How to Make a Dresser Look Rustic

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Like many decor terms, "rustic" can be interpreted in more than one way. Cabins in the mountains, lakeside cottages in Minnesota or country farmhouses in the Midwest can all be called rustic, but their appearance may be quite different from each other. Basically, rustic furnishings lack shine, are unsophisticated and are rough in texture. They are usually unpainted or have natural earth tones. Follow these simple and easy steps to make a dresser look rustic, then continue this technique to make other rustic furnishings for your home.

Things You'll Need

  • `Electric palm sander
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood putty
  • Wood glue
  • Clamps
  • Chain
  • Hammer
  • Ice pick
  • Metal file
  • Tack cloth
  • Wood stain
  • Sponge brush
  • Rags
  • Repair any structural damage to the dresser before you begin distressing it. Re-glue and clamp weak joints; fill large cracks with wood putty and allow to dry.

  • Sand the surface of the dresser, removing any paint or finish. Work sharp points off the edges and corners of the dresser.

  • Distress the dresser, further intensifying the rustic nature of the piece. Beat the surface of the dresser with the chain in no particular pattern. Allow the scarring to look random and natural, as if it occurred over a matter of years.

  • Continue to pound the dresser lightly with a hammer. Again, do this randomly. Pay close attention to areas that would naturally receive damage over time, such as the top of the dresser, the corners and the top edges of the drawers.

  • Pick areas of the wood to make wormholes. This is not the whole surface: The idea is to find places where worms had once lived in the wood in its natural state. Use the icepick to make the indentations for the wormholes.

  • Scrape the handles and the front edge of the dresser using the metal file. Do not press too hard. You want it to appear worn, but not splintered and chewed.

  • Repeat the sanding, using sheets of sandpaper to remove any sharpness on the rustic dresser. Clean the dresser using a tack cloth.

  • Work in one area at a time to stain the dresser. Paint the stain on, wait a few minutes and wipe it off with a rag. Repeat if necessary. Continue until the entire dresser has been stained. The stain will settle in the distressed marks and the wormholes to help age the piece. Allow the stain to dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • It is best to start with a dresser that has not been previously painted. If a painted dresser is your only choice, you may want to strip the paint before you begin these steps. Use metal handles to further give the dresser a rustic look.

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