Friday, October 22, 2010

How To Refinish Furniture - The Desk Project by Stacy

Hi! Its me Stacy from Not JUST A Housewife! I love building and refinishing furniture! It all started when I was a newly wed and received a ton of hand-me-down furniture from family and friends. Most people probably would have left it "as is" until they could afford new things. But not me. I wanted them to look nice and match right then ( I don't have a whole lot of patience). So I figured out how to fix them up. I still have almost all of that furniture and some are my favorite pieces even though I have lots of new things too.
Today I am going to show you how I refinished an old desk that has been collecting dust in my mom's barn for years! The first picture is the before before.

And here it is all cleaned up. The before picture :)

 It needed a lot of TLC. It had a minor crack on the top, thumb tack holes along the front, and chunks missing. It also had a broken leg. I first addressed any repairs that needed to be made. I used Elmers stainable, paintable and sandable wood glue. I put glue along the crack and let it sink in. Then I wiped it off with a damp paper towel.

Putting the large clamp on caused some of the glue to squeeze out so I wiped it again. I glued and clamped the broken leg too. I used a small C clamp.
The desk wasn't the best ever made. The drawers were held together with only 2 nails on each side. Needless to say, they weren't very strong. I re-enforced them with my brad nail gun. I looked around the desk and found some other spots to re-enforce as well. Really I just like to find reasons to use it. It is my favorite tool!

 I let the glue dry for a day before I took the clamps off and sanded it. I was lucky because it was pretty much all flat. I did most of the sanding with my hand sander. There were only a few spots I did by hand. You need to remove the old finish so the wood will accept the new stain. If you have something that you want to refinish and it would be hard to sand, you can use gel stain. I have used that several times with very good results. I use Minwax's gel stain. You can apply it over existing finishes. It is thick and sticky. It would be best to practice on something else first to get the hang of it. For an example, see my bathroom HERE.

 It is all naked and ready for a new look! I almost forgot to mention that I used putty to fill in any small cracks or nail holes. Putty, let dry, and then sand. I use Elmers stainable, paintable, sandable wood putty. I used the natural color because it was outside and so was I. I should have used the darker colored putty (it was ALL the way inside ). This putty is stainable, but to a point. That is why they have a darker color. I added more stain to the puttied parts and it worked out fine, but in retrospect I should have got off my big behind and got the darker putty!

In a situation like this, I use oil based stains. This wood was old and dried out. The oil in the stain helps the wood. Plus it dries slower than waterbased stains and gives you more time to work at getting an even finish. Waterbased stains sink in fast, especially with dry or porous (soft) wood. You can also use a wood conditioner before applying the stain. It is sold in cans just like the stain and is milky white. I always use foam brushes too. There aren't any brush marks and it makes for easy clean up. Just toss them in the garbage!

 I let the stain dry for a day and a half. It needs to be completely dry and not sticky at all.

Then you can add the polyurethane. I love the smell of polyurethane! I know, I know, in the state of California it is known to cause cancer yadda yadda. . . But I love it. In a well ventilated area of course. It brings the wood to life and protects it. I use Minwax's Fast Drying Clear Satin finsih.
And drum roll please. . . . . .

Taaadaaaa! Isn't she a beaut??? All I did for the drawer pulls was scrub them in some soapy water. I love the patina on them. I think this will make a welcome addition to my office.

Stacy is one of the talented contributing authors here at Tools Are For Women Too.  If you would also like to be a part of the "Tools" team, email us for details at


Mami Made It said...

Gorgeous! Beautiful desk! Well done!

ANKH said...

That is a beautiful desk! Nice redo! My dresser has been in desperate need for far too long. We started working on it a few years ago, but life kept getting in the way of us finishing it. It had 8 different colors layered on it to the point to where the drawers couldn't close all the way. Unfortunately, it had lead paint, too!

Deborah said...

Wow! Amazing job! I prefer the wood conditioner because I'm to impatient to wait. Either way, I love to see that old dead wood come back to life!

Andnowlights said...

Absolutely GORGEOUS! Just found your blog :)