Refurbished Oak Desk

Yaaaaaaaaay it's done!  It took a long time.  Yes it did. I thought the desk was a poor buy (even though it was only 25 dollars) because the top had this gross piece of vinyl on it, and parts of the desk are plywood with veneer overtop.  Fortunately, I managed to rip the vinyl off and the top doesn't look half bad, "rustic" let's call it.  Besides, once it was painted black, who could tell if it's plywood + veneer instead of solid wood... no one! Here is the


Please forgive me for the slightly terrible photos, my iPhone camera is a trooper and the only one I have!  Here is what I did to the desk to get it less orange and more black, less vinyl and more wood:
1. Sand every piece possible (very gently on the veneer parts)

2. Rip off the vinyl and sand the top down as much as possible, oil with lemon oil. 

3. Prime.  With oil based primer. 

4. Paint (latex) a lovely black (Opening Night from Home Hardware)

5. Put on some new hardware (3.99 cup pulls from Home Depot)

6. Seal with a satin finish polyurethane  like this one:

Here is a gross photo of the gross vinyl. Bleh we hates it.

A hefty amount of scraping and sanding was required to get all the old glue off: 
There is still some work to be done ... I would like to put a better varnish on the top to make it durable.  Also to add some decorative moulding around the edges, to protect them, and also to protect us from splinters! (I already got one from it and it hurt REAL bad).  There is also some staining to fix in one of the drawers, presumably from some devilish little tyke who left the lids off of their gel pens ...
I want to do a post on the many uses of baking soda because NOTHING lightened the ink stains better than it did.  The other drawers aren't nearly as bad 

Here is the desk top up close

You may be wondering about the cut out piece in the middle? So am I.  My genius father speculates it was either an attempt at a cut out for a typewriter back in the day, or a poor attempt to fix a cut out for a typewriter.

Please ignore the cardboard on the window as seen in the photo below, it was exceptionally sunny out and it was either take the photo right there and then or take it when I returned to Toronto in January, so just deal with it.

One last before and after for posterity.


  1. Oh, McBeth ~

    I am so DELIGHTED with your finished project!!! It's beautiful!

    Having no idea you had this blog, I went there from FB in hopes of seeing the desk, and was a bit confused at first. I saw all these amazing pics at the top, then I spotted the deck at Gower and knew it was you!!!

    You are AMAZEBALLS!!! Love Melinda XOXOX

  2. Tried to post this with my wordpress address and it said "URL ILLEGAL CHARACTERS". I don't even know what this means, but I've been such a straight arrow my whole life that I rather liked being charged in BOLD RED with something illegal. ;-D

    So, "anonymous" was my only other option to Squeal With Excitement over your desk.


  3. Hello,
    I came across your blog during a search. I'm also refinishing an oak desk. Yours is so beautiful! Can you please tell me how you removed the ink stains from the drawers using baking soda?

  4. Hi Viktoria,

    All I did to lessen the ink stains on the drawers was shake some baking soda over the stain, sprinkle a little water over it (just enough so that it makes a watery paste) and then I used an old toothbrush and rubbed it in a little. In my drawer this helped to lighten the stain, but didn't remove it completely. Basically, the baking soda takes on the colour of the ink and lifts it gradually from the wood. I found however, that it was hard clean the drawer of all the baking soda afterwards! Apparently using rubbing alcohol can help too, here's an article that might help you . You've given me new resolve to try to get the ink stains off completely! Good luck with your desk :)

  5. Can you please instruct on how you removed the old drawer handles? I have a nearly identical desk and cannot figure out how they are attached. Your desk is GORGEOUS. Quite an inspiration! Thank you.