As promised, here's a step-by-step tutorial on the process I used to refinish the nightstands I shared last week. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to send me an email!
I started out by removing the hardware, filling the old holes, and drilling a new one in a pre-measured spot to accommodate my new hardware. To set the new hole in its proper place, I measured the distance between the old holes (since I liked their height) and divided by two (yes, math comes in handy!!). As for the filler, I'm not too picky about the brand, but I prefer to use something in a tube versus a flat container, because it keeps the product moist (very important with filler) and therefore easier to manipulate (it's been my experience that no matter how hard I try to keep it sealed, the product in the flat container dries out quickly).
After sanding, I wiped the piece down with a damp, lint-free cloth to remove all of the debris, then it was painting time! Because the key to a great refinishing job is prep work, I primed the nightstands with both white and grey primer (I used what I had, but grey is great if you're going dark), and allowed it to sufficiently dry before applying the paint. You don't need to worry about the primer being perfect (like it was a top coat), but you do want to make sure that the piece is fully & evenly covered, especially if you're skipping the sanding step.
Spray paint, while easy, is not my favorite thing to use on furniture because of the streaking. However, since I had plenty of black spray paint laying around, I decided to use what I had on hand and applied the paint with my trusty spray gun. As most of you know, an inexpensive spray gun is a must-have when using spray paint. Even for the smallest projects, it ensures even coverage (as best as possible) and will keep your index finger from feeling like it's going to break off after applying several layers of paint. Remember, the key to spray paint is to keep the can moving and apply light coats! It's much better to do several light coats than to be impatient and try to cover the whole thing in one pass. A heavy application will cause the product to run (leaving drip marks) and make drying difficult. I generally like to do 4 light coats, but it depends heavily on the starting condition of the piece.
After applying several light coats and allowing them to dry for a day (I like my pieces to cure as long as possible), I applied the protectant using Minwax Wipe-On Poly and a lint-free cloth. The key to using it is to build layer upon layer until you get the level of gloss you like, so I generally do 2-3 coats for a medium gloss. When the occasion calls for high shine, I recommend 5-6 coats, but just remember that they should be light. I generally use the Clear Gloss (versus Clear Satin), and the lint-free cloths can be found in the same aisle as the Wipe-On Poly.
I allowed the top coat to dry for 3 days to allow for off-gassing, and I recommend you do the same, if you have the time. This will ensure that your home won't be subjected to toxic fumes, and will also ensure that the piece is cured and ready to withstand picture frames, keys, glasses, etc. (at a minimum, your piece should dry for 8 hours). After curing, that's it--your beautifully finished piece is now ready to be placed front and center in your (or your client's) home!
Any other tips from my fellow refinishers? Also, if you're still unsure of what to do with your piece, drop me a line! :)