How to Make Furniture With an Old Dresser


Old dressers made from wood, plywood or MDF--medium-density fiberboard--can be converted into other useful furniture items once they are no longer useful for the original purpose. Projects that take advantage of the dresser's box shape, such as bookcases, allow craftspeople to make few cuts and salvage as much of the wood as possible. Be sure to protect your eyes and lungs by wearing safety equipment when making cuts.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Hand saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Measuring tape
  • Shelf pegs or L-shaped brackets
  • Paint or stain
  • Remove the drawers from the dresser. They may simply slide out, or you will have to tilt the drawer up at an angle once it gets to the end of the track to remove it.

  • Unscrew any tracks, brackets, and gliders using the screwdriver. Remove any metal or plastic components used in the drawer system.

  • Use the hand saw to remove the front horizontal slats between drawer openings. If these slats were nailed into the sides of the dresser, remove them by making a cut in the middle of the slat and working the two halves out by prying. If the drawer hole was made by cutting a rectangle out of a larger piece of wood, saw the slat at each end flush to remove it. Do not remove the bottommost slat, usually part of the trim support, as it will be useful for stability. It may be more difficult to hand-cut MDF due to its composition, so start with a very sharp saw to avoid damaging the material.

  • Cut out any internal wooden components such as drawer tracks.

  • Sand down rough edges around the newly open frame.

  • Measure the inside width and depth of the empty dresser shell. Use those measurements to purchase wood shelving or to fabricate some out of boards. To determine how many shelves you need, consider what you'll be storing. Books will need more clearance than DVDs. For aesthetic purposes, make the bottom shelf level with the top of the bottom trim of the dresser that you left intact.

  • Install the boards by screwing L-shaped brackets into the sides of the dresser shell. Very long shelves will also benefit from having a third bracket placed under the middle to prevent drooping. The shelves will sit on top of the upside-down L's. Alternately, use bookcase support pegs. Those can be used for shelves that won't need bracing in the middle. Install them by first drilling shallow holes deep enough for the pegs inside the dresser frame at the level the shelves will be installed at. Each side of the shelf will use two: one to support the front and one to support the back. Press one of the pegs into each hole then place the shelf on top.

  • Paint or finish the dresser to your taste.

Tips & Warnings

  • Salvage the drawer pulls and other hardware for another project or donate them to a re-use center.
  • MDF and plywood are manufactured to contain harmful chemicals that are released during cutting. Avoid breathing in the sawdust by wearing a mask. The sawdust may irritate sensitive skin as well, so wear gloves and long sleeves if necessary.

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  • Photo Credit armoire 2 image by Nathalie P from
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