A Star-Spangled Dresser Redo

How to Paint An American Flag Dresser

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky;
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!
*  *  *

We all likely learned the flag salute as school children, pledged our allegiance to it every day in class and learned about the symbolism of each star, stripe and color. I recently had the opportunity to learn some lesser known facts about Old Glory, such as what are the overall dimensions of the flag, how wide is each stripe, how many stripes touch the blue field (union or canton) and what is the diameter of each star.

A Leesburg interior designer came to us with a custom order to paint the flag on the front of a child’s dresser. She wanted to surprise her client with a great gift for his son’s bedroom. Also, her client is no ordinary client, but an active duty U.S. Marine Corps officer.  I had to make sure this flag was accurate—a Marine officer will surely notice if the finished flag has only 44 stars or 11 stripes!

Before US Flag Dresser

The dresser was painted by its prior owner with several coats of high gloss latex paint. It also had thick, stenciled fleur-de-lis on each drawer. I like to sand stencils completely because their thickness can show through the final paint job. I used medium grit sandpaper to remove the gloss and stencils, then fine grit for final smoothness.

flag dresser_sanding

I like to mark the bottom of each drawer with its “position” as I remove it. (“UR” for upper right, “ML” for middle left, etc.) That way I won’t risk scratching or gouging the finished drawers by inserting them multiple times in my search for the correct opening.

flag dresser_labeling drawers

Next, I painted the cabinet and drawers.

flag dresser_blue cabinet

flag dresser_white drawers

The challenge for this project was to compute the width of the stripes and the size of the stars in correct proportion to the overall width (hoist) and length (fly) of the flag.

Here’s the website I found with the standard proportions of an American flag to help me calculate this math problem.

Dividing the height of the dresser by 13 to figure out the width of the stripes was the easy part. I also needed to figure out the size of the blue union and the diameter my stars needed to be in order for everything to fit in perfect proportion to the real deal. For this dresser, the stars needed to be 1 1/2″ diameter. Any larger and all 50 stars wouldn’t fit. Any smaller and it just wouldn’t look right.

After computing the key flag dimensions from the dresser size, I marked the stripe and canton locations on the drawers. My handy drafting t-square kept my lines straight and parallel. T-squares run between $12 and $25, or around $40 for a graduated t-square (inch and metric). Well worth it if you need perpendicular lines longer than a standard 12 inch ruler.

flag dresser_tsquare

I then used painter’s tape to identify the red stripes and the blue canton. I applied 3 coats of each, then let all dry thoroughly before carefully removing the tape.

flag dresser_tape

flag dresser_stripes1

flag dresser_untaping

flag dresser_drawer

The next big challenge was applying the stars to the canton. I was fortunate to find an online site that offered several sizes of canton stencils, from 3 inches to 22 inches long. I chose a 17 by 13 inch size that matched up well with the flag’s proportions and featured all 50 of the 1 1/2″ diameter stars I needed for this project.

Although this dresser has nice flat drawer surfaces, the edges have a slight curve that could have interfered with a smooth stencil job. Three important tips worked well for me when I stenciled the stars.

First, I taped the edges of the stencil firmly to ensure that it did not move while I applied the paint. Second, I held down the stencil around each star as I worked on it. This was a very large stencil that needed some extra help staying flat, especially around the curved edges. Finally, I applied many light coats of paint on the star cutouts and let each coat dry thoroughly. This last technique prevented the paint from bleeding beneath the plastic stencil and thereby smearing the stars.

DSC_0018 (2)

flag dresser_stencil2

flag dresser_starsandstripes drawer


Here’s the finished dresser:

flag dresser


Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!                              
from “The Flag Goes By” by Henry Holcomb Bennett

~ Dave

All Things New Again is a family-owned furniture and paint boutique in Leesburg, Virginia (about an hour or so west of Washington, D.C.) We offer our own eclectic brand of hand-painted furniture, several lines of paint for your next DIY project, and painting classes and workshops. Please stop by the next time you are in town!

6 responses to “A Star-Spangled Dresser Redo

  1. Wow! That is awesome! Your attention to detail is amazing. Thank you for sharing at What We Accomplished Wednesdays. Have a great week!
    Blessings, Deborah

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