Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cerused Oak Dresser...My Lane Masterpiece is Finished!!

If you saw my earlier post, you know I've been busy with my newest vintage piece.
The Holy Grail of mid-century furniture, the elusive and oh-so pricy vintage piece,,,drum roll,,,,,
"The Lane Brutalist".  
This cubist look is from the Paul Evans style/design.
W-pedia says the word Brutalism actually comes from the “French b├ęton brut, or ‘raw concrete, a phrase used by Le Corbusier to describe the poured board-marked concrete with which he constructed many of his post-World War II buildings.”
(y'all didn't know you were going to get a history lesson did you?!)

So, this is by far the most time consuming and intricate work I have done on any piece. 
I saw this exact dresser in a MCM designer store in Hollywood with a price tag of 7K. 
Yes, K stands for thousand.  I guess these pieces are highly sought after around LA and the westside! Personally, I think it's a bit overpriced. Hah!
I've chronicled my process with lots and lots of pictures. Be forewarned. 
(Don't forget, click on the picture to see it larger and more detailed)

I guess I should show an after shot so you stick around.....OK...whatever....

I know I'm going to catch hell from all the wood purists. OMG, how could you paint that??!
"How could you??" or "You ruined that", or my fave, "What's wrong with you?"  huh??
If you fall into said category, no one is holding a gun to your head and making you read this. 
Go away.  Besides, this is 1970's oak. Not Wenge or Koa.  So just slow your roll and 
calm the heck down.  M'kay???? Besides, I didn't technically paint it. I ebonized and cerused it. 
Yes, I did that ceruse thing again. And if you don't know why you don't see more of it, it's because it's a ton of work. Of course so is painting each one of the little blocks, by hand. 

So here's the process. Stripping. Put on some music and something lacy,,,,,,
no wait, wrong stripping  ;)
Soy gel.  Yep. I swear by this stuff. It's made from soy beans. Completely non-toxic. No fumes and cleans up with water. And it works just as well as its chemical counterparts. 
I don't know why people even use those chemical strippers. 
Do you really want to wear gloves and a mask??? Why???

 Letting the gel sit and do its magic
I think I left this on for an hour or so. 
You don't want to let it dry though, it's harder to remove. 

As with any stripper, you have to scrape and remove the residue. But unlike the others, 
you can remove this residue with water and scrub brush and toss everything into the trash or wash it down on your lawn, without worrying about the environment. 
Not gonna lie, it's still a sucky job.
Every part that was going to be dyed needed to have the old finish stripped. 
I absolutely abhor this part. I love to sand. But this??? Oh hell no. 

After stripping and wiping it clean
Perfectly stripped raw wood. Oh, and I sanded every inch of this dresser. These drawers had to be done by hand (you can see the marks of the orbital sander in the pic below on the 2 ends). I had to fold a piece of sandpaper in order to get into the little crevices. 
I also varied the grits. 
In preparing for the ceruse technique (you can see another post on how-to HERE), you need to keep the wood somewhat raw to keep the grain open.  Below is the pic after applying the ebony aniline dye (Ebonizing). You must remove every trace of prior finish, otherwise the dye will repel. That is also why just sanding off the old finish won't suffice. You must get everything out of the grain. I think the top got 4-5 coats. Sometimes its hit or miss the way it stains. On certain parts I would have to go back over and sand and then apply the dye. 
Dye actually absorbs into the wood whereas stain sits on top. The dye is mixed with water and absorbs/dries very quickly. It's dry to the touch after 10 mins. 
It didn't matter if I got messy with the dye, those smaller squares will be painted black. 
I wanted to see how it would look, so here was the tester square. 
I wanted to make sure I like the black smaller squares with the cerused larger ones so I did a few drawers.  I did the top because I just had to see how awesome that grain was going to look!
Just to get to this point I think I was already at the 12 hour mark. There are so many little details in prep for the ceruse that I don't have pictures for.  All the fine sanding and using a wire brush on the grain and the actual liming,,,,,I don't have pics of that. 
Trust me when I say oodles of time.......

Oh...wait... The busted up pedestal it sits on.  I've forgotten that! More time! 
You can't really see in the before shot, but the veneer was shot.  This base was made out of pressboard and probably got wet and some point. When this stuff gets wet it blows apart. I could have just glued the veneer back on and called it a day, but since I was going first class with everything, I decided to remove it and replace it. 

The other half was kind enough to do this part.
Only the front board was intact and stayed on.

All brand new and better than the original. 
Primed and painted in BM semi-gloss black
After ebonizing everything, you have to seal it with a mixture of shellac and denatured alcohol. I don't have pics of that. It's just more time consuming stuff. Some parts had to sanded again, dyed again, and then shellacked again. Sigh. So after the squares got the liming wax and then cleaned off with clear wax, I had to wipe down the neighboring squares so the paint would adhere. I primed some of the squares because of this. All these little squares were done by hand, let dry, sanded smooth and done again.   Sometimes a 3rd time. 
The little ledges that face up got extra care so as not to have any globs or drips. 
There are nine drawers. I spread this out over 2 weeks. 
And just because I hadn't invested enough time, I thought I would sand, shellac and paint all the drawer sides in a gorgeous shade of cobalt!!  It's my thing, what can I say?
And this it looks like this when it's all done. 
Kind of like the red on the bottom of Louboutin shoes. 
I staged this with two different rugs....tons more pics!!!

                                   Total time spent???  Shoot, I lost track. 25-ish??? 

                               Different rug and added a chair just for some variety. 

Thankfully, this is the last of the pics! Hope you enjoyed.  


  1. I think you've started a trend with cerusing. I'm starting to see it all over blog land now. Great Job!

  2. Outstanding! That is simply glorious.

  3. Beth, amazing work! I now have a Lane Brutalist on my list of 'must haves.' Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. What a stunning transformation Beth - I take my hat off to your for your staying power, because that is a huge amount of work. Make sure that the person who buys this gem knows how much work you put into it!!

  5. that has to be one of the most un-attractive pieces i have ever seen.

  6. Sorry the piece looked better ( and I love black painted furniture) before the cerussing.