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Zarack 09-19-2008 10:40 PM

Stain an old desk
6 Attachment(s)
I'm in process of finishing stripping on an old flip-top school desk.
Pretty much down to bare wood now. Had to resort to sanding, can't use chemicals (allergic reactions), so the only other way I knew was to sand.

In any event, I'm looking for some help in how to best go about it.

End case should (hopefully) be a very nicely walnut or oak stained desk which; if its feasible, I'd like to bring up to a high shine (polyester stain?, varnish, shellac, lacquer?). Some pics of the desk below.

Thanks for any suggestions or help.

mark942 09-20-2008 06:05 AM

Hi Zarack
First thing "High Gloss" Finish,You will need to do some more sanding on your desk to remove the white paint. There are a lot of imperfections as well. But then you may like the rustic look. But the white is going to pop as will the imperfections. "Had to resort to sanding, can't use chemicals (allergic reactions)", Most of the finishes you have mentioned are chemicals. Water base Stain and a Water base Polyurethane might be some thing to look at. Lower VOC`s. Nice desk by the way.............:thumbsup:

Zarack 09-20-2008 03:26 PM


Thanks a lot for the comments and recommendation. I've sanded quite a bit more on the desk since those pictures were taken a couple of weeks ago. The date on the pics is wrong, camera calendar had gotten out of whack.

In any case, I'm going to keep on sanding until I have it all down to bare wood. Then, if I'm understanding it right, I just need to apply either of the water based stains you suggested. I wasn't sure if I had to put some kind of sealer or something on the desk before I stain it.


slickshift 09-20-2008 04:01 PM

What spectacular old wood
Even with some imperfections (which frankly, can keep it real), I'd strongly consider oiling it

Head on down to your local paint shop, or woodworker's supply
Ask about Tung oil
...not "tung-based, or tung-type" like Fornby's
100% like Hope's

Take down some wood scraps and ask for a demo, or the Paint Store to do some paint stir sticks
When you see what it does to those, you may want to consider it for your great old desk

There are also Danish Oils and such that have a little "stain" in them if the Tung Oil doesn't darken it enough for you

It may not be for you, or for this project, but really there's nothing else like it
Worth looking into anyway

mark942 09-21-2008 06:59 AM


Originally Posted by slickshift (Post 159793)
What spectacular old wood
Head on down to your local paint shop, or woodworker's supply
Ask about Tung oil
...not "tung-based, or tung-type" like Fornby's
100% like Hope's

Good Call Slickshift. Might I add to your post Slickshift.I would then go with a wax after the Tung oil. Like it says in my Avatar,Forgot more than I know. Zarack,here is a little project I did a couple of years ago. I found this on the side of the road. Another mans trash is another mans treasure. As to seal before stain question. I would stain,then seal. But like Slickshift said "Tung oil". Then I would hand rub wax it for the sheen your looking for. Woodworkers stores are probably your best bet for this kind of application. Your project is going to look great with either choice you make.

Zarack 09-21-2008 01:41 PM

Great advice - thank you !!!
Slickshift & Mark:

Wow, the suggestions on the Tung Oil and the follow on hand-waxing sound like what I am looking for on the desk. Super good stuff.

Thank you both for your responses and comments.

If you "found" that piece on the roadside, Mark, I sure would love to know what roads you drive down these days! What a great piece and what a great job of returning it to the land of lovers of fine wood construction. Bet the dude's truck that it fell off is heartsick about missing it now.

As they say in the trades: "They just don't make 'em like that anymore".

I'll put up a couple of pics when I get finished with the desk. However, to do it justice, I think it will be another while before I get it to the point of finishing.

Again, thank you.

P.S. I sent a note to the creators of this site a few days ago and thanked them for bringing it up and running it so well.


mark942 10-25-2008 06:21 AM

Zarack how is your project coming along?

Zarack 10-28-2008 11:34 AM

Mark, still chuggin' along, thanks

Many thanks for asking. I'm sorry about delay in response. Been tied up pretty much and just worked my way free...

Still have not "finished" the "refinish" in terms of paint/stain or whatever.

Been dabbling with taking the desk down to basic wood (about 99% done)and found some of the 'provenance' that proves that this ain't no museum piece. But it's still a beautiful old piece that; if I ever finish, will probably look good in a corner of my house.

I'm enjoying the work; as I get time to go back to it. Can't decide how best to tackle the finish part. Your suggestion on Tung Oil, etc., was great but I'm not sure that's what I want now.

Everyone on DIY has been very helpful. Have gotten some great guidance so far and really appreciate that.

I'll let you know when it's finally done. Don't hold your breath too long, though. :wink::wink:

Again, thanks for asking - hope all is well with all your projects also.
Best regards,
Zarack :whistling2:

Ale8One 04-16-2009 02:54 PM

I was just given an old school desk. It has a red metal base with a swivel chair. The top is wooden with two places for pencils and it has a hole between the pencil holders. Does anyone have any information about the desk. The wood top looks original. The top also has a metal hinge in which to hold the desk top open. I want to keep it all original but it really needs a good cleaning inside and out.

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