Have you thought about just sanding off the old paint to the raw metal?
If not then, sand to the primer, which should be a lighter color, and then use a foam roller for the smoothest finish.
Either way, when sanding, be sure to wear the proper protection as the paint is more than likely from before 1978 an be lead based.
Good think the top is in good shape. My Daddy had one of these in our basement. They're awesome desks.
Some in the paint department at HoDe are very knowledgeable. You'll be able to tell when you ask about a water based acrylic alkyd paint. If they give you a quizzical look, just ask if there's someone who knows about that kind of paint. It's suppose to have the best of both water and oil based paints all in one. I have not used it, but found out about through research and am looking forward to using it myself on a tall metal file cabinet and two old McCall's pattern cabinets that we are using for storage.
Would chalk paint work? Would not require sanding
@Cindy I have never used chalk paint. Will look into it. Thanks. I'm thinking of two contrasting colors, one for the drawers and one for the body of the desk.
I have refinished furniture with chalk paint and had good luck. I would recommend Annie Sloan. It is a bit more expensive but does a much better job than some of the cheaper brands and requires less coats. Good Luck.
I think chalk paint may be the way to go also. It adheres to almost everything and then you don't have to mess with the sanding. It can be expensive so you may want to just make your own, which is easy to do and the bonus to that is you will have what is left over for other projects!
Annie Sloan chalk paint is wonderful. The kind of paint that chips is Milk paint if you do not add a bonding agent. I have used chalk paint on several different items, including metal items.
when you buy your paint tell the salesperson what you are going to paint and they can help you get the right kind of paint, and yes, I would use a roller made for metal.
@Margo, I believe what Carol meant was you need is a low nap roller to paint metal, not a special roller. I suggested a foam roller as they'd give the smoothest finish as opposed to a woolie type roller. Though a low nap woolie type could work too.
I agree with the others that chalk paint would work well on the desk. You won't need to prime it first, but the first coat of chalk paint will go on like a primer. After it dries apply a second coat and you will get fabulous coverage. Depending on the color you choose you might need another coat, but 2 are usually sufficient. Seal it with soft wax and it will look fabulous. But I would consider putting a coat of clear polyurethane on the top since it will got a lot of wear and tear.
Also, check at your local hardware store for furniture glides (also called furniture slides, magic slides, easy sliders, etc.). Walmart might carry them but I'm not sure. They are round discs that you can slip under the desk legs and will help you slide it over the carpet so you can get in there and paint.
Sherwin Williams ProClassics Enamel would be a good option. They make one that is water based, so easier to clean up. It is a VERY durable paint, and comes in different finishes. You can brush and /or roll on with a low nap roller.