The Right Way to Refinish a Rolltop Desk

Roll top desks are such classy statement pieces in any home.  It’s so rare to find one in excellent condition.  They are notorious for being difficult to paint because you can easily gunk up the tambour (rolling portion) with paint causing it not to roll at all.  If you are lucky enough to come across one, here are some tips for a successful transformation.

You Will Need:

  • Brushes and 6″ rollers
  • Wood Filler
  • Mouse Sander with low (60) and higher (180) sanding pads.
  • Zinsser 123 Primer
  • White Paint – I used Behr Ultra in Ultra White Satin
  • Base Coat for Faux Stain – I used Behr Honey Butter Flat
  • Gel Stain – I used Minwax Gel Stain in Walnut
  • New Hardware
  • Minwax Wipe-on Polyurethane.

I stumbled upon this desk on a Facebook page that a friend was selling.  This desk was perfect to redo because the top portion comes off and the tambour just slides out making it so much easier to refinish.  The desk was structurally in great shape but the surface needed some love.

Rolltop Before

I knew I was going to sell this piece so I decided to do the surface a dark stain using my gel stain method and would paint the rest white.  I realized that the plastic sleeve on both sides that the tambour slides into was already dark brown so I tried to spray paint it white to match what would be white.  Let me save a little spray paint and a lot of frustration by telling you that was a horrible idea.

Spray Paint Rolltop

The spray paint started peeling away when I moved the tambour up and down.  It looked horrible so I spent over an hour scraping the spray paint out with a putty knife.  I decided to faux stain the interior of the top to better match the plastic sleeves as there was no easy way to change their color.

Spray painting the tambour is also a horrible idea.  Ask me how I know…

I took off the hardware and filled obvious holes, scratches and dents on the desk with wood filler.

Filler

After 48 hours of drying, I sanded the entire desk with a rough sandpaper pad (60) with my mouse sander.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love my sander?!? Below is a picture of the two of us!   (Also, wear a respirator or mask when sanding the wood filler because those tiny particles can get in your lungs…No bueno!)

SanderSanding

Sand the tambour by laying it out flat on the ground and sand as you would the rest of the desk.

SandingTambour

After sanding it was time to prime.  Once again I used Zinsser 123 water-based primer.  I just found out they made a spray paint  version which I will have to try out on my next project.  Get a nice thick coat of primer on your piece of furniture.  You’ll notice that I didn’t get any primer on the groove the tambour slides into.

Prime 1

After priming the rest of the desk, I laid the tambour over a round kitchen garbage can that was on it’s side.  I wanted to open up the creases so I could get primer in each crease between the wood slats.  I was able to do this with a thin coat of primer.

Prime Tambour

Get just enough primer to fill in the dark portion in between the wood slats.  Use your brush to wipe off any excess and wipe your brush on some paper if you have too much paint on your brush.  You have time to wipe off the excess before it dries.  What you don’t want is a thick layer of wet, drippy paint on the tambour or the paint will crack once it dries.  The Zinsser 123 Primer is perfect for this application because it is thin but clings well to the grooves while covering well.

prime 2

At this point, fill any remaining holes, dents or scratches on the rest of the desk.  You should now be able to see them easier with the piece primed.  Sand those parts after they are dry.

Halfway into this process, I realized  that this desk didn’t have any of the cute ‘card catalog’ style drawers that you so often see on these desks.  I decided to add some using some unfinished jewelry boxes I found online.

Jewelry Boxes 1Jewelry Boxes 2

I bought two for each side and glued them together with carpenter’s glue and clamped them overnight to dry.  I also pulled off the wooden knobs, filled the holes and then made holes for some cute pulls.  Make your holes before you paint because you don’t want to risk screwing up the final finish.  I then glued the drawers onto the inside of the desk using wax paper to ensure the glue didn’t seep onto the desk top.

Base Coat 1

 

I started painting the desk with the yellowish base coat on the places I would faux stain and used white on the rest.  It took a couple coats of white paint because the desk was so dark.

I used the same process on this desk as I did with the end tables in my post How To Gel Stain Wood  Here is a pic of the first coat of gel stain.  You want to leave some sections only partly covered in the first coat to make the second coat a little more translucent and “wood-grain-like” in those parts.

Gel Stain

Back to the tambour…While I let each coat of gel stain dry at least 24 hours, I laid the tambour flat on the concrete and added a thin coat of white.  Again brush off any excess.  It was still a little streaky at this point but you will touch that up towards the end

After the second and final gel stain coat, I added a coat of wipe-on polyurethane to the stained parts.  The nice thing about latex paint and polyurethane is that you know that in 10 years the finish will look the same and be just as durable.   Both finishes provide a clean, wipe-able surface that will not hold dirt easily.

I have a friend that did her entire kitchen cabinets in chalk paint and wax.  They looked fantastic but after only 6 months they looked awful because the porosity of the chalk paint held on to every speck of dirt and dust in her kitchen.  She ended up redoing them in latex shortly after.  (Getting off my soapbox now…)

After touching up the tambour one last time, I put the desk together including the main drawers, the top and the tiny drawers.  I also added new hardware to the whole desk including ‘card catalog’ style drawer pulls to the top drawers.  Didn’t they turn out cute?

Drawers

 

Desk Transformation

Rolltop Desk with Stained Top

Notice the concrete floors in the background.  We had a massive flood which I shared about in my post Beauty From Chaos: How to Find Peace in Any Situation.

Rolltop Desk with Closed Top

This desk was quite an undertaking but worth it to bring out the full potential of such a fabulous vintage piece.  Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out my other furniture transformations!

Writing Desk Makeover

Coffee Table Reveal and a Word About Transparency

Made Over, Inside and Out – China Cabinet Transformation

 

‘Til Next Time,

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Rolltop Desk at www.renovatedfaith.comTheRightWayToRefinishARolltopDesk

Writing Desk Makeover

When I stumbled on this antique writing desk, I knew it had incredible potential.  The previous owner has painted portions of it in gold acrylic paint.  This piece took a lot of sanding with my sander to repair some water damage on the top but the results are well worth the process.

before-desk

I’m pleasantly surprised with the outcome as it doesn’t look like the same table.  I also refinished and covered a chair to match.

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As mentioned, there was an incredible amount of sanding that had to be done on this piece before coating it in Zinnser’s Bullseye 123 water-based primer.  I painted it on and it was dry in 30 minutes.

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I then put on my first coat of blue paint.  I mixed a few colors I had to get just the right shade but it is almost identical to Behr’s Sonata Blue, except maybe a tad grayer.  After the first coat, I sanded the piece lightly with a fine grit sanding pad on my mouse sander.  Then, I added my last coat of blue with some floetrol mixed in to reduce brush strokes.

I thought this desk would be an ideal piece in someone’s living room or bedroom  as a small work space that was still inviting.  My friend Katie bought this piece for her bedroom to do just that.

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I also recovered the chair I painted to match, adding upholstery trim to give it an extra pop.  Miss Mustard Seed would be so proud!

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I couldn’t find a drawer liner I liked so I used this Waverly fabric instead.  I ironed it with lots of spray starch.  After cutting it to size, I attached it to the drawer with Elmer’s spray glue.

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What stands out to me about this project was the massive amount of sanding that had to be done before I started priming or painting.  I used my Ryobi sander which made the task much easier.  The top had some water stains and I had to let the desk sit in my garage a few weeks to make sure it was dried out.  Then, I put on my respirator and started sanding off the damage until I could see a fresh, even wood surface.  Here is a picture of said water damage and also how the surface looked when I finished.

I spent so much time sanding but I knew there was no way around this excruciating task.  To achieve its beautiful finish, a process had to take place.  Rushing the process or skipping over steps would be a detriment to the finished product.  Although painful (especially to my sander), this was a step that had to be endured.

In my last post on Goal Setting, I stated that development is a necessary part of the process.  If you are waiting for God to work in your life for something you’ve always dreamed, know that He already is.  He has not forgotten you and your current phase in life.   Although difficult, your current waiting game  and stage of development is vital to see His plan come to fruition.

He knows what we need to learn and where we need to grow.  That often comes with some sanding but He also knows the end result is worthwhile.

If you have been waiting for God to bring about His Plans, know that the “when” is just as important as the “what”.  There is nothing worse than being where God wants you to be before you are truly ready.

Know this period of sanding is just for a time.  This too shall pass.  For this season, rely on what He has shown you and trust Him for He hasn’t yet.

‘Til Next Time,

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DIY Vanity Transformation

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After living in a tiny house and sharing a small vanity with my husband, I knew I wanted a place of my own to get ready in the mornings.  Seeing the perfect location in front of a window in our master bedroom, I was excited to put a classy new vanity in front of it with the morning light streaming in.    As much as I don’t like putting on makeup, I knew sitting at this vanity would make it much more tolerable.

Now that I had built up my own expectations of this glamorous vanity table, it was time to go shopping where I find all my favorite treasures…a used furniture store.  Other than saving money, I wanted to make this piece my own.  This project took a few weeks.  As I sanded, wiped, painted and then repeated this process, my thoughts couldn’t help but to meditate on some specific ways God works in our lives much like I was working on the desk.

before-table

He Sees Us

Upon seeing this desk at the consignment shop among the many other pieces, I knew it would be perfect as a vanity table, a piece I would truly enjoy and call my own for years to come.  I had a much better purpose for this old desk and knew it had incredible potential, but it would need a serious makeover.

In the same way, God sees us through our brokenness.  In spite of the dated molding, shiny laminate surface, burnt orange stain and weird smell, I loved that sad old desk and knew I needed as my own.  Who knew something destined for a trash heap would be one of my greatest treasures.  The same could be said of us.   Because of the stain of our sin, we deserve the trash heap but God cleans us up, transforms us and prepares a perfect place for us in His Home. 

makeup-table-sun

He Redeems Us

The definition of “redeem” is “to regain possession of something in exchange for payment.”  I bought this desk for $40 and the stool for $10.  In order to transform this desk, I had to first buy it.  There was a price to be paid, even for a dirty old desk.

The same can be said of us – we are but damaged goods in need of transformation. Our sin was so much filthier than an old piece of furniture, but a much higher price would need to be paid to give us a right standing before a perfectly holy God.  God knew no amount of good works would ever be able to rectify our sinful condition so he did the extraordinary.  He pulled us out of the ruble and God had to pay the ultimate price – His one and only son.   God rescued us from sin just like I rescued the desk from its awful fate. 

makeup-table-front

He Transforms Us

God doesn’t stop there.  Upon rescuing us, He begins an amazing process of transformation because He loves us too much to just leave us alone. Upon coming to know Christ, an amazing process of renovation begins.  I wasn’t about to bring this desk into our newly decorated bedroom and use it in its current state.  Over a period of time and in several steps, a transformation had to occur.

To achieve my vision for this desk, if it was cleaned, sanded, primed, painted and new hardware was added.  Several of those steps had to be repeated to be effective and each step had to be fully finished before proceeding to the next.  When God brings us into His family, He continues to transform us to be more and more like Him through the process of sanctification.  He renews us daily knowing that sometimes the sanding of life’s trials can be difficult.  However, we are much more content and satisfied when we allow Him to work in us to fulfill the specific plans He has for us.  He breaths in us life, beauty and purpose that we never knew was possible.

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makeup-table-hardware

Process and Source List

  1. I took off the hardware and filled holes with a generous amount of Elmer’s wood filler. I then drilled new holes for the new hardware.  I also replaced some old molding with new molding from Lowe’s by using Liquid Nails for wood.
  2. After letting the filler dry for 48 hours, I started the sanding process. I used my mouse sander to sand with rough sandpaper to remove that laminate gloss and I just sanded the legs as best as I could by hand.
  3. After wiping with a damp cloth, I primed the whole piece with Zinnser 123 water based primer and let it dry 4 hours. (It dries fast but not as fast as other primers.  This is helpful because it leaves a smoother finish).
  4. I sanded again with smoother sand paper on my mouse sander and sanded the legs by hand.
  5. After wiping with a damp cloth again, I used the Home Depot brand 6 inch rollers (“Best” with the green line) because it gives you a really smooth finish. I applied two coats of Behr Blue Fox in a satin finish with Floetrol (added according to the instructions on the back).  This helps the paint to settle better, leaving fewer brush strokes.
  6. This is the key for a really smooth – I LIGHTLY sanded yet again but with 320 sandpaper. After wiping down the desk and vacuuming the room, I applied one more coat. (Make sure fans and the AC is off to avoid dust particles in the air from settling on the paint surface.)
  7. After letting the piece dry for 2 days, I added the new hardware (amazon.com) and the glass top. Who knew the desk could look so different!?!

small butterfly frame

I thought my DIY butterfly frame was a perfect accessory for my vanity.  I posted here about how I made it and what butterflies mean to me.

wall flowers

This is a sneak peak of my Master Bedroom transformation that I’ll be posting soon!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like these as well:

Light and Airy Master Bathroom

Made Over, Inside and Out

 

Be sure to leave a comment below.  I love to hear your feedback!

‘Til Next Time,

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before-after-makeup-table