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    Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    All,

    My wife and I bought this old used school desk for $40 this weekend and after we got it home started inspecting it and prepping for a redo. The "problem" is I think it might actually have a veneer top and drawer front. I am wondering what is the best way to approach redoing this if it truly is veneer? We started sanding the top to remove the shellac or varnish on it so that we can get back to some real wood. Since ours has some color stains on the top we wanted to try and sand those out, or stain over them. There is also one small chip on the top near one side and I am wondering how, or if, she can fix that.

    The picture below is not our desk but one that looks JUST like it.

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-YsvgHvBsDI.../s1600/007.JPG

    These two images are trying to show what appears to be a veneer drawer front. Mostly wood, but just a very thin line of veneer



    This image is the small chunk of what appears veneer that is missing on the top. Actually this is how we determined it was a laminate or veneer


    This pic shows the stains in the actual top, it was below the varnish


    BTW, her plan was to stain the desk top a dark color and antique the rest of the desk.
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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    I did one like that for my daughter last year (or the year before) and I cut out little squares of veneer to patch the missing pieces, may have some left if you want it.

    The varnish will have to come off, be careful with stripper, some will loosen the glue holding the veneer. I use a card scraper to carefully remove the old finish. Much faster and more controllable than sanding.

    A little sanding just before applying the new finish will help, but be careful not to go too deep. If the stains are actually in the wood you can bleach then dye or stain, but I think most of that is in the finish. Can't know for sure till the old gunk is gone.



    One machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man." -Elbert Hubbard

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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    Mike, The top left corner of the drawer is rounded over. I think Scott B will want to build it back up before the veneer patch.

    Scott, if you don't already have one, a nice (as in high quality) block plane (from my experience) would make some of these repairs go very smoothly.

    EDIT: I would probably do this veneer work with a router plane, hand plane and scraper. In reality, you could also do the entire repair with just a very sharp chisel.

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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    ​That's what we knew as a teachers desk. There were many different types of student desks, and the schools I attended through grade school were old when I attended; the student desks were all rather antiquated, but we didn't know the difference then. I would think your teacher's desk is of a later vintage due to the veneer being used. The desks I remember were predominantly solid white oak. Nice acquisition Scott!
    Experience is a hard teacher; she gives the test first, and the lesson later.

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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    You'll have to continue cleaning it up to remove "the gunk" and then reassess what you have. Mike's suggestion using a card scraper is a good one.

    How nice and unblemished do you folks want this desk to look? Living with a few dents and dings for added character in a late 1900s teacher's desk? The top may take more work but the other areas will probably not be that noticeable to others.

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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    Sand down the veneer to identify the species. Once accomplished, order small "hobby" size piece of same species and cut little pieces that roughly match those that are missing. If the veneer is to thin for this, remove it and re-veneer what needs be.

    Depending on age and if hide glue was used, it releases with heat.

    Just FYI, I hate stain and despise paint. I'll do the either if that's what my client truly wants but there is beauty in wood, don't cover it up.
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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    Oh, you can pull out some of those dents and lesson the gouges with a paper towel soaked in water and placed oner the problem area's. It will leave a water stain but this too can be sanded out.
    Happiness is a direction not a destination. ~Athena Orchard

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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff View Post
    You'll have to continue cleaning it up to remove "the gunk" and then reassess what you have. Mike's suggestion using a card scraper is a good one.

    How nice and unblemished do you folks want this desk to look? Living with a few dents and dings for added character in a late 1900s teacher's desk? The top may take more work but the other areas will probably not be that noticeable to others.

    The wife doesnt mind a few of the blemishes showing actually. Just want the unsightly stains gone. As for the front of the drawers, she was considering putting some different handles on instead of the wood ones there today. I am worried if we take the handles off it will destroy the whole front of the drawer and we'll need to redo the fronts completely. I think she still wants to go to the route of "antique-ing" it but not sure what approach she has settled on.

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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    Those handles are not the same as standard hardware of today. You would have to fill and drill new holes if you change.



    One machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man." -Elbert Hubbard

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    Scott Bilicki User
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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    Right, I think they are glued on somehow, as I dont see any fasteners on the inside. My fear is if we pry them off they will rip off veneer in big chunks. Which means we would have to redo the whole front or at least do patches. :-(

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    User Wyatt Co.'s Avatar
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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Grimmy2016 View Post
    ...I think she still wants to go to the route of "antique-ing" it but not sure what approach she has settled on.
    Then don't do anything, it already looks "antique".

    I'll apologies in advance but this is a peeve of mine. I RESTORE furniture for a living and I can't stand it when a client, or potential one, brings me or has me go look at a piece of furniture that is vintage and in some cases an actual antique and they want it to look "old". I'm like, well it already looks old because it is. It already looks vintage or antique because it is. There's nothing I can do for it except repair the wobbly leg if that's applicable.
    Happiness is a direction not a destination. ~Athena Orchard

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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Grimmy2016 View Post
    Right, I think they are glued on somehow, as I dont see any fasteners on the inside. My fear is if we pry them off they will rip off veneer in big chunks. Which means we would have to redo the whole front or at least do patches. :-(
    They just unscrew.
    Happiness is a direction not a destination. ~Athena Orchard

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    Scott Bilicki User
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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Wyatt Co. View Post
    They just unscrew.
    From where? There are no screws on the inside of the drawers and nothing visible inside the handle area.

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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Grimmy2016 View Post
    From where? There are no screws on the inside of the drawers and nothing visible inside the handle area.
    Just went back to look at the pics. Handles, not knobs (slaps forehead). Does the inside of the drawer face appear veneered? If so, the screws are underneath. If not, yeah, the handle is glued which is very unusual.
    Happiness is a direction not a destination. ~Athena Orchard

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    Scott Bilicki User
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    Re: Old School Desk refinishing project - wife is doing it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Grimmy2016 View Post
    From where? There are no screws on the inside of the drawers and nothing visible inside the handle area.
    Looking at pic 1, the dovetails have a distinct yellow line that doesnt match the surrounding wood. So I am guessing yes on the internal veneer for the inside front of the drawer. DANG IT.

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