$8 Desk Upcycle

Jun 25, 2009

I bought the desk below from the Goodwill about 2 weeks ago for $7. My plan was to sand, stain and seal it. I was also going to replace the rusted pulls, fix the front of the drawer and make it more stable because it was coming apart. It is almost entirely wooden peg and dovetail construction, so I knew it had been nice once and with a little work it could be again. I’ve only found 3 screws in the whole thing and it’s always a mark of a good piece when they didn’t have to use a lot of metal to keep it together. We want to use it as a desk or vanity in our bedroom; it’s not too big, but not tiny either, so it will be perfect. I love upcycling items like this because they aren’t just decorative, they are really useful.

Beat up vintage desk

The first thing I did was to sand it all down. This took me a while, especially on the top, but I did finally get it bare. The next step was to apply wood glue to the parts of the frame that were separating and clamp it together. That was difficult to do with just MY two hands, but after much kicking and screaming, I managed to do it. I let the piece sit and dry while I removed the veneer panel and old pulls from the front of the drawer. While doing this, I managed to stab myself with the screwdriver. After bandaging myself up, I completed the sanding by smoothing out the drawer front. Last night I moved on to the staining. This took about an hour because I put on a couple of coats. I just used a fabric scrap, rubbed it on and let it sit. I’m pleased with the final color. Today I hauled it out the back door (which was quite a feat to do by myself) and covered it with several layers of polyurethane so that I’d get a smooth, high gloss finish. It did stink and it was about 1,000 degrees outside so, needless to say, I was left with a splitting headache. By the time I took a cold bath and some Excedrin the final coat was dry and I could bring it back inside.

Pulls before & after

I found some antique brass pulls on eBay last week and they arrived very tarnished. I loved them because they had a sort of Victorian filigree look about them and they had the Scottish thistle design (Loving Husband is of Scottish descent). It only took me about 10 minutes to shine them with the Dremel and then I sprayed them twice with clear lacquer to keep them from tarnishing again. The last step was to drill two more holes into the drawer front so that I could attach them. I measured them and the front panel of the drawer and arranged them evenly. In the picture at the top they look a little off kilter because they are sagging slightly; the screws that I have are the wrong size, but they worked well enough to hold the pulls on for a photo.

Pull in place

I used about $1 -$1.50 worth of the stain and polyurethane, the desk was $7 and the pulls were $15. That is a total of approximately $23-$24. However, the new drawer pulls were not necessary and the old pulls could have been polished with the Dremel as I did with the replacements so, I am going to estimate that the project could have been completed for around $8. I don’t think that’s too bad for how well the finished desk came out. It’s exactly what I was hoping for, only now I need to find a matching chair!

Finished desk

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