Restoring a cedar chest

Restoring a cedar chest

Finding the old and making it new


This cedar chest was found at an estate sale I went to with my mom just to look around and kill some time. We both fell in love with this piece when we saw it. It’s all solid cedar pine and still has that soft pine smell when you open the lid. The inside is in perfect condition but I couldn’t say the same for the outside. I knew I needed to restore this piece and let its natural wood grain shine through.


Tools for the job.


sandpaper 60 or 80 grit or a sanding block paint thinner
120 grit sandpaper for softer finish rubber gloves
heat gun paper towels
putty scraper clean dry cloth
wood stain protective eye wear
polyurethane (top coat/sealant)


My main goal of this project is to restore the chest to its natural glory.

I brought the chest into the garage and began working. I started with the heat gun and putty scraper working in small areas at a time. Heating the paint just until it started to bubble. Then as parallel to the chest as possible began scraping the paint away.

On a perfectly flat surface it should all come off, but on this piece has a lot of scrapes and dings. It was clear the previous owner  keet painting over it. Some of the paint stayed put and that’s okay. The legs/stumps also had to go. One was missing when I got the piece and frankly I just like it better without them.

Once most of the paint was scraped off I got my 80 grit sanding block. Working on the edges and more of the hard to reach places. I had removed about 95% of the paint but, the paint stuck in all the dents and scratches just were not budging. Time to bring in the big guns!

I grabbed my paint thinner and put a hardy coating over the areas that still needed paint removed and waited for it to take action.

Depending on the amount of paint to be removed the time differs slightly. I waited about 20-30 minutes before checking. Then with the rags, wipe off the paint thinner and the remaining paint will come right off. You can get a damp rag to go over the piece a final time to make sure there is no residue left over.

*side note: I could have done the whole thing using paint thinner. I personally prefer to use as little chemicals as possible on pieces like this.

With the 120 grit sandpaper I did a once over to make the surface as smooth as possible. When that was finished I wiped off any lingering dust from the sand paper and went to work of staining it.

All I did was one coat just to give the piece a more uniform color as close to the natural wood grain as possible. I let it dry over night and finished it off with a coat of polyurethane. This helps to protect the wood and give it a nice soft satin finish.

If you have a favorite piece of furniture that you found and refinished tell me in the comments below!

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