Although this feisty one nearly ended up in the dump, I pushed through and didn’t succumb to surrendering.
I found this sturdy and traditional desk in a typical place in a not-so-typical way. Nearly every week, I visit a local thrift shop on their half off day. On a particular day this past spring, I was at the thrift shop, but not in my usual capacity. Rather, I had 25 students with me. My Personal Finance class was touring the thrift shop, during our “Ways to Give” unit. As my students (and I) listened intensively to the informative presentation, this desk caught my eye. I continued to sit through the presentation, while scheming a plan on how this beaut of a desk would be mine. “Should I haul it on the field trip bus?” “Some of the boys in the class could easily haul it.” These thoughts raced through my head. I opted for paying for it, marking it sold, and picked it up after school. I wish I could say it was a picking first (junking during the school day), but it was far from that. I often dumpster dive during my lunch break.
So, how did this desk end up on my upcycle list? A customer contacted me about doing a custom job, specifically a desk. With her need for a deep, sturdy desk to handle dual computer monitors and lots of paperwork, this pick instantly popped into my head.
Why in the world would a seasoned junker like myself possibly surrender what appeared to be an easy upcycle? Read on.
3M Paint Stripper & Foam Brush
4″ of Rain from Mother Nature
Sander & Sand Paper
Before | After
And so begins the transformation story…
It was a beautiful sunny day in June (really, it was). The birds were chirping (really, they were). The kids were frolicking about (really, they were). I was ready to crank out what seemed like a 2-day custom upcycle (really, it wasn’t). The customer and I agreed the paint color was nice and would be enhanced with some distressing. The desk top had a gaping paint hole, which I suggested could be remedied with a nice dark stain.
I began by applying a thick coat of paint stripper with a foam brush to the top. I followed the steps, as directed on the 3M jug. I was sure to keep the desk in the shade.
The outcome wasn’t what I had hoped for.
I was left with only a few successful spots. The rest reminded me of a pesky paper sticker that doesn’t easily come off. It was sticky, but wouldn’t budge. I continued the paint stripping process many, many times. This is where I nearly surrendered, until Mother Nature sent a drenching summer soaker.
The next morning, as I was checking the rain gauge, I got a glimpse of the desk that I had forgotten to bring in the garage for the night. [Insert my foul language.]
As I approached the desk, it too, was drenched. With a near surrender again, I stood in the alley in my PJs wondering if there was hope. I began picking at the top, only to learn the veneer had bubbled and the actual desk top was hiding inside. Whew! This was going to be salvageable. Really, Mother Nature was the saving grace to a seemingly dismal project.
I contacted the customer to share of the struggles I was experiencing and she assured me she was still interested.
Of course, a few (ok, more than a few) veneer pieces proved to be feisty. Click here to read the story from a few week’s back on how my iron and a wet towel saved me here. Thank goodness for Pinterest.
Once the desk top was free and clear of all paint, primer, clear coats, veneer, and glue, I gave it a good clean and smooth sand. I do think I have the cutest little employees.
I did 3 coats of my go-to Jacobean Minnwax stain, followed by a few clear coats of Minnwax polycrylic.
With all of my efforts so far on the desk’s top, I was ready to tackle the drawers and sides. The paint was in pretty good shape, really. I found the same color in a spray paint to touch up the drawers and a few other spots. When distressed, it all blended together nicely.
I removed the crusty old contact paper in the drawers. I actually tried a modge podge technique for the middle drawer, where the customer planned to use for her computer’s keyboard. I simply followed the modge podge directions to adhere old book pages in. It turned out adorable.
I had won the battle over the desk. The project I estimated would take 2 days took nearly 2 months. I was ready to deliver the desk to the customer, we live across the street. I was emotionally ready to literally hand deliver the desk by walking it to the customer. My husband quickly reminded me it would be physically difficult and didn’t think I should push my luck any further with this troubled piece. We opted for a trailer delivery.
This desk and I had many battles during our time together; however, with no need to surrender…i won the war.
The customer was so happy how it turned out, as was I. The desk’s new home is in a beautiful sun porch where it is a perfect fit.