Are you looking for a way to refurbish an antique Heywood Wakefield school desk that is badly damaged? Then, you’re going to love this transformation!
How to Refurbish a Heywood Wakefield Desk
Heywood Wakefield desk
This Heywood Wakefield desk was in pretty bad shape when it came my way.
And there were two of them! They were both in equally bad shape!
Names and words and been carved into the wood by students over the years.
how to restore an old desk
There were paint drippings in several spots.
Some sort of adhesive had been spilled inside the desks.
And the gum.
Omgoodness, this pair was covered in old, chewed up gum.
It was inside the desks….
on the underside of the desks…
on the back of the desks…
and even on one of the legs!
use an orbital sander
After the scraping and chipping away of all that gum, I pulled out my DeWalt Orbital sander and suited it up with an 80 grit sanding disc.
And I sanded like a crazy woman!
Ok, really I only sanded the tops. The tops would look amazing in natural wood and I was careful not to sand out all of the character that generations of kids had spent adding!
Heywood Wakefield makers mark
When I looked at the back of the desks (the side that the teacher would have seen), I knew I had to be careful with sanding.
The makers mark for the Heywood Wakefield desk was in great condition on one of the desks!
Heywood Wakefield is a well-known furniture maker from the early 1820s! Unbelievably, the company is still in operation but they use a different name now and produce outdoor furniture.
wood desk makeover
Anyway, I sanded the backs of the desks by hand being careful around the Heywood Wakefield desk label.
Next, I cleaned the ink wells carefully with small wire and brass brushes, steel wood and the pointed edge of my chisel for the groove in the ink well.
The ink well on the top has been cleaned, the one on the bottom still needs some love 🙂
preserving the story
The remaining parts of the Heywood Wakefield desks got a light sanding with 220 grit sanding discs on my orbital sanding. To me, leaving the carvings in the wood was part of the story of this pair. Preserving their story is important in my opinion 🙂
After the sanding, the pair of antique desks got a good scrubbing. Simple Green in a bucket of hot water, a micro-fiber cloth, a Scotch Brite pad, and the outdoor hose are my go-to supplies for scrubbing old furniture.
Oh yeah, add some sunshine to that list of supplies!
Remember I said I wanted to preserve the story of these vintage desks? Well, I definately want to do that but I also don’t want the desks to scream their story either!
A custom mix of Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Typewriter and Curio will help to quite their voices just a bit 🙂
Two coats later, a bit of knife distressing, and they were ready for Miss Mustard Seed Hemp Oil.
Brush it on, wipe it off and it creates a gorgeous, vintage style patina while hydrating the wood.
how to create an aged wood look
The wood tops needed a bit more help. The natural color was fairly light and I wanted more of an aged wood look.
Restor-A-Finish is a great product as a scratch cover but I decided to try it out as a stain.
The bare wood soaked up the color Dark Oak that I had on hand. Doesn’t the wood look so gorgeous? The ‘stain’ settled into the marks I chose not to sand out perfectly.
The Restor-A-Finish worked wonders on the inside of the desks too. I also used it on the back of the desks. You’ll see those images further down in the post.
how to seal milk paint
Once my ‘stain’ had soaked in and dried overnight, I added one coat of Miss Mustard Seed Hemp oil followed by two coats of Miss Mustard Seed Wax.
You can see in the image below the back side of the desk that the teacher would see. That is also the side with the Heywood Wakefield label.
Fortunately, I had two chairs in my stash that I thought would go beautifully with this pair of refurbished antique school desks!
They were painted in Miss Mustard Seed milk paint in Typewriter and were given two coats of hemp oil.
Don’t they look so good with the desks?
Look at the tops of the desks! Don’t you love how they turned out?
And check out those vintage hinges!
The inside of the desks has a hole cut out of the top right. Look closely at the image below and you can see the hole.
Sounds perfect for a laptop cord, doesn’t it?
The ink wells look so much better!
And that makers mark label for Heywood Wakefield is still in such great shape!
BTW, the second desk is missing the label. The desks match so well otherwise!
Just wondering, when you were in school, did you put your chair on top of the table like this at the end of the day?
Or maybe, you turned the chair upside down and placed it on top of the desk at the end of the day?
Our school had the students get the chairs off of the floor at the end of each school day so the maintenance staff could clean the rooms quickly.
how to decorate with an antique desk
Let’s chat about how to use a pair of antique desks like these Heywood Wakefield desks.
They could be used as a desk most definitely. There is a place to store books, notepads, and such. Or maybe a laptop or iPad?
No matter the school supplies your child uses, there is plenty of storage.
Or maybe these desks will be used as an at-home office. One of these desks is small enough to tuck away in a corner of your living space or a bedroom. When you are finished work for the day, hide the laptop inside and out of sight!
Here’s another idea you might not have thought of. One of my followers on Instagram suggested that they make great nightstands in a bedroom! Isn’t that a great idea?? They could also be sofa end tables in a living room.
Let me know your ‘outside of the box’ decorating ideas for a pair of antique Heywood Wakefield desks in the comments!
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steps to refurbish Heywood Wakefield desk:
- inspect the piece for repairs
- remove any residues including gum, glue, or any other substance
- sand piece
- thoroughly clean the piece
- choose a paint color and paint the piece
- seal the piece
- decorate and use the piece in your home!
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To see more of our tutorials, click this link and head over to my blog!
Until next time…
Resources for this project:See all materials
Judy Waddell on Jun 15, 2021
Loved seeing this project! You have put your love into these little desks and given them a little pride, I could see these also in a kitchen and have cake decorating supplies. If I had one I would use it for practicing calligraphy , that precious ink well would not go to waist
Lucy Ryan on Jun 23, 2021
Your desks turned out beautiful. Wish I had one like it.