Restoring & Refinishing A Old Desk: A Beginner’s Guide

by | Aug 19, 2022 | Living Room

Restoring & Refinishing A Old Desk: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re like most people, you probably have an old piece of furniture lying around your house that you’ve been meaning to restore for years. Well, now is the time to finally do it!

In this blog post, we will walk you through the steps necessary to restore your old desk using a few simple techniques. We’ll also provide some tips on how to prevent future damage. So whether you’re restoring an antique desk or just giving an old dresser a fresh coat of paint, follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to having beautiful furniture once again!


Tools & Supplies

1. Remove Any Hardware & Clean the Desk

Removing the hardware from your desk is a necessary step in the restoration process. It’s important to take your time and be careful when doing this, as you don’t want to damage any of the pieces.

The first step is to remove the screws or nails that hold the hardware in place. Once these are removed, you can gently pry the hardware off of the desk using a screwdriver or a hammer and chisel. Be careful not to scratch or damage the desk surface in any way.

Once the hardware is removed, you can give the desk a good cleaning. Use a damp cloth to wipe away any dust or dirt, then dry with a clean towel.

2. Sand The Desk

Sanding the desk is an important step in the restoration process, as it will help to remove any previous finishes and prepare the surface for staining or painting.

There are a few different ways to sand a desk, but we recommend using an orbital sander, but it is possible to use a handheld sanding block as well. If you’re using a handheld sandpaper block, start with medium-grit sandpaper and work your way up to a finer grit. If you’re using an electric sander, start with coarse-grit sandpaper and work your way down to a finer grit. For this desk I started with 80 grit then went to 120, 180, and finished with 220.

Be sure to sand in all directions, and make sure to get into all of the nooks and crannies. Continue sanding until the surface is completely smooth.

3. Use Stripper When Needed

Another way to remove the stain in those tough-to-sand spots is to use a stripper. Simply apply a generous amount to the surface where you would like to remove the stain or varnish and let it sit for 8-24hrs. After you give the stripper time to do its magic, come back and scrub off the old stain.

I prefer to use an old tool brush, steel wool pads, and mineral spirits to wipe everything off. Be sure to wear safety glasses and gloves when going through this process.

When to Sand Vs Use Stripper?

There are a few things you should take into consideration when trying to decide whether to sand or strip your furniture.

The type of wood will make a difference. If the wood is soft, like pine, then stripping will be less likely to damage it. Harder woods, like oak, can handle more sanding.

Depending on the shape of the furniture it can also make it harder to sand. Most of the time I prefer to sand because it is less messy and I don’t have to wait for the stripper to dry. For this desk, however, I ended up using both methods and it worked out great.

4. Desk Staining

Staining is a great way to add color and protection to your desk. There are a few different ways to stain a desk, but we recommend using a brush-on or wipe-on stain.

To apply the stain, start by shaking or stirring the can to ensure that the stain is mixed properly. Next, apply the stain to the desk using a brush, working in long strokes in the same direction. Be sure to wipe off any excess stain with a clean cloth.

Let the stain dry for at least 24 hours before moving on to the next step. Depending on your stain or how dark you want the color to be you might want to apply multiple coats of stain.

5. Desk Painting

For this desk, I decided I wanted to combination of stain and paint.

To start, choose a paint color that you love and that will complement the stain color. There are a few different types of paint that can be used on furniture, but we recommend using an acrylic latex paint. This type of paint is specifically designed for use on wood and will provide a durable finish.

When painting, start with a small amount of paint and work in long strokes in the same direction. If possible I like to use a roller.

6. Apply Polyurethane

After the Stain has had time to dry, you will want to apply a layer of polyurethane. This will protect the desk from scratches and wear and tear. To apply, start by stirring the can of polyurethane to ensure that it is mixed properly. Then, using a brush, work in long strokes in the same direction. Be sure to wipe off any excess polyurethane with a clean cloth.

Let the desk dry for at least 24 hours before using it. Depending on how much traffic the desk will see, you might want to apply multiple coats of polyurethane. You might also find that the desk has small little bumps that you will want to sand down with very soft sandpaper (220 grit +).

7. Add Hardware

Hardware can really make a desk pop! It can also be a great way to add some personality to a desk. For this desk, I chose to add some black handles that picked up at The Home Depot,but there are so many different types of hardware out there, so choose what you love!

To install the hardware, start by measuring where you want the handles to go. Then, using a drill, make pilot holes for the screws. Be sure to use a drill bit that is smaller than the screws that you are using so that you don’t split the wood. Finally, screw in the handles and voila! You’ve got a desk with some personality!

There you have it! A desk that is as good as new (or even better)! Restoring and refinishing furniture can be a great way to save money and get some unique pieces for your home. And, it’s really not as difficult as it might seem. Just follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to having

We hope you found this guide helpful! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. And be sure to check out our other blog posts for more great tips and tricks!


Hi, my name is Corbin and I am a wannabe DIYer. My wife and I bought our first house a few months ago and to be honest It was a cookie-cutter house. Everywhere you looked it was just white walls. Not even “eggshell” white, the color was literally called “extra white”. Read More