My Desk: A Refinishing Story.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

I mean, well, rather it's not like a real person desk per se.  And probably not the most earth-shattering DIY but I did learn share-worthy tips.

my office desk before
My desk before.
Of course this project was a way buried in the back of my mind, a someday, not on paper to do list.  Apparently I just cannot get everything onto one list in the binder.  Heh.  Ah well.  'Tis better to accept and move on I suppose.


So abruptly, mmk, that's it, it's time.  Time to redo the desk.  Stand up, clear the desk, unplug unplug, pop the top off thereby shoving my office into utter disheveled disarray thinking ok no worries, I'll have this back up and together in a day or two, no prooooobbblem.

Mm hmm.....

removing the desk and trying to work without it
Ummm.....That's functional.  Not.
Two weeks later.

Two?  Wow.  Yeah, I know.  Dry time plus life plus I travelled for the Hometalk NYC office visit which was fun.  Such great people!  But yeah, longer than necessary really.

The desk impetus?  A set of four hairpin legs that came from my parent's basement during The Big Cleanout.

hairpin leg gift
Thanks Mom and Dad!
For years and years and years my desk, if you will, consisted of metal sawhorse-like legs from Ikea and a panel of unfinished pine that I purchased jeez, I don't even know how long ago.  Nineteen years?  Whoa.  Really?  Uhh....

Originally I stained the wood light blue and sealed with polyurethane.  Over time the poly yellowed, boo, and made the blue look poopy and sad.  Actually the color was more like this pearl gray (scroll down) but surely I didn't have it mixed.

Plus too over the years, multiple moves between, parts of the sawhorse legs vanished so sh*t was a little wanky.

TLDR:  overdue for an overhaul.

Right, so enter the gift of those snazzy vintage hairpin legs!  They needed some lovin' which hey, ain't no thang.  Right?  Right.

First a water rinse, get the dirt off.  Next a seal of paste wax.*  All was going swimmingly until I checked later and noticed that eh, nope, something was awry.

cleaning up vintage hairpin leg
My camera was having focus issues so it's hard to see the weird white crunchy looking layer.
Not sure what happened there but mmmmk, not satisfactory, let's start over.

Grab a palmful of steel wool,* scrubby scrubby taking the wax back off.  I wasn't looking to remove the original black finish, just give the metal a fresher surface, if you will.

Scrubbed up some mild rust, wiped the legs of grunge and lastly gave them another coat of paste wax.  Bam!  Yay!  They're not perfect but so what.  They're vintage.  Generally revitalized and rust protected is great!

cleaned up vintage hairpin leg
Focus issues again, sorry but yay, look at how nice the finish turned out!  

Ok so next was the pine top.

Whip out my prized sander and ugh are you kidding me?  Why is this.....ooooh-mg, screw this sh*t.  Hello?  Where the f is the paint stripper?  Anyone?

applying paint stripper to desk top
Hello, no thank you!
So it began.

Dashed out and snatched up this 2 Minute Remover* (Wow does some interesting stuff pop up when you search that on Amazon.  Huh.)

Glop, glop, pour on a bunch, spread it around, walk away.

Upon returning and scraping the remover off I find that lo, the blue stain remains unmoved.  Untouched.  Unscathed.  Pointing and laughing, nah nah-nee pooh pooh, I'm still here!

process of stripper working
Uhhh.....(And by the way, don't do this indoors without ventilation.)
Huh?  Wtf?

So I pause and reflect, insert chin scratch, huh, maybe I've never tried to remove stain before.  Well.  Let's read the can, shall we....

Nope, no mention of removing stain.  Interesting.  Who knew?  I assumed stripper would also remove stain but nope, it appears that unless specified, it does not.  But we all know what happens when you assume, correct?

Back to the store I went.

This time though, I shopped online ahead to see if any claimed "hey we remove stain!" and all I could find was one:  Klean Strip StripX Stripper.

Don't buy it.

Upon return home, slathering up my hunk o' pine with high hopes, letting it sit and do its thing for a half hour, I find it won't even remove the polyurethane.

stripper didn't remove stain
You've gotta be kidding me.  For reals?
Quite bewildered at its inabilities, I clean everything off and try again.

Ooooh-nly to find nothing budging.  Again.  So I try an area where solely the stain was exposed and nope, like a petulant child, the stripper refuses to do its job.  No!  I don't wanna!  Wah!  Don't take those last two sentences out of context.

trying a different stripper to remove stain
Scrubby scrubby, scrape scrape.  Nothin'.  That's some BS, my friends.
Well.  This sucks.

Because you know what this means, right?  I'm back to sanding.

Which is absolutely not what I wanted to do, getting all the stain and poly dust everywhere.  Ugh.  But what can I do, it was the only way.  Alas, hosed.

Fyi, dissatisfied, I emailed the Klean Strip company requesting a refund; I have yet to hear from them.  Boo on you, Klean Strip.  Thankfully Menards accepted the return.  Go Menards!

So sigh, squish on a dust mask (why do these come in only one size, too large for my face?) (I should get a respirator,* I know, I know.) (But again, why is everything manly-sized?) (Men are not the only ones who DIY, people!) (Sigh.), pop some sixty grit into the spiffy sander, and power up.

Bzzzzzz, zzzzzzz, bzzzzzz, holy dust.

Years later, ok not years but it felt like it, all the poly and blue stain are gone whew so I run over the slab with some one-fifty grit.

By the way, if sandpaper grits confuse you, read this exceedingly thorough explanation on sandpaper:  How to Choose the Right Sandpaper Grit and Type from Bob Vila.

Once everything is as smooth as Hailey's ear fur which I miss terribly, I duck away to let the dust settle.

sanding the wood clean
Ahhh cough cough, it's wood again!
Come back next day, very-slightly-damp rag wipe the surface and it's fun time!  Yay!  Make it pretty time!  So I used the same Watco Black Walnut.*  Of course.  But hey, in all fairness, it has not made itself onto a project in a long while.

staining the wood top
I almost hear that song in my head as I brush the lovely lovely stain on....
Heh, paint it all black and stain it black walnut and I'm a happy gal, huh?  Yep, yessiree!

Now, the edges.

I did not try to sand the the stain off the edges, mainly because the short ends of the panel are well, ends, and those don't sand well.  I didn't bother with the back unseen edge and the front?  Well, I guess I just got tired of sanding.

What to do, what to do....I contemplated painting the edges white.  Hm, probably too stark and it will essentially cut a line right through the middle of the room, shortening any sense of height.  A color?  Maybe.

Instead I opted for silver leaf.  Excuse me, what?, you ask.  Silver leaf,* yep.  Ok, imitation silver leaf to be exact.  Whyyyy?, you may be wearily querying.

Well, because I have it and I wanted to reacquaint myself for a project on tap.

Originally I bought it (on eBay* as they had the best pricing) because, see, I wanted to apply it to the double window wall in the dining room.  Alas, thanks to that nifty laser level I quickly discovered that not a.single.corner nor window nor anything is square nor true nor plumb nor straight.  Nothing.  Nada.


I did not want to deal with dinnertime, Mike staring at it nightly, "hey babe, you know those silver squares aren't straight, right?"

So the sliver leaf was loitering about.  Until I decided to use it for the desk as a tester for this forthcoming cool project.  All I needed was adhesive so I ordered Wunda Size* as it said it was thin-able with water.  Hey, I like to make my money and products stretch, what can I say.

image of Wunda Size bottle
Leafing adhesive is different than regular glue-like substances.
Per the directions, toss a little adhesive on, wait wait wait for it to do its tacky set thang, then time to leaf.

applying sizing to edge of desk top
Didn't I juuuust work so hard to get rid of the blue?!
I was not going for perfect which is key because I forgot how insanely, beyond insanely delicate this stuff is.  Move it, touch it, breathe, and it practically dissolves.

sticking on silver leaf to desk edge
Once all the edges were largely covered (don't worry, I'll get more into silver leaf in that pending project post but generally speaking, yeah it's glue and stick), I sealed everything with the super cool paste wax.  All that was left was hauling this beast of timber back upstairs and reassembling.

attaching hairpin legs to wood desk top
Finn.  Always there to lend a sniff.
Set the legs an aesthetically pleasing, repeatable 1 1/2" distance in from the edges, flip, plug plug plug, skootchie everything back onto and around the desk and yay!  My life is ordered again!  Or my desk anyway.

Interestingly, the stained wood kinda sorta matches the floor which was surreptitiously part of my evil secret plan to visually enlarge the room.  And it worked.  Happy happy!

finished desk in place
So I sit down....

And heh, the top is totally way higher than before.  Like way high up.  Almost awkwardly high up, as in I feel like a five year old at the dinner table high up.  At first I thought it was me rapi-shrinking in my old age or at best needing to get used to a slightly higher top.

completed desk view
Sure, maybe the silver leaf isn't much different than a white painted edge but it's cooler at least.
But no, it can't be.  Something's off.

Maybe it's the chair that's strangely low, I dunno.  Ok, now I have to measure....

Oh.  Yeah.  Uh huh.

Finn examining my work
Hi Mommy.  I'm a large dog.
The desk is now thirty inches tall which is an inch taller than before, than desk average but spot on dining table height.  The chair seat on the other hand, yeah, sixteen inches, two inches lower than average.  Ah ha.  Doh.

Heh, well, this'll be quite entertaining then.  I like this chair though.  Hm.

Thanks Mom and Dad!
I suppose it's not so bad to feel like a five year old.  Considering my birthday is around the bend and I will not be five, the numbers are rather multiples of five(ish).....

Mike popped in my office yesterday morning and noted with an approving nod, "Oh!  Did you get a new desk?  What is this?  It's the same top?  What?  You stained it?  Oh!  All right!  Nice!"


*The paste wax, steel wool, 2 Minute Remover, respirators, Watco Black Walnut, silver leaf, and Wunda Size are Amazon affiliate links.  The eBay silver leaf link is an eBay affiliate link.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.

Post a Comment

Please no spam or links, thanks!