A long time ago, way longer than I would care to admit, I answered a Craigslist ad about a desk. As TB and I walked up a steep flight of stairs to take a look I will admit that I was hoping I didn’t like it since we would have to carry the desk down those steep steps. TB is a good sport and all but I don’t want to hurt him. (Which incidentally happened when we dropped off a bedroom set. More on that project soon.)
Well of course I loved it. I thought it looked awful. I really felt like that little desk was so embarrassed at how it looked and for me to see it in such a state. There were stickers on her, poor thing. There were the layers of paint, with the most interesting layer being a faux wood grain look. In no way did it look like wood grain. It really looked like a small child finger painted all over it. The seller had wanted to refinish it and had started sanding but had tiny children and really didn’t have the time. So now it was my turn.
Just as expected the desk was made very well – translation: heavy. After getting it down the stairs with strength I didn’t know I had, we brought her home.
And there she sat. I wanted so much to restore the beauty I knew must be under there somewhere. But I have to say it was a little overwhelming. There are a lot of nooks and crannies that I usually avoid when looking for a piece. After TB gently mentioning “Maybe your next project could be that desk” way more than once, I got to work.
First I stripped the whole desk. My plan was to then stain it with maybe a walnut stain. I had all these visions of how regal and lovely it would look restored. And then I ran into this.
This is white paint embedded deep into the grain of the wood. What’s that you say? Sand the hell out of it? Well it’s not that easy.
This desk, like a lot of furniture, has its surfaces covered in veneer. Veneer is very common and doesn’t indicate a piece is cheap. On the contrary, even the “cheap” wood used for the inside of the drawers back then is nicer than most things produced today. It was/is a way to use more expensive woods like mahogany more affordably. My problem was that if I sanded the hell out of it I could sand a hole right through it since veneer is only a very thin layer of wood.
So instead I used the problem as my solution. I had just watched Million Dollar Contractor and he had used a technique called cerusing that I figured I would try. Basically you take a wire brush and brush the wood going with the grain making grooves, stain it, whitewash over it with watered down paint then scrub the paint back off with steel wool. What you are left with is paint in the grain of the wood with the rest of the wood showing through.
Let me warn you that this whole process is really an arm work out. I got a little excited and took off more of the stain than I originally wanted to but I like where it ended up. I think the kind of stain I used also played a part. Now the desk had paint in the grain on purpose. Like that was our plan all along.
So here is the after.
I hope that I made this old girl feel pretty again after all the bad things that had been done to her. She has such good lines she deserves to be in a beautiful office again being put to use. She’s available for sale in The Shop.
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