I found this gorgeous piece with Leslie at the last Aberfoyle Sunday in 2010. If you live in the GTA and have never been to Aberfoyle, you need to check it out; it's a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
I ended up paying $50 for this piece, and I knew it had good bones, so definitely worth it.
Whenever you purchase a heavily painted item at an Antique show, you never quite know what you're getting yourself into (but that's half the fun right?!?) As a tip, often if you pull out a drawer or look at the back or underside of an item you can determine the type of wood (in this case I was pleasantly surprised).
I use Circa 1850 Furniture Stripper, and it usually takes a few coats (depending on how many layers of paint and stain you're penetrating). The key with this stuff is patience- best to complete in sections, you need to let it be so it can sink in. It's ready to go when the entire surface has bubbled up. I use a a paint or tile scraper to help remove the first few coats of paint. You cannot just sand these items due to the potential lead in old paint.
Once the paint is removed, you can use steel wool and the circa to get a smooth finish before you sand.
In this case, my intent was just to strip the top and paint the other sections, but I ended up liking the wood so much I stripped the drawers and sides as well. I used varathane on all of the natural wood surfaces to keep the wood protected. As much as I loved the original hardware, I needed something a bit more modern that would compliment the other furniture and colours in the room
Tip: If you have an old dresser with sticky drawers, use a candle to rub wax on all sides of the drawer tracks and the bottom sides of the drawer- works like a charm!