Drop Top Beauty
There is a consignment shop near my parents house in the suburbs that my mother and I always check out when I come to visit. It has become our consistent visit activity. We check up on items we have our eye on, waiting for the date the price drops. This desk was one of those items. I loved the fold top aspect. It has an old world romance about it. This desk is solid wood through with a beautiful carved inlay, I couldn’t say no. Plus the price had dropped to its lowest, so I didn't feel guilty.
I was so excited to get my hands on this one. I dragged it outside and sanded away. Starting with 80 grit sandpaper and working my way down to 220. Solid wood pieces are a dream to work on. You can sand down the wood to rid most of the impurities and totally bring it back to life. My plan for this desk was to re-stain it a similar color, provincial, and use a sage green paint for the inlay and inside shelves. Provincial stain color is really lovely. The grain in the wood absorbs to a deeper brown with some light hues of red throughout. It falls right in the middle; not too dark and not too light. Plus it looks fantastic with green!
As I sanded I noticed that the fold top part of the desk was coming apart but it was an easy fix. I finished sanding the finish off the entire desk with 80 grit before fixing it. I brushed some wood glue into the groove and used two tightening straps, wrapped around the bottom support up through the top, to hold it tightly together as it dried. I used a damp cloth to wipe up any excess glue that squeezed out, making sure to get it while it was still wet. After the wood glue was dry, I moved on to finer grit sandpaper. I waited to this point in the process to fix it so that I could sand off any excess glue that I might have missed. This way it would not be noticeable at all when it came to the staining part of the process. So it was onto 120 grit then 220.
Legs I always sand by hand. It is easy to misshapen them when trying to use a hand sander, leaving weird flat parts on the beautiful turned legs. To avoid this I rough them up by hand. Since I am staining this a similar color I wasn’t too concerned about getting off all residual stain. If I was going blonde then it would be a real pain stacking but worthwhile process.
Now on to the best part. I love staining. It is so exciting. No matter how many times I have applied stain, it is always a guess as to how the piece is going to take the color. Different woods absorb in different ways and every one has its own grain pattern. It is the loveliest part of the process, in my opinion. It can also be the scariest. It is that epic moment of truth. I’m coming off the tiresome high of determination to get it clean for this moment of actualization.
I applied three coats of the provincial stain before I got the color I wanted. It has such soft red tones that compliment the fresh olive paint color I chose for the inlay and shelves. I apply the stain using a throw away shop cloth. Making sure to work in small sections to get have a consistent application throughout the piece. By working in small sections I assure that I get to the excess stain before it tacks up and I am able to wipe off any drips. By working small I can keep my focus on that area before moving on.
I’m not going to lie, this was some seriously tedious work. Absolutely worth it in the end. I applied two coats of the fresh olive. I like to use Behr paint when working on detail work. It has a thicker consistency so it is less prone to drippage. I used a small brush for the inlay and a mixture of a brush and little roller for the inside shelves. I like to use a roller whenever possible for both the time savings and the lack of brush strokes left behind. A roller just gives a smoother application. I also painted the insides of the drawers so that the entire piece looked finished. That way, when the drawer gets pulled out the fresh olive is a lovely pop of color. Once the inlay had dried on the front and the drawer, I wiped a light coat of the provincial stain over it. It is a really subtle step but it softens the vibrancy of the fresh paint. It gives a slight age and makes the paint a little more cohesive to the rest of the piece.
I brushed on two coats of semigloss polyurethane using a foam brush. I like using foam brushes for this step because they leave minimal brush marks. I follow the directions on the can, let sit at least 4 hours in between coats and recoat after a light sanding. Honestly because I am using a foam brush, the light sanded is real light. It is very important to remove all dust that is created before reapplying with a tack cloth.
After the second coat is dried I always follow through with waxing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million more times, waxing is so essential. It rids the piece of any brush strokes from poly application and it leaves the piece so touchable smooth. It is unreal how smooth the piece becomes. I will run my fingers across sometimes just in admiration of how smooth it feels. I wouldn't suggest just using wax as a sealing method. It is not very effective at protecting a piece from everday wear and tear but it is effective aesthetically after applying polyurethane.
First, I sanded the entire piece with 400 grit sandpaper. Then I followed using the paste wax on 0000 steel wool. Using my body weight for pressure, I rubbed the wax with the grain of the wood; following through with a clean section of steel wool to remove any excess wax. I continued throughout the whole piece. If there is still noticeable wax on the surface, I sprinkle a few drops of cold water and wipe the piece down with a tack cloth. What is left, is a flawlessly smooth wood surface worth drooling over.
A consignment shop find spruced up. This piece had such beautiful bones, it just needed some time and attention. Who doesn’t? I’m glad I was the one who could do it. The hand painted inlay makes this a stand out piece. The pop of green when the door opens is a cheerful welcome to the inside. It is a perfect place to park up, with a cup of coffee and an imagination.