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

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.
Before...My dog, Booner, wanted to help.
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.
Before...the cubby and body were very worn.
Stripping the wood
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.
Sanded top
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. :)
Wood products I used
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.
Primed and taped
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.
I used Venetian Blue, gorgeous!
First coat
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!
Three coats and it glows!
I used white chalk paint under the silver stripe I added, both to increase opacity and to stick to the wood better.
A bit of color!
A few coats of bright blue in the pencil slot and inkwell add a bit of fun.
All done!
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.

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2 of 17 comments
  • Jackie Byrd Jackie Byrd on Sep 21, 2016
    What a fantastic rehab! Once I got past my grade school memories, I got to see your amazing make-over. This gets an A+.

  • Emily Emily on Sep 07, 2017
    Mary I was in school in the 1940's and this is similar to the school desks we had then. Except our desks were part of the seat in front of us. So the very first seat, had no desk. Once in first grade the teacher backed up and fell over this seat. I hate to say it but we really laughed!
    The holes of course were for ink bottles. We did not get to use ink (no pens then like we have now) until 3rd grade and we were taught as a very important part of the curriculum. . . penmanship. Your refurbishment is so much prettier than anything we could have dreamt of then! Congratulations on making attractive and still useful this part of life that is now vintage! (but at least it is not antique yet!)