I was really excited to find his mid century credenza on craigslist. I haven't worked on one in a while and as soon as I saw it I was already thinking of what I wanted to do with it... patin it all white and leave the legs wood.
After picking up the piece and seeing it in person there was no way I was going to paint over the drawers. They weren't perfect, but I wanted to keep the varying directions of the walnut veneer on the drawers. I began by wiping the piece down to get any grease and dirt off of it, then I began sanding. Trying to strip and sand the drawers would have taken forever and I was too scared to ruin the drawers and that varying veneer.
I first wet sanded the whole piece with 220 grit sandpaper. I wet the drawers and the sandpaper and lightly sanded, making sure not to remove the old original stain (other wise I would have an uneven finish once stained). There didn't seem to be any poly or other topcoat finish left (it probably dried out and wore off), but wet sanding helped to get any layers of that finish that I couldn't see and dust/dirt build up from over the years.
Next, once everything had dried, I went back over everything really lightly with 400 grit sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block. Both times when I sanded the drawers I made sure not to sand the center strip of veneer in the opposite direction. If I had done that, there would be obvious scratch marks. A good wipe down with dry and damp paper towels got everything clean. I did let the piece sit for about 30 minutes before beginning staining to let any moisture from wiping it down dry out. The fun part was seeing how the Java Gel stain really gave the wood a rich color. If you want to see how to apply Gel Stain over an existing finish, click here. I also have a video tutorial and post here.
Since this is an oil based product the dry time is longer. I let it dry for 48 hours (24 would be fine), but the weather turned to cooler temperatures and I wanted it to really be set and cured. I sealed all of the wood areas with General Finishes high performance topcoat in satin. At this point everything looked pretty good, but the top didn't take stain as well as the rest of the piece, and the corners had been dinged so some veneer was missing. I decided to fill the corners and paint the top white for contrast. After sanding and filling I rolled on 2 thin coats of my favorite primer, Zinsser cover stain. This primer is really great at sticking to lots of different surfaces and blocking out tannin bleed through. I sanded with 320 grit sandpaper once it dried, wiped it down, and applied 2 thin coats of General Finishes Snow White Milk Paint (it's not actually milk paint, it's an acrylic paint). I used a foam roller, but held the end of it so it didn't roll, but glided on. I didn't want that roller texture. The next day I sanded again with 400 grit sandpaper and then applied 2 more coats of the white paint with a brush. Once that was dry I sealed it with GF's high performance topcoat in gloss. The last thing to do was attach the original hardware. Here's the sleek and modern after.