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Desk Part 4: The Break Down

So we went from this

To this

Then on to this

And this is what it cost

Desk- $52.00

Handles-$27.00

Stripper- $11.98

Stain-$8.49

Tung Oil-$10.07

Paint for handles and broken foot-$2.98

Glue and resin for broken foot-$6.98

Sand paper-$2.00

Steel Wool-$3.97

Brushes-$1.00

Shop towels-$10.98

Contact paper-$9.99

Gloves-$2.00

Grand total $149.44

A good number of these things (Brushes, wood glue, paint, stripper, shop towels, contact paper, steel wool)are things that either I just had on hand already or have some left over and will be used again for future projects.

In case anyone was under a different impression I just want to note that I am a complete amateur at this. As in, I’ve never done anything of this sort before in my life. There were a lot of firsts with this project. I had never used a rotary tool before, never stained anything before (at least not wood and not on purpose). I had never used Tung oil. I had never used a resin to sculpt something, never had to reapply veneer or try to remove shellac (hopefully I will never have to do those two things ever again). The point is, I believed I could do it. More than that I believed that this sad little cast off of a desk could be something beautiful again, and I’m so very glad that it’s my something beautiful.

Now I do believe there is a dining room table that is begging for some t.l.c. as well. But in the mean time I may need some smaller projects. If any of you have any suggestions I would greatly appreciate them. In fact feel free to follow me on Pinterest so we can swap ideas.

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Desk Part 3: The Cherry On Top

Oh! Finally! The home stretch.

All that’s left is to put handles on. One of those (the one seen in the blog post here) required new holes. I left the drilling of said holes up to someone else. Mainly because I don’t trust myself to get them positioned correctly.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part Zero, Part One, and Part Two

I decided to paint the outsides of the drawer sides. Mostly because I got stain all over them. It wasn’t pretty, and even though I have no intention of leaving the drawers hanging open all the time it will be nice to have them look decent. Instead of looking like I’ve slopped stain all down the sides and hastily tried to wipe it up just to have it spread around. Which is what actually went down. Paint fixes everything in my book.

After one coat of my go to Dark Kettle Black.

I also lined the drawers to cover up the ink stains and various other oddness. This is very much a two person job. Not just a two person job, but a two person job in which you must delegate tasks according to strengths and weaknesses. It turns out my boyfriend is great at spreading out the contact paper smoothly however horrible at holding the contact paper up. I’m the opposite. Actually my boyfriend is likely better at both of those things but that night he couldn’t hold his arms up six inches after having spent the day painting a ceiling. I remember that pain and am not eager to relive it.

The cat approves of this one

The aforementioned handle makes an appearance

To do this you might want a credit card or a small squeegee to smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles, as well as an exact-o knife to cut the excess as close to the edge as possible.

So now absolutely everything is done and ready to be moved in. Its time you see why I was so eager to get a new desk.

This is the setup I’ve been dealing with for the last six months. It’s rather unpleasant in the way of room to work not to mention aesthetics.

Yup he approves

This is so much better, although I will be playing around with the setup over the next couple of days and I doubt my CPU will stay up there. Either way a vast improvement.

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Desk Part 2: In Which the Naked Desk Gets His New Clothes

Yes, my desk is male. Yes, he likes frills and corner details and gilding. Do you have a problem with that?

So when we left off my desk had gone from this to this after a couple of very hot weeks in late august.

You can see its progress in Part 0 and Part 1

After that I wasn’t particularly sure what I wanted to do with the beast. Originally I was going to refinish the top with an ebony stain and paint the base with a grey chalk paint. Then I had planned to go over it with a dark finishing wax to give the carved elements dimension. However, after getting the whole thing sanded down I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to cover up that beautiful wood. So after some convincing and seeing what the top looked like stained I decided it would be worth the little extra work to stain the whole thing with a light ebony stain.

The top with its ebony stain.

I know light ebony sounds like an oxymoron … what I mean is just one light coat of an ebony stain to darken up the wood without adding any additional red since the wood was already reading as red (I’ve no idea what kind of wood it is but it’s very red).

I did some additional sanding over the whole piece with some fine grain sandpaper prior to staining then used a lint free cloth to remove any dust from the desk before actually applying the stain.

Before and after staining on the back panels and drawer fronts

I found it quite hard to get sawdust and lint out of the corners and carved detail no matter what I did. I finally hunted in the bathroom for a bulb syringe to blow air into these areas  and that turned out to be the perfect tool. It was far more efficient than a dust cloth or for that matter my lungs when it came to the crevices.

After all the staining was done it was a matter of protecting the finish I had just worked so hard to get. I originally purchased a can of polyurethane just assuming that’s how you finish things. After doing some research I decided to forego the ungodly coats of poly for just a couple coats of Tung oil. Tung Oil is pretty interesting stuff. If you’re thinking of refinishing furniture any time soon you should consider it as an alternative to poly. It was really easy to work with, a very quick process, and as far as I can tell quite durable. The only prep involved for the Tung oil was a quick buffing with a fine steel wool followed by dusting.

A couple of freshly stained drawer fronts getting the steel wool treatment before Tung oil.

In the end I’m really glad I went with staining the whole thing versus painting.

Tung oil really brings out the grain of the wood without being overly glossy.

Oh and remember that broken foot. It didn’t take stain luckily I had some paint handy, at least it’s an improvement.

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A Quick Revamp

I have an overabundance of makeup brushes. In addition to jewelry boxes as seen here and here. It comes with the job. So I got rather excited when I saw this little desk organizer at target one day for $3 in their back to school bin of goodies.

Admittedly it’s not particularly attractive, but 50 yards of ribbon can fix anything… or is that duct tape?

I didn’t want to paint it or decoupage it because it’s something that is going to have to be cleaned regularly just like my brushes. (speaking of which need a good wash) A little bit of tape or hot glue securing the ribbon on is easily removed for washing.

I just continued to wrap the ribbon around the cylindrical shape of the (now) makeup brush holder … and…Tah-Dah!

Much less cluttered than the drinking glasses and candle holders that previously housed my brush collection.

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Handles

Not that handles

Let me rephrase. Drawer pulls. By that I mean I found some to replace the not so attractive ones that were on my desk. Only problem is I wanted the center (I think this used to be called a glove drawer or something) to have a long lock looking pull but there were none that matched the knobs I picked out

Nothing a little paint and eyeshadow can’t fix. Yes, you read that right. After rough sanding the handle to get off any loose paint or patina I painted it black, or close enough.

I then went over portions of the handle that were in relief or would see a lot of wear and tear with a chocolaty brown color.

Then while the paint was still wet I packed on a bronze colored eyeshadow with a dry brush to match the bronze patina on the knobs for the shorter drawers.

Once I was satisfied I dusted off any excess shadow with a soft cloth, and sealed the pull with a clear acrylic. Now I actually have a matching set.

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Desk Part 1: Safety First

I could have called this “Always wear gloves and goggles” or “Shellac is the bane of my existence” or “Sweat does not evaporate in 60% humidity” maybe “DO NOT! Sand in 90 degree heat”. I vote not doing anything in 90 degree heat anyway.

There is always a learning curve and these are the things I’ve learned in the first part of this project. If you missed Part Zero you can find it here

Where do I start? Oh yes, the bane of my existence. That lovely shellac. In case you don’t know what shellac is, here is the short version. Its excretions from a tiny bug dissolved in alcohol and painted onto furniture…. Yes I’m serious. Click here for the long version. Why? I have no earthly idea. It’s not particularly scratch resistant, it turns white when it gets wet, and god forbid you ever want to remove it. It’s an old (I don’t know how old) piece of furniture so I’m not surprised that it’s covered in shellac. Over the years shellac has fallen out of favor to be replaced by much more durable varnishes and polyurethanes. This piece however was caked in a very deep red/amber colored shellac and it has not been fun to remove it.

So about removing it. Sanding sort of works. For the most part though it just gums up your sand paper. And if you were paying attention yes, alcohol will dissolve it. However you have to work incredibly quickly and waste a lot of paper wiping it away, otherwise as the alcohol rapidly dries and you’ve essentially just reapplied the shellac. For the most part strippers aren’t particularly efficient on shellac. I managed to luck out. I have a stripper that I’ve used on a couple of other projects in the past that is absolutely marvelous. Its non-toxic and biodegradable. I have no idea what it’s made of but it even has a bizarrely pleasant smell.

Unlike latex paint its not going to strip it off in lovely sheets that just plop off nice and clean. Instead it turns the shellac into this strange gloop, it’s like blood and viscera… let’s just say always wear gloves unless you want to look like an axe murderer

So after attempting to sand the top and resorting to stripping the whole desk it turned out not as bad as I thought.

Look, I found a water ring hiding under all that shellac and stain.

I also found some pen scratches and what I can only figure are cigarette burns, but after lots of stripping and sanding I found some gorgeous wood underneath.

The poor broken foot received a prosthetic. This is where goggles come in. Always wear goggles when using a rotary tool. Tiny bits of resin in your eye are no fun and also will hinder your sight so that using your rotary tool to sculpt so everything is all nice and neat instead of doing it by hand becomes a moot point.

The before and after of the stripping process on the drawers.

The drawer that had the cracked veneer loosened but has already been re-glued. It’s thick veneer (about 3/16) which made it quite easy. My photographic evidence of the repair work failed me.

It’s looking rather vastly improved already. Now just to figure out what to do with it now that it’s naked.

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Desk Part 0: And So It Begins

Sorry for possible histrionics and definite garrulousness but I am so excited. I got a desk. It’s old and beat up and possibly unstable, but it’s mine and it’s going to be fabulous.

The story of how this desk came to be in my possession is actually kind of odd. I walked into a local thrift store and immediately fell in love with it. It was the first desk I saw after I decided to finally go looking for one. The clerk who was working there at the time was incredibly nice and helpful and directed us to a few other desks they had in the store. She let us know that they also have several warehouses that they rotate out stock from.

Then I though “there are plenty of fish in the sea” so I spent the next day wandering around antique stores and thrift shops looking for a desk. Every one that I saw got compared to that first one in my mind. So I went back… and it had a little name tag hanging on it. Oh, my heart sank. It didn’t say “sold”. It was just a name and number, so I asked the sales clerk what the deal was. This new clerk wasn’t particularly helpful and had no clue whether it was sold or not and didn’t seem to want to help me with anything else. I left thinking I would never see the desk again.

About a week later my boyfriend said “hey, let’s go back and see if that desk is still there”. I wasn’t particularly keen on the idea, but figured it was worth a try. We walked in and there it was still sitting there, no name on it. The clerk who was working the first day I came in was there again. She let us know that the other customer who was in the store at the same time was also interested in the desk. It figured. She just needed to go home and measure to see if the desk would fit in the space she wanted it for. So the clerk was going to put the customer’s name and number on it as a hold. This solved the mystery of the “not quite sold” tag. I told her the story so far of my longing for this desk and asked her to call me right away if the other customer wasn’t interested.

My boyfriend and I headed out for some birthday fun for him and about an hour later on our way to dinner my phone rang. It turns out this desk and I were destined to be together.

It has some issues, like a broken foot, though that doesn’t seem to bother the stability of the desk. The (incredibly thick) veneer on one of the drawers is cracked and poorly mended. The drawer stops are missing on a few drawers. And don’t get me started on the state of the top. It also looks like someone spilled and entire bottle of ink in the top left hand drawer (the logical place to keep an inkwell… if you’re left handed?).

These are all things I have full confidence I can fix, or at the least hide. At $50 I feel like even if it takes more than that amount to fix it I’ve still gotten a bargain. They don’t make desks like this anymore. I don’t really know much about it as far as style or time period so if anyone can tell me anything about it I would be greatly indebted to you.

Stay tuned as it begins to get its makeover.

The top with it’s abundance of scratches

The aforementioned broken foot

Where the ink spilled over from the drawer onto the desk and the stops which are missing on many of the drawers

The fancy sides… and the name Jordan carved into one of the drawer fronts

The cracked veneer and missing drawer stops

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Yet another

I wasn’t lying when I said there was an overabundance of jewelry boxes

So another one got a makeover. First off, milk paint has a learning curve. The whole thing was a pretty open and shut case prior to finding a bargain batch of milk paint a Michael’s one day. I was just going to replace the broken handles and paint it to match the existing ones I had already done. But then there it was screaming at me. Those bottles of pretty pastel powder.

Knowing I was going to use milk paint I sanded the box completely down to the bare wood. It turns out its maple, and it smelled amazing.

As is typical of me I just jumped right in without doing any research. Google might as well not exist as far as I’m concerned. I just read the simple instructions on the back and decided that was good enough. A one to one ratio of the powdered paint and warm water. Ok sounds good. So off I went doing test patches on the bottom of the box that I sanded. I found a color mix and consistency that I liked, this one was three parts blue one part green and an equal amount of water. Then I went to town on the box. I wasn’t satisfied with the coverage so I figured I would do another coat. But oh yeah… water soluble, powdered paint. Guess what happens when you go over it with more liquid. It just pulls up what you’ve just put down.

So in the end I just had to thicken the mixture to get a higher coverage. Like I said it was a learning curve. It’s still patchy but in the end I decided to distress it so it fits with the overall look of the box itself.

The handles came from my usual favorite idea-ology line. They are made for cardboard box storage so have brad attachments but I found making a pilot hole and using a small hammer to pound in the brads worked just fine at securing them into the wood.

After everything I sealed it with a couple coats of satin clear coat to prevent the milk paint from wearing off or going all liquid at the drop of some water. Hopefully that will do it, or if it doesn’t it will give me an excuse to refinish it again and maybe straighten out that top handle in the process.

 

It didn’t turn out too shabby for my first (possibly last) attempt at milk paint. I had to custom mix the paint in order to attempt to match anything else I owned but it actually doesn’t look that bad. Clearly I am biased in this matter. Let me know what you think.

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Best $10

This might just be the easiest project I’ve ever done. It’s also up there as one of the cheapest and most versatile. If you read my On The Horizon post you got to see a little sneak peak of these babies.

But I am beyond pleased with how they actually turned out. They are made out of very light weight (what I think is) balsa ply and ranged in price from $0.89 to $1.39 for the largest one. The paint was $2.89 for a sample pot of Valspar Dark Kettle Black. Of course this project didn’t make a dent in that sample pot and I will likely be using it for various other projects. It’s not really a true black but the most glorious charcoal color ever. Did I mention grey is my favorite color. You could just as easily use spray paint but its more expensive, its messy, its smelly, and it would use a whole darn can just to cover them because it goes everywhere except where you want it to… but I’m biased.

 

Because these frames are so light I just hung them with straight pins. Yes the kind you use to tack a hem. You could just as easily use 3M adhesive strips or blu-tack, but pins were handy and they leave nary a hole to be seen. So for about $10, we will say $13 with paint I turned my money wall into the wall of nothing. The wall of money was far too small for such a large expanse of blank wall so I was glad to find a cheap way to fill it.

These little balsa frames are possibly my new favorite thing and I’m sure I will be getting more for future projects. They would be marvelous with strip magnets on the back for a refridgerator frame, or if you have a massive steel front door and birds who love wreaths (the struggle is real). It would make a good alternative welcome sign to the ridiculous mesh monstrosities adorning houses around the country. You also don’t have to stick with boring black or brown. It would be an easy, as well as easily changed way to inject a pop of color into a space.

It also just makes a lovely thing to carry around in case of accidental photobombing or as a classy selfie prop. Seriously though these would be wonderful hanging from trees or the tent at a wedding for just that purpose as well as adding a bit of decoration to otherwise neglected areas.

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In the rear view

I stated in On the Horizon that there were a lot of projects I had done before I started this blog. Really that’s the whole reason I started this blog. That and some pretty fierce and wonderful prompting from my boyfriend. It seemed about time I document my crazy and creative endeavors for the world to see, or at least so I can remember how I accomplished such a thing down the road a ways.

I’m really quite terrible at taking before and after pictures. I remodeled the house I lived in one time. The whole kit and caboodle, 1960’s floors to popcorn ceiling. We completely forgot to take before pictures. So no one ever believes me when I tell them it had orange shag carpet throughout. When I say throughout I mean even in the bathrooms. Live and learn. Your camera phone is your friend.

I just thought I would take a quick second to share the few projects that I can document, though for the most part without before pictures. If you see anything you love let me know, leave me a comment. If you see anything you want to know how to do or where I found the stuff for let me know I am sure I can recreate some of these for a proper tutorial.

I hate switch plate covers. Particularly ones that are the hideous contractor’s choice beige. It just looks constantly dirty. Sure you can buy new ones for pretty cheap, but you can also mod podge them for pretty cheap, and it turns out much cooler. It also happens to make the light switches easier to find fumbling around in a dim room, and comes off with hot soapy water so this is something you can easily do in a rental.

The wall-o-money is really rather self-explanatory. I have an inordinate amount of foreign money and saw a rather wonderful way to display it on Pinterest one day. So some old frames, some new frames, some paint, and some craft paper and I had myself a strange bit of “art work” for my once bare walls. As a warning it is heavy stuff. You may also notice with a coin collection, whether foreign or domestic that the coins are varying thicknesses. I got around this with a little Styrofoam backing which a lot of new frames will come with. As strange as this looks to people I like to point out that I have a frame full of absolutely worthless currency as the majority of it is pre-Euro era European currency. “It’s a commentary on the transient nature of wealth and the shallowness of our material culture.” Damn right it’s “art work”.

Did I mention in addition to being ridiculously girly I have a … nerdy streak? I’m not entirely sure you would call it that. Put it this way, I play video games (perhaps too much) I like comic books and super heroes (who doesn’t?) and I have a soft spot for quantum physics (mechanics just to placate my boyfriend). Anyway, I think this was my favorite project of last year. I was bored and between jobs so I needed a cheap and yet time consuming project. The super hero coasters were born. Let me know if you would like to see a tutorial on how I created these. I’ll take any excuse to do some more even though I’m pretty sure six is plenty.

 

Of course there have been other painting projects as well. This sad shabby microwave stand got an update as a tv stand

And this oh-so 90’s cherry wood veneer night stand became a not so cherry wood veneer night stand.

Once again let me know if there are any projects you would like to see me create (or reacreate) in future blogs. And let me know what you think by commenting, liking, subscribing, following on Facebook or just sitting there reading. I appreciate all of it.