Years ago Matt called from college. He found a beautiful table/desk on Craigslist and wanted to know if I would go get it for him.
No biggy...I thought. Brian and I went and picked it up...in the snow. It was in the basement and we had to carry it up an icy walkway from the backyard. And let me tell you, that sucker was HEAVY! Massive, solid wood table...6' long and almost 3' deep. Not sure exactly what type of wood it is...the top looks like it could be constructed of several different types of wood. Regardless, after all the old, crackled finish was removed and a new oil finish was applied, it is simply beautiful!! Matt uses it as a desk and he seriously cherishes old wood like I do.
It has been a real "head scratcher" for me...I honestly couldn't figure out what exactly it was originally. Maybe a "farm house table" but it had two drawers on one side. And it didn't strike me as a "desk."
Katie has wanted a similar table to use as a desk for some time now...but Matt's is MASSIVE and I knew we would never be able to find anything similar that would be small enough for her room.
And then we did!
(Naturally I forgot to take "before" pictures until I had already started working on it!)
My neighbor Caroline, who use to own a flea market, knew immediately what it was...on old library table!
It is only 4' wide and would have had one drawer...which as you can see is missing. It is oak!
The top had veneer on it...and it was in pretty rough shape. So I started scraping it off.
Have you ever removed wallpaper? The first piece or two comes off in big sheets ...only to get to the 3rd piece and find that it comes off in pieces the size of your finger nail...even when you use steam and stripper!
Yeah, that is how this veneer came off! The first bit came off with NO problem...the rest of it took major work. I even used my iron with lots of steam (usually a no-no on wood)! When removing veneer, you have to be super careful not to damage the wood underneath!!
After the veneer was removed I had to deal with the water spot and the glue and the "knots" that had been filled before the veneer was applied!
When sanding raw wood ALWAYS start with a fine grit and work your way down until you see that you are making good progress! I started with 220, worked down to a 50 grit, then worked my way back up to a 220.
I managed to get all of the water spot off with a good sanding! Katie and I decided the knots were going to be the "character" on the top! In other words, we just ignored them!
After stripping the veneer off the top, I tested the finish on the sides and base to see what it was going to take to get the old finish off.
Man-oh-man. That was one tough old finish.
TIP: For years I have used Formby's furniture stripper to remove old varnish...but honestly, it is not cheap and I knew it would take 2 cans (at $16 a piece) to do this desk. I recently read something about using 1/2 acetone and 1/2 varnish remover to strip old varnish....works like a charm. Literally melts the old finish right off!!!
THIS is where Katie took over....I decided if she wanted a beautiful desk, this would be the perfect opportunity to find out what kind of work goes into a project like this! So I made her strip the entire thing! She used Citristrip first, then scrubbed the piece with an acetone/lacquer thinner mixture and steel wool to dissolve the old varnish! She used a toothbrush to get in the corners.
After Katie finished stripping all the old finish, we wiped it all down with mineral spirits and then we sanded the entire piece with 220 grit sandpaper.
One of the back legs kind of came apart after we stripped the piece. These legs were constructed of 4 pieces of wood glued together. Over the years, one of the joints had actually separated...so when we were applying the stripper, it got down in the joint and caused the leg to come apart. No biggy...that is what glue and clamps are for!!!
I constructed a simple drawer from oak I bought at Lowes. Nothing fancy! Katie picked out a simple knob out of my old hardware stash!
After sanding the entire table, I applied a dark stain. I really expected the top to stain much lighter than the base. Surprisingly, the top looked pretty similar to the base after it was all stained!
After the stain had dried over night, Katie and I wiped the entire piece down with tack cloth (a MUST before applying any finish or painting ANY piece!) and then we applied the first coat of the tung oil finish!
I almost always apply 3-5 coats of tung oil finish! Sometimes even more on tops I think will get a lot of use...like this desk! With oil finishes, it's almost a "look-see" process...I apply the finish until I get an even gloss finish on the entire piece...as long as any of the wood is still absorbing the finish, I keep applying it.
Katie wanted more of a "flat" finish...I have always used "high gloss" tung oil finish so I was a bit surprised when I got a "high gloss" finish from the "low gloss" tung oil! Hum...interesting...honestly, I don't see much difference. Pretty darn glossy if you ask me!
Between each coat, we sanded with 0000 steel wool and wiped it down with a fresh tack cloth!
In the end...A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.
It truly is a beautiful piece...I wish my photography skills did it justice!
I am always amazed when something so old and "neglected" turns out to be so beautiful.
Now it is in her room (here) and ready for another lifetime of use!