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Vintage Child's Desk With Modern Masters & General Finishes Products

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I have always wanted to refinish an old school desk and recently came across this little gem at a local thrift store. When the good people at Hometalk challenged me to use a Modern Masters product I knew exactly what I would do. This old desk, manufactured in the 1940s, was updated with brilliant color on the body, but I wanted to respect the character of the wood. I enjoyed thinking about all the little kids who have done their sums at this desk and didn't want to erase all that history, just enhance it.
Difficulty: Moderate
First, I cleaned the entire desk and wiped it down well. You can see some of the deep scars on the top here. Seventy-five years of abuse take their toll.
I decided to strip the wood, using Citristrip, a product I have used before with good results. I recommend doing this in a well ventilated room. Because of bad weather I elected to strip the desk in my great room. It reeked for a few days and was messy!
After pulling the stripper off with a plastic spatula, I thoroughly cleaned the wood with odorless mineral spirits and allowed it to dry for several days before sanding.
I used an orbital sander to remove the worst of the scars on the desktop but decided to leave a few of them. I like the compass. It adds character and it makes me smile. :)
I'm a big fan of General Finishes products and because I wanted to renew the wood without changing its overall color tone I chose Candlelite Gel Stain. Two coats were all that I needed to give the wood the rich amber-brown tones I wanted.
After allowing the stain to dry, I taped all the wood surfaces in preparation for priming and painting.
I sprayed the cubby with Rustoleum Hammered Siver paint. I tried to remove the seat but couldn't get the screws loosened so had to make do. I wouldn't use this product again in such a confined space since it was impossible to get a completely even finish. It looks good, just not perfect.
I then primed the body (after re-taping) with Rustoleum 2-in-1 Primer. That gave me the even body color I wanted for the metallic paint to follow.
The first coat was a bit disappointing. It dried fairly matte, but the second coat sparkled! This paint is a dream to lay down and cleaned up very easily. Each coat dried quickly. I love this stuff!
I used white chalk paint under the silver stripe I added, both to increase opacity and to stick to the wood better.
A few coats of bright blue in the pencil slot and inkwell add a bit of fun.
  • vintage child s desk with modern masters general finishes products, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
This was a great project. I had some challenges with it as I had to haul it down to our country home for part of it so I wouldn't miss my deadline. The metallic paint does streak a bit when brushing but for this desk I was okay with that. Where perfection is needed I would recommend using a sprayer.
Thank you, Hometalk team and Modern Masters for entrusting me with this beautiful paint. I will definitely use it again.

Got a question about this project?

  • Bonnie Hipps
    Bonnie Hipps Elma, WA

    Beautiful job, would love one just like it.....

    • MaryStLouis
      MaryStLouis Squires, MO

      Thanks! I paid $10 for it so keep an eye out locally, you never know when one will pop up. 😊

  • Katrina Warren
    Katrina Warren Levelland, TX

    Great job, I especially love the blue metallic paint, & like that you kept some of the carvings done on the desk...... :)

    • MaryStLouis
      MaryStLouis Squires, MO

      @Katrina Warren Thank you! I really had to restrain myself from doing a transfer on the desktop. It tells its own story without me cluttering it up. :)

  • Katrina Warren
    Katrina Warren Levelland, TX

    I had some wooden locker doors from an old school that was torn down. I used 4 of them to make doors on a large cabinet in the laundry room. I re-stained them but left all the old carvings, I just love the history it gives them. :)

    • Katrina Warren
      Katrina Warren Levelland, TX

      @MaryStLouis Unfortunately at this time I don't. The cabinet is in a house in Florida, & I'm currently in Texas.

  • Hannah V
    Hannah V Brooklyn, NY

    OMG Mary I am in LOVE with this project! I want it! Love how you did it and the color you chose- BRAVO! :)

  • Ruthann Hurst Harris

    My mother has just completed one she did for her great grandson who will have his first birthday this month. She painted hers pale green with orange accents. She did an amazing job. She is the most talented 77 year-old I know.

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