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How to upcycle a chest of drawers

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Difficulty: Beginner

Upcycling your chest of drawers can be a simple and cost-effective way to make it more stylish and functional.


This simple guide shows you how to refresh your chest of drawers by sanding and painting. As this project involves power tools, please follow all safety guidelines provided by manufacturers and use the recommended protective gear, including safety glasses and a face mask.

Video Tutorial


Step 1

Remove all the hardware.


Disassemble the drawers from the chest cabinet.


Remove any hardware, including handles or knobs. Drawer handles are usually secured by screws that can be accessed from inside the drawer front. You can use a drill driver or a screwdriver to remove the screws.


Step 1.1. Remove hardware.png


Step 2

Sand the drawers and the cabinet.


Use an orbital sander and 120-grit sandpaper to remove the varnish and colour from the surface of the drawers. Try to keep the sander moving constantly. Leaving it in one spot for too long or applying too much pressure can eat into the wood and damage your furniture.


Now sand the cabinet using the orbital sander and 80-grit sandpaper. My cabinet had a thin layer of wood on top of the chipboard, so I switched to a 120-grit sandpaper once the wood started to appear.


Switch to a palm sander and sand the cabinet’s corners and edges. Do the same for the drawers. I also used the coarse sanding pad in my sanding sponge kit to sand those parts that the sanders were unable to reach.


Sand the cabinet and the drawers again using 240-grit sandpaper for a smooth finish.


Step 2.1. Using an orbital sander.png  Step 2.2. Sanding the cabinet.png  Step 2.3. Cabinet after sanding.png



Step 3

Clean the drawers and the cabinet.


Use a leaf blower to remove all dust and debris from sanding. I used a leaf blower but a small brush would also do the job. 


Now wipe the drawers and cabinet with sugar soap wipes and a cloth. Wait for them to dry.


Step 3.1 Clean.png



Step 4

Apply the stain and varnish.


Use a paint brush, roller or a clean cloth to apply your preferred stain and varnish on the drawers and the cabinet. Apply the stain in the direction of the wood grain. Check out the guide How to lime wash timber furniture for more advice on how to apply the stain.


Apply three coats, leaving each one to dry fully before applying the next. Refer to the label for instructions on how to use the product.


Step 4.1 Apply stain and varnish.png


Step 5

Reattach handles.


Reattach any handles or knobs you had removed in Step 1. if you prefer to use new hardware, make sure your new handles require the same size of holes as those in your drawer front. 


For the top drawers, I primed and painted black mushroom knobs with Dulux 300g Metalshield Etch Primer Spraypak Light Grey and Dulux 300g Metalshield Hammered Finish Spray Paint Bronze. I used new leather pulls for the remaining drawers.


Style accordingly. You have now successfully upcycled your chest of drawers.


Step 5.1 Re-attach handles.png  Step 5.2. Upcycled chest of drawers.png  Step 5.3 Upcycled chest of drawers from the side.png





Step 1.1. Remove hardware.png  Step 2.1. Using an orbital sander.png  Step 2.2. Sanding the cabinet.png  Step 2.3. Cabinet after sanding.png  Step 3.1 Clean.png  Step 4.1 Apply stain and varnish.png  Step 5.1 Re-attach handles.png  Step 5.2. Upcycled chest of drawers.png  Step 5.3 Upcycled chest of drawers from the side.png

3 Replies
Retired Team Member
Retired Team Member

Thank you @Renowayoflife for sharing this simple D.I.Y. project. Love the look you have created on your chest of drawers.


Those looking for more information on upcycling different types of furniture can find similar guides underneath the topic labelled Recycling and Upcycling in our How To section. These include step-by-step guides like: 



Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. We'd be happy to assist.



Finding My Feet

Wow! Hard yakka. Commercially I do not use sandpaper anywhere near a veneered surface. So easy to go through and end up with bare patches. I always use a stripper, ( not appreciated by environmentalists ) wipe off and lightly burnish to finish. Tight corners and moulding comes clean with a scraper. Good on you for upcycling the cabinet but.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Thanks for joining in the discussion and sharing your knowledge @arfabuck. Sounds like you have plenty of experience to share with other Bunnings Workshop community members so we look forward to seeing more of your posts. Feel free to contribute whenever you need a hand with a project or have something to share with other members.






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