East #16: Spwishy's Used Desk Makeover

East #16: Spwishy's Used Desk Makeover

Maxwell Ryan
Jan 31, 2008

Name: spwishy
Location: Montreal, Canada
Time: About 15 hours. Could have been much less had I not made the mistakes I made.
Cost: Desk: 200$ used; Keyboard shelf mechanism: 15$ used; Wood for keyboard shelf: 18$; Handles: 36$; Wood Treatment Oil: 9$

When wood gets old, particularly veneer, many of us simply think about chucking it and going shopping. But it's hard to find good furniture, and wood is incredibly resilient and responds well to TLC. Here, Spwishy tells us how. Head below the jump for all her pics, tools, and instructions and VOTING...


Tell us the tools and resources you used for the project:

- Used desk found at a used office furniture store (1)
- Jobmate sander (1)
- Black & Decker Screwdriver (1):
- Ikea KORREKT handles (5)
- Wood (1 keyboard shelf)
- Wood treatment oil
- Used keyboard shelf mechanism (2 top mountable rails)
- Screws for handles and keyboard shelf rails


Share step by step instructions for how you completed the project:

1. I chose the desk specifically because the wood (hard oak) matched that of my kitchen table. However, the finish looked like the previous owner had put self-tanner on it. It was orange and too dark to see the wonderful grain. Since I had no previous experience refinishing furniture but I did have an electric sander, it was important to me to choose a desk with flat surfaces only;

2. In sanding the desk I made one crucial mistake that cost me hours and hours of work: the grain I had chosen for the sander was the biggest grain I had. If your piece is already painted, you must use the finest grain you have. It will get rid of the paint tenfolds faster and you will not need other grains to finish;

3. After sanding was finished, I cleaned the desk of any remaining fine dust and treated the now natural wood with oil;

4. I got the very modern handles for my desk at Ikea. However, Lee Valley has hundreds of models to choose from and this is probably where I would have gotten mine had I known about this store sooner. Those I chose may only be screwed from behind, which added an extra challenge to the installation. I made a cardboard template of the back of the handle that I then centered horizontally and lined up to the top of each drawer;


5. I removed the plastic keyboard shelf that was on the mechanism I had purchased and attached the wooden shelf to it instead;

6. After the wooden shelf was attached to the mechanism, I proceeded to install it under the desk. However I had made another crucial mistake: I had chosen the piece of wood slightly smaller than the clearing under my desk, however this was not enough so that the screwdriver could reach the wood because of the limited space between the mechanism and the shelf. I had to purchase 6 inch bits for my screwdriver (from Lee Valley);

7. This has not yet been done, but I would like to add a small 4$ Ikea STRIPA shelf to the back of the desk (the back of the desk is flush with the back of the drawers, which are not as deep as the desk, making this a perfect space for unseen cable management.)

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