I was asked by a friend if I would have a go at restoring his office desk, I was not too happy at first because all my projects are done using recycled materials so never had to worry about making mistakes. But thought how hard can it be! So I accepted the task of restoring this table.
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I started by sanding down the draws and thought to myself “hey this is so easy” and then it was all downhill from there.
On closer inspection, I realized that the desk was a veneer and the base was painted MDF which had gotten wet at some stage and blown out. I posted the question on Hometalk on how to fix the damaged MDF and most recommended painting the table, but because he is a chiropractor and this was his office desk a pretty painted desk would not look very professional.
I sanded back the painted blown out MDF to try and get a smooth surface to work with and tried to add some stain, which kept getting absorbed into it, after many coats with no success I added a coat of varnish to try and seal the MDF and then added stain again to the varnish and this seems to work enough to disguise the damage.
I had to go for a dark stain because there were other areas on the desk that were painted MDF and I did not want the risk of sanding them and having them blow out like the base. So I went for a dark mahogany which covered the few faults that I could not fix. After that issue was resolved the draws were easy to do, just sand them back stain and varnish.
I decided to try and clean up the leather first, which I did just using Dove bath soap and a soft cloth and lots of elbow grease. And just kept repeating the process until my white cloth was clean. But be careful not to use too much water or the leather will lift up. The top came up great but not perfect, had some wear and tear.
And lastly, the top and straight away I ran into another problem, the top was a thin veneer so I was unable to use my orbital sander and the old varnish was so thick that it had cracked over time. So I had to use Citri-Strip paint stripper to try and remove some of the layers. This had to be repeated 3 times to get through all the layers.
I did not want to run the risk of getting stripper on the leather so I added double sided tape to the leather and covered the leather with brown paper. The desk edges were also painted MDF I protected them with tape.
Once most of the old varnish was removed I used my orbital sander to remove the rest. Added Dark mahogany stain and gave it 3 coats of varnish. On my last coat, I sanded the top with super fine steel wool to get a very smooth finish and the final result looked great.
I restored the captain’s chair that came with the table and the end results were better than the original. To see another great restoration check out this restored the captain’s chair
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MarkDecember 1, 2019 at 4:21 pm
That looks like a great job! I have a 100 year old Partner desk with the leather top damaged and scratched What about Mink Oil to restore the leather top only???
Anita HollandDecember 2, 2019 at 12:09 am
Thank you Mark, I have never heard of mink oil but if you do try it I would love to hear how it works. All my projects are trial and error.
Anita HollandAugust 13, 2021 at 11:33 am
I am not sure what you mean, if you send me a picture I can try and help.
JamesMay 3, 2022 at 11:57 am
I have a similar desk with a leather top. The leather is not dirty as much as its finish is worn, do I’m looking at a two-tone leather top. Is there only way to refinish the leather to get it back to a single color?
Anita HollandMay 5, 2022 at 11:55 am
Hi James, If it was my table I would try using a leather die to restore the colour on your table. You can buy the kits to do this.
SylSeptember 6, 2022 at 1:38 pm
I have no idea what MDF is. Must Google . I just enjoy looking at the work and finished product. All of your projects are gems.
Anita HollandSeptember 7, 2022 at 4:11 pm
Thank you so much, that is an awesome complimenmt.