Clara's Journey (Desk Redo- Long Post)

Charlee Hunter
by Charlee Hunter
2 Materials
5 Weeks
I state "long post" , because I'm a bit long winded on this one (oh right, like that is something totally new for me! ha). Clara took me 5 weeks and a bit of nail biting to complete. This was a big makeover for me, and I absolutely adore the results! You may feel free to scroll past my ponderings and just check out the pics, my feelings will not be hurt! lol

As I may have mentioned (many, many times.... lol) my best friend moved to Maryland (this is where the table from "It's 5 o'clock somewhere" went to), and it was on a visit to her new home that I met (and fell in love with) Clara. She was down in the basement half under a bunch of 'still yet to be unpacked' items. Clara had not had an easy life by the looks of her, but she was sturdy, with good bones, and a hidden beauty. Well, at least 'I' thought so (not everyone appreciates hidden beauty :). At the time I was helping my friend decide what to do with her kitchen/dining room area (she was going to remodel, which is now complete and STUNNING!). Since she was planning to re-do part of the space as an office, I offered to re-do Clara for her. She eventually declined because this was to be an office for her husband and he wanted a larger, more manly desk : ) Understandable, Clara appears to be a woman's writing desk of sorts, definitely not his style! LOL

I came home from my trip, but never forgot about Clara.

After my friend had decided that Clara simply did not fit the bill for the new office, I quietly asked "So, what are you going to do with it?"... My friend knows me so well.. we both knew that it was not just a "casual" question, she knew without me saying that I wanted to get my hands on that desk........... She said I could have it. My heart skipped a beat, and my mind raced because I already knew exactly how I was going to make her over. I got on the internet and began ordering supplies.........

Her husband brought Clara to me when he brought the kids to Michigan for spring break. We carefully carried her down to my work area.
This is the first time I got a really GOOD look at Clara... Oh my, Clara was missing ALL of her front feet! as well as having chipped two of the back legs. The rest of her was in relatively good, solid shape! Thank goodness! A bang here, and a loose spot there, but all in all, terrific shape. I was in a quandary. I had no idea what to do with her missing 'feet'. I remembered reading a post on Hometalk about a woman that had made a mold using hot glue (thought it was darned ingenious at the time, which is why I remembered it), but darned if I could remember where that was.. so I asked the Hometalk community and SHE ANSWERED! I re-read the post, but I had another problem , all I had was three small pieces of 'feet' that I found in one of the drawers. These pieces were all I had to give me any kind of clue what Clara's feet used to look like, and nothing to actually mold... what to do..
So here Is Clara, in all her "mostly" original glory. You can see that I was overly anxious to get started and almost forgot to take an original picture.
You can also see that all 4 front feet are missing, and the two middle back feet were also broken off. The other thing I failed to noticed until I went to paint her, is she was also missing one, rear, leg 'wing'.
I chose to redo one of the drawers first to make sure the direction I was going in, was what I wanted. It was. It was perfect.
Here are the three pieces of "foot" I had to work with (none of the pieces came off the same foot!).
Also pictured is a drawer "before" , and the top of the desk as I was stripping it. I use Citristrip. This girl had a tough surface to crack! I had to do it twice, and then sand, sand, and sand some more before I got to see the full beauty of the wood hidden beneath.

While I was doing all this I was working on a plan to fix her feet. Here is what I came up with..
I had some clay left over from many years gone by, it is called 'filo dough' and to my wonder and surprise, after approx. 20 yrs in a drawer 'for safe keeping' , it was still GOOD! Using this clay, I created (the best I could, because let's face it, a clay molder I am not, which is precisely why the clay was still there and available!) a "foot" for the bottom of her leg. If you are not familiar with filo, it hardens when you bake it... so once I was semi happy with the foot, in the oven it went. The picture on the left shows the hardened foot placed on the leg over plastic wrap. When I went to use the hot glue to now make a mold of it, I didn't want the glue sticking to the leg. Time to make a mold...
Having the handy dandy instructions on making a mold out of hot glue (thanks to a Hometalker!) , I piled it on........... (pic on right)
Now, mistakes... I actually made two feet. The first one was an epic fail, I almost gave up... I created the first foot, and did not bake the clay. Not only did I not bake the clay, but I forgot the one rule of 'unmolding' .. DON'T FORGET THE SPRAY...luke! (a little Star Wars humor..). I forgot to spray the foot with Pam (yes the cooking spray), the mold was a mess with pieces of clay stuck everywhere... back to the drawing board and another clay foot. THIS time I baked it so it was hard, SPRAYED it with PAM, and hit it with a ton of hot glue. Don't forget to leave yourself an opening to get the mold out! Success!! Yeah me : ) I think I may have eked out a tear or two...
Here are my molds, along with the 'wing' that my hubby kindly created for Clara : ) The two molds on the left are the ones used for the two back damaged feet, the two in the middle are the clay foot used to make the mold, and the mold itself, and on the far right is the wing.
To actually make the feet:
1. SPRAY THE MOLD with PAM (I can't tell you the amount of times I had to keep reminding myself of this!)
2. Mix up a batch of DURHAM'S Rock Hard water putty (the other Hometalker used bondo. I didn't have bondo, and I was concerned about the smell/odor since I was doing this inside, but feel free to keep that as an option). The 'putty' is a wood substance similar to a wood filler , but dries much harder and can be used in molds! Bonus for me, I just happen to have some on hand! I don't even know why I bought it or for what purpose, but .. there it was : ) This should be mixed to a clay like consistency.
3. Using a small putty knife, shove a bunch of it in the mold (pretty technical, huh?! )
4. Place it on the leg where you want it.
5. Tape in place
6. Wait for it to dry (hardest part, especially on the first one)
7. Unmold and behold! (I unmolded it before it was completely dry so that it could dry faster. This worked just fine. It took a couple of hours. It took a full day for it to dry completely.
8. Once dry, sand the C--rap out of it, and add more putty where needed until you are happy with the result.
Here are the feet in varying stages. On the front ones, one is painted and complete, two have been sanded and coated with Tough Coat by Fusion. The water putty is NOT impervious to water, I wanted to make sure that the feet had a good seal on them to keep all dampness out. The Tough Coat worked perfect. The forth leg I'm still sanding on in this pic. You can also see the progress on the rear legs. One is actually coated in primer which was my first try in sealing them, but I didn't like it, I actually ended up sanding that leg again and applying the tough coat. I was so worried throughout this process that it was going to look like something out of a child's coloring book! It turns out I have surprised myself yet again, and am pretty darn happy with the results : )
Ok, lets get to the fun stuff... the actual painting and decorating of the desk!
In this pic you see the drawers...
Remember I told you I already had in mind the finished result? Well, I knew I wanted her to be a very deep navy blue. I also knew I was not going to distress her. So, having used Fusion Mineral paints on a few occasions, and finding out that they had a very deep blue, I was thrilled to purchase Fusion paint in Midnight Blue! Gorgeous and the paint goes on beautifully with excellent coverage (nope they did not pay me to say that). I also knew I wanted embellishments on the drawers, and I always wanted to try the Fusion embossing cream, oh hallelujah! this stuff is like creamy butter, so nice to use! at the same time I purchased the Tough Coat for finishing her. If you are familiar with Fusion paints , it already has a sealer in it, but I wanted to make sure! I also wanted to use the Tough Coat on the top of the desk.
I had already cleaned Clara up using water and Awesome, time to lightly sand her....
Then I used the Fusion embossing cream to create a raised pattern using a stencil (I purchase two stencils for use on this desk).

While the pattern dried, I spray painted all the original pulls with Rustoleum's all in one metallic paint in Satin Nickel.

Once the embossing was dry, I painted on the lushes midnight blue color. Two coats. THEN, I took black home décor paint by Plaid and mixed it with glaze. I painted that over the blue and wiped it back. This created an even deeper blue... ooohhhhh ahhhhh PERFECT!

I also painted and whipped back, the glaze on the hardware to give It a more antiqued look.

I sanded and stained the sides and back of the drawers in Minwax Jacobean (one of my all time fav stains).

Because the inside of the drawers were well used and a bit of a mess, I painted them with Fushion Mineral paint in Champlain (love this color), and added a stencil in blue , on the large middle drawer.

WHEW I'm exhausted!
Here are the drawers in various stages. Here you can see the stencil I did in the middle drawer. Since Fushion paint already contains a sealer, I did not seal the inside of the drawers. : ) I did however, seal the outside of the drawers with Country Chic clear wax.
Now on to Clara herself!... first things first, I put a coat of Minwax Pre-stain on the stripped top. I love this stuff and have it on hand. I helps the stain go on more consistently. Then................STRIPES!
I purchased Frog tape (the only tape I use) in the width I wanted the stripes and starting at the center, taped off the entire top, marking the dark and light as I went. When that was complete, I took off all tape marked with a D for dark. I applied one coat of Jacobean stain and let that dry, then pulled off the rest of the tape. Loved it!
I left the "light" strips natural, no stain was needed. I added a raised pattern on the back , and a stencil in the center of the top. Once all that dried, I used Tough Coat on the top. I did two coats, no sanding.

1. If Tough coat sits and you do not stir it before use, you will end up with a glossy finish (watched video on their site). Make sure you stir it before use if you are looking for a flat finish.
2. Country Chic paint has applicator sponges.. get some... They worked AWESOME for applying the Tough Coat. I did try them for the paint (which was my original thought), but would have had to put 3 coats on and well, basically I'm lazy Ha! It does give an amazing smooth finish though...
3. Don't forget to dampen your applicator before applying Tough coat, it goes on beautifully when you follow the instructions (which I did :).
And here is the completed top! Exactly what I was going for , so happyicon
Now on to finishing up the rest of the desk.. Painted her with the blue, used the black glaze over top, and sealed it all with Tough Coat.
List of products used:
1. Durhams water putty
2. Black chalk paint by Plaid
3. Fusion embossing paste
4. Fusion paint in Midnight Blue and Champlain
5. Smoke Glaze (mixed it with black paint) by Rustoleum
6. Fusion Tough Coat
7. Country Chic clear wax
*Had to purchase all these cost approx. $140.00 (but, I still have lots left over for more projects :)
Not pictured:
8. Rustoleum all in one paint Satin Nickel
9. Minwax Pre-Stain
10. Minwax Jacobean stain
11. Hot Glue gun and hot glue sticks
12. Pam
13. Filo Dough (clay)
14. Frog tape
** Had these on hand

and I had to purchase a few screws that were missing for the drawer pulls.
AND...............drum roll please!! Heeeerrreeesss CLARA! All done, and I could not be happier with her : ) Look at her new feet!! I think she's very happy.
She's not perfect, I left her bumps and bruises, after all , she earned them. When I look at her , I still see all the little imperfections, the not so perfect feet, the not so perfect 'wing' the little ding here, and scratch there, all the things discovered while re-creating Clara... but I loved her even as she was, and I love her even more now.
Interesting when you become invested and involved with an inanimate piece of furniture when you are creating your own vision of something. This was definitely a journey for me and Clara who is now a part of my family , and I think she'll like it here.
Suggested materials:
  • Materials as described in post
  • Materials as described in post
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