The first thing I did was sandpaper all the rough surfaces and edges. As you see, there were two handles missing, but I removed all of them since I was going to replace them anyway. Then I painted the chest dark brown. I tried to mix a lighter shade, but gave up. Eventually, it turned out just right. When it was dry, I first gave it a coat of mahogny stain and then a coat of varnish.
For handles, I took pieces of an old ankle chain.
If you think it was a h-ll of a job to take it apart and assemble again, it was. Whether you think it was worthwhile is for you to judge:
But now, with a mix of nostalgia and guilt, I have replaced my old piece:
It is perhaps not as elegant as the Georgian chest made from kit, but I am still very pleased with it.