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Getting Schooled by a Desk (Part I)

April 24, 2012

About 4 or 5 years ago good friends of ours bought a major fixer-upper of a house.  If I went into more detail about that I would be posting for days.  Anywho, down in the dungeon basement the previous owners left a solid oak saw horse-like desk.  It was covered in years of paint spatter and some foreign sticky substance.  Our friends had no desire to keep the piece, but I had vision (as always).  This desk has some serious bones.  I asked to keep the desk and it has been in storage for the past several years.  A few weeks ago I had Ryan pick up that desk and finally bring her home.

You can see how the top is covered in paint and goo.  I knew it would take patience and time but it could look totally awesome.

The drawer has a funky old-school pull.  Not my style so the plan is to remove the hardware and putty the holes.  By adding a new contemporary drawer pull the desk could totally fit my style.

I toyed around with staining the piece black to match the other black cabinetry in our Master Bedroom but ultimately decided on painting it black.  We have a bunch of black pieces in our bedroom, which is where I envision the desk going for staging purposes when we move (mentioned here)  and to be honest painting is way less time consuming.

I spent an entire Friday evening sanding that baby down.  First thing was to remove all that old paint and varnish.  As usual, I got out my good old trusty Ryobi Orbital Sander.

I started with a low grit and gradually went higher to get a smooth finish.  I also wore a heavy duty mask to protect myself from all the sawdust and paint particles.  Knowing my luck, it was probably lead paint so better safe than sorry…haha.

It took me a good hour to get that baby sanded down.  My poor little hand didn’t have feeling from all the vibration of the orbital sander  for what seemed liked days.  The surface turned out pretty well, but there was still some of the sticky residue left behind.  I ended up getting out a scrapper and removing the gunk.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of the scrapper sooner, I guess I just assumed the goo would sand right out.

After the sticky substance was gone I gave the top another run over with the orbital and 220 grit sandpaper.  There were a bunch if holes in the desk so of course my prep wasn’t quite finished.  I had to get out Elmer’s wood filler and my putty knife to fill all the imperfections and the old holes from the drawer pull.

I used the putty knife to get the filler into the holes by slowly dragging the knife across, getting it on the table smoothly.

Of course, I waited for the wood filler to dry then took the orbital sander to it one last time with the same 220 grit sandpaper.  The top of the desk was finally smooth as a baby’s butt awaiting the next step in this forever going Friday night prep.

Whenever I re-finish any piece of wood furniture I always take the time to prime it with oil-based primer.  I’ve tried latex primer in the past but it doesn’t adhere and finish as nicely.  My favorite oil-primer is the original Kiltz formula.

They actually make oil-based primer in a spray formula, but with a project this large it would end up costing me an arm and a leg.  The spray primer goes on very smoothly and is less messy in clean up.  I absolutely hate cleaning up anything oil based which is why I try to cut as many corners as possible.  I lined my paint tray with foil.  It’s genius if you ask me (of course, because I thought of it!).  When I’m finished priming all I have to do is remove the foil and throw it away.  No messy mineral spirit cleanup here!

I used a brush on the legs, sides, and the underneath then used a 4″ smooth foam roller for the top.  Again, I am lazy so i just threw away the roller and brush when I was finished.

I made sure to wear my mask and crack the garage door while I applied the oil primer.  Apparently that wasn’t good enough because I definitely had some light-headedness going on when I finished.  Good thing I have a few brain cells left to kill….haha.  When it was all said and done, this is what my finished oil primed desk looked like:

Phew!  That was a lot of work on a Friday night.  Immediately following I rewarded my hard work with an ice cold Michelob Ultra…and it was well deserved!  You’re probably wondering how I was ‘schooled” by this desk…that’s still to come.  I am in the current stage of trying to remedy this….stay tuned!


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