Take the dresser outside to your workshop. Remove all of the drawers from the dresser and carry them to your workshop separately to make the dresser a whole lot lighter and easier to move. Use a hand cart for tall thin dressers, and ask a friend to take the other end of a long dresser.
The first step to refinishing an old oak dresser is to use an electric handheld sander to remove all of the old paint, stain, or polyurethane. A lot of dust will be created when you sand. You do not want all the dust particles from the sanding inside of your home. Ventilate your work area well. The dust released from sanding should not be breathed in. It can make you sick. It’s a good idea to wear a face mask while sanding.
Use a rough grit sand paper on your electric sander to remove all layers of old paint, poly, or stain. Sanding it will also remove any small dents, nicks, or scratches in the wood. Sand the top and sides of the dresser then sand the front. Remember to sand the front of each drawers, and all of it’s edges. Once all of the old finish has been removed from the dresser and from each drawer replace the rough grit with fine grit and sand them all one more time. The fine grit sand paper will give the oak wood a very smooth, blemish free surface.
When you have finished sanding your old oak dresser, and all of its drawers, use a soft dry cloth to remove all of the dust created from sanding. Once all of the dust has been removed you are ready to begin refinishing.
The best type of finish to apply to a freshly sanded old oak dresser is polyurethane. Oak wood is naturally beautiful. Poly gives a washable surface and protects the wood. The beauty of the oak wood though is still visible as the polyurethane is completely transparent. The old oak dresser will look like brand new and will have a gorgeous shine. Apply the poly using a foam paint brush. Apply the first coat to the dresser and to the drawers then allow them 25 minutes to dry. Apply a second coat for added shine and protection.
Allow the dresser and the drawers to dry over night before bringing the dresser back into your home. Do this to avoid damaging your new finish.