jobs for people at Lake Tahoe with big houses who want specialty finishes or stressed-wood fixtures. But, yes, he could strip the drawer to see if it suggested the dresser was worth stripping and refinishing.

A day later, the drawer was stripped to reveal a lovely oak surface, unmarked except for the pull holes. The wood had a softly luminous surface that cried out to be left unpainted, or perhaps a light stain and a clear finish.

“We don’t use the immersion technique where you dip the entire piece into a tub of stripper,” Daniel said of the job. “That’s tough on most woods. We use a flow system where the piece is put in a big tray. Then we flow the stripper over it, scrape the old paint off until we get it down to the wood. We sand it then to take out blemishes or little spots of paint.”

It was agreed that the piece was worth restoring.

Daniel’s crew turned to, and by the weekend, it was time to consider refinishing. But that’s another story after a couple of weeks when the wood has had a chance to relax.

Contact Sam Bauman at or 881-1236.