Capitol View Roadside Stand
Updated: Jan 30
Pre-pandemic, when I worked in my office just about everyday, I rarely took the interstate highways to my downtown Atlanta office. To avoid traffic, I would take take a meandering route via state highways and residential streets. One route took me through the Capitol View neighborhood of southwest Atlanta which was a neighborhood in transition. Old houses were rapidly being purchased, renovated, and "flipped". As a consequence, there were frequently discarded items piled on the street in front of these houses.
When I had a few minutes to spare, I would troll the streets of the Capitol View neighborhood looking for furniture to rescue. Every so often, I would find furniture that was well-made but abused. If it was solid wood, well-constructed and small enough to get into my vehicle, it came home with me.
One such morning, I found a sad nightstand sitting amongst some rubble and trash. It was terribly rough-looking. The finish on top was all but gone. There were stains and cigarette burns on the top plus a number of nicks and gouges here and there. I almost left it behind given the damage. However, it was well-made, solid wood, and had a dove-tail constructed drawer. I thought the lines of the piece would integrate nicely in my guest room which was in need of a nightstand. The guest room was furnished with a collection of sundry pieces that I had acquired here and there. However, despite their disparate provenances, they harmonized nicely in the room. With a little work, I knew I could transform this ugly duckling into a nice addition to my motley crew of furnishings.
Process and Products
I wish I had thought to take work-in-progress pictures, but, alas, I did not.
Stripping and Prepping
Removed old drawer pull
Detached doors and removed the wire mesh inserts from the doors.
Stripped the old finish with Kwik Strip paint/finish stripper using a toothbrush to get into the crevices.
Cleaned residue using Kwik Strip After Wash.
Allowed to dry thoroughly for a day or two
Sanded it using medium grit sandpaper to smooth out the nicks and scrapes and remove any residual finish. I also sanded the interior of the cabinet and the drawers.
Sanded it using fine/very fine to further smooth the wood and prep for stain and varnish.
Removed sanding dust thoroughly using a vacuum cleaner.
Wiped down using lint-free cloth dampened with denatured alcohol to remove any remaining dust.
Finishing Top and Frame
Stained the case and top only using Varathane Kona Gel Stain
Applied 3 thin top coats of MinWax PolyShades Expresso Satin
After each of the first two coats of the Polyshades, I allowed it to dry overnight. The following day, I lightly rubbed with 0000 steel wool. Then, I thoroughly vacuumed it to remove all the steel wools bits and dust. Finally, I wiped it down with lint-free cloth dampened with denatured alcohol.
Note: I knew the stains ran too deeply into the grain of the top to be sanded away. So, I would not be able to stain it the original stain color of light brown. However, the dresser in the room had a dark mahogany case and top with maple drawer fronts, so I decided to follow the same color scheme. By, staining the top with a very dark stain, I could camouflage the damaged areas of the top. The Varathane gel stain worked nicely; it clung to the vertical surfaces. However, the stain alone did not provide the opacity/coverage that I desired to hide the defects. So, instead of clear polyurethane, I used MinWax PolyShades which has the stain mixed in with the polyurethane. Normally, I typically do not use such products as a time-saver since it I do not think it showcases the grain like traditional stain. However, since I was trying to hide damage, this product was appropriate.
Refinish Drawer Front and Doors
Applied 3 thin top coats of MinWax PolyShades Golden Oak Satin
After each of the first two coats, I allowed it to dry overnight. The following day, I lightly rubbed with 0000 steel wool. Then, I thoroughly vacuumed it to remove all the steel wools bits and dust. Finally, I wiped it down with lint-free cloth dampened with denatured alcohol.
Note: It appears the drawer front and doors were made of poplar which is not a pretty wood. It had natural streaks of khaki that the light stain would not cover up. I had initially stained the drawer front with traditional stain but was not happy with how the stain took. So, I had to bleach the stain out and re-sand. Again, I opted for the Polyshades product which, as I mentioned earlier, was something I never use. However, in this case, it was the best option. It provided even coverage of stain hiding the not-so-pretty poplar. So, I now think PolyShades is a good product when you want to camouflage wood defects; however, I still would not use it with nice-looking wood as it does not enhance the natural beauty of wood.
Replace Door Inserts
Cut M-D Building Products Aluminum sheet for door inserts.
I simply laid the door on top of the sheet of aluminum and traced the opening of the door onto the sheet using a silver Sharpie. Using tin snips, I cut 3/8" outside of the the tracing.
Note: The old wire inserts did not hide the contents of nightstand so the punched aluminum made for a neater appearance.
I ended up using a drawer pull that I had in my "stash". I just happened to have one that "worked" in terms of size, style, and finish . (I frequently buy such items for a $1-$2 when they are put on clearance at DIY stores.)
I had a hard time finding knobs that were small enough for the doors. I finally found what I had in mind on Etsy. Tiny drawer pulls.