When we moved this summer, we had an old dresser that had previously been stored in the garage that needed a major overhaul before I could use it inside. I was pretty frustrated with keeping my clothes in plastic tubs; so I mixed up a homemade tea and steel wool stain and started on what turned out to be a pretty big project. My original idea was a tea & steel wool stained dresser. Then my first batch of steel wool stain was accidentally spilled. I used 000 grade steel wool that soaked in white vinegar for over a week. It was a beautiful deep grayish brown. After the stain was gone, I assumed it would take another week to produce a new batch. Wrong! You can use dollar store coarse steel wool soaked in vinegar for 1 day with great results!
I combined 2 pads of dollar store coarse steel wool with about 1 1/2 cups of white vinegar in a glass jar. I left the jar uncovered to give the mixture access to oxygen and to prevent pressure build up in the jar. You can loosely cover the jar.
The night before staining, I brewed 6 bags of tea with 2 cups of boiling water and left the bags in the water for 12 hours. I left the tea in the pot it was brewed in while brushing it on.
The dresser I was staining was almost discarded because of the shape it was in. The dresser had been used to hold tools/electronic items. The top of the dresser was missing and random paint streaks covered the front. Rough patches and holes on the drawers were previously filled in and sanded well in advance of applying the stain.
I removed the drawer handles and painted some of them with layers of aqua crackle & green holographic nail polish plus a little fire opal glitter. Once dry, I sanded them lightly with 320 grit sandpaper.
I used my Dremel 4000 to carve out two shallow areas in the top of the dresser. I carved through the top a bit so I filled in the holes with wood putty and sanded once dry. My vision for the top of the dresser was a messy, industrial, steampunk look. I decided to fill in the carved out areas with resin & tiny bits of hardware and watch innards.
First I applied a coat of tea and after that dried, I applied a coat of the steel wool stain. It takes 15-30 minutes for the color to fully develop but it will darken. Four hours later I applied a coat of Polyurethane to the entire dresser.
Then I made the decision to coat the entire top of the dresser with epoxy resin. I added a second coat of polyurethane to the bottom of the dresser. The resin hardener I first used had turned a golden hue but I figured it was not a big deal because it would match the wood dresser. Ultimately, the resin was too old & cured too soft for my liking. I ended up pouring two coats of the yellowed resin before I caught on. I went back a couple of weeks later and added a clear coat of new resin to finish the top.
Tea & Steel Wool Stained Dresser
- Random Orbit Sander with 150 grit disc
- 220 & 320 grit sandpaper
- white vinegar (you can use apple cider vinegar)
- 2 small coarse steel wool pads
- 6 bags of tea: 1 earl grey, 5 black tea (added to 2 cups boiling water)
- Dremel 4000
- Small Galvanized Wire Nails for decoration
- Clearcast 7000 Epoxy Resin
- Envirotex Lite Pour On High Gloss Finish Epoxy Resin
- TKB Trading Mica Powders: Ocean Green & ??????
- Disposable Plastic Cups
- Crafts Sticks
- Small hardware pieces (sold individually at Ace Hardware) & watch components
- China Glaze Crackle Glaze Nail Polish in Oxidized Aqua
- 2B Colours Nail Polish in Holographic Green
- Martha Stewart Crafts Glitter in Fire Opal
- Extra Fine Glitter in Crystal Diamond
- Beauty Treats Glamour Glitter in Teal
- Rust-Oleum Varathane Heavy Use Oil-Based Polyurethane in Clear Gloss
- Amy Howard 2.5″ China Bristle Brush
- Unicorn Spit Gel Glaze & Stain in: Zia Teal, Blue Thunder, Purple Hill Majesty & Pixie Punk Pink
- Rustoleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover 2X Gloss Clear Spray Paint
- I used a 150 grit disc with my random orbit sander to go over the entire surface of the dresser.
- The dresser was then wiped down with a soft cloth.
- To 2 cups of boiling water, add 6 bags of tea. Leave 12-24 hours to brew (removed from heat.)
- I brushed on 1 generous coat of Tea Stain to the sanded dresser and let it dry for one hour. The tea stain adds tannin to the wood & allows the steel wool stain to have a greater effect.
Steel Wool Stain
- Add 2 small pads of coarse steel wool to a glass jar & cover with white or apple cider vinegar. Leave uncovered (or loosely covered) for at least 24 hours. The longer you let the mixture react, the deeper your final tone will be. Steel wool oxidizes when combined with vinegar and it begins to rust; causing the wood to take on a darker color.
- Pull out/strain the steel wool from the vinegar and let the mixture sit for several hours before using.
- I brushed on 1 generous coat of Steel Wool Stain. The color begins to develop after 10-15 minutes and after 30 minutes there is a remarkable deepening in the color. The Steel Wool Stain colored the dresser & drawers various shades of a cool gray tone. The stain dried for 4 hours before sealing.
- Wire nails were pounded into secure areas in random areas of the top of the dresser for decoration. I was careful to add sections of nails where there was something to nail into.
- I brushed on 2 coats (4 hours apart) with an Amy Howard 2.5″ china bristle brush. The Polyurethane was applied to the entire dresser for the first coat. The Polyurethane was applied to all but the top for the second coat.
- I cleaned the brush with olive oil and Dawn dish soap (instead of mineral spirits)
- I set the dresser onto an extra large flattened cardboard box & made sure the surface was level before pouring.
- For the resin preparation, the Clearcast instructions were followed exactly. Be sure to measure your resin (1:1 resin to hardener) by volume, not by weight.
- I poured the resin onto the dresser top and spread it with a large craft stick.
- The metal pieces were placed in the carved areas and I also sprinkled & blew TKB Trading mica powder over the top of the resin.
- Allow the resin to cure for 24-48 hours before moving the dresser. Allow the resin one week to fully cure before setting anything on top of it.
- I did end up adding a second layer to the top after 2 days to even out the surface. I lightly scuffed the surface with a sanding sponge which made it look scratched up and white. The second layer of resin adheres better when the surface of the dresser is lightly sanded. The scratches disappear when the resin is poured on top. I wiped off the sanding debris with a soft cloth and the second layer of resin was poured. I dusted the top with glitter and dropped a little crackle nail polish in random spots after the resin was leveled.
- The resin cured on the soft side (which can happen when it gets old; so my fault for using it.) To fix this, I added one more layer of Envirotex Lite Epoxy Resin and the top was complete.
I decided (very last second) to paint Unicorn Spit Gel Glaze & Stain on the sides of the drawers. Unicorn Spit can be blended with your hands, a brush, or spritzed with water & covered with plastic for blending.
Unicorn Spit is water based, non-toxic, and has a nice jasmine scent. The Unicorn Spit dries to a matte, chalky finish but the color is revived & bold once sealant is applied.
Unicorn Spit needs to be sealed with an oil-based sealer because water based sealers cause the colors to bleed into each other & erases your design when the paint is reactivated. I sealed the sides of the drawers after 24 hours with Rustoleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover 2X Gloss Clear Spray Paint. Large Unicorn Spit projects look amazing sealed with polyurethane or epoxy resin.
The Tea & Steel Wool Stained Dresser is a success! I am all about the very classic gold and white furniture I am seeing online lately but I went in a totally different direction than metallic and opaque paints. I love the weathered look the tea & steel wool stains produced! Resin with glitter is a favorite but I like the washers, nuts, and metal pieces a lot too.
The stains were quick and easy to make but once I started the project, I took my time and did a lot of embellishing. I knew that once the dresser was filled with clothes, that would be the end of finishing touches. The sides of the dresser drawers were a beautiful gray tone without any further work but I really wanted to use Unicorn Spit in a design that mimicked wood grain.
Refinishing & decorating furniture is a process but it was a wonderful excuse to spend the last sunny, warm days of fall working outside. The finished dresser is vastly improved and should hold up for awhile now. My only problem is that the drawers are pretty small and shallow. I will keep my eyes open at the local thrift shops for a companion so the rest of my clothes can come out of plastic tubs.