Friday, September 20, 2013

These Aren't the Desks You're Looking For...

About six weeks ago I popped into the St. Vincent de Paul store just to see what I could see, and the first things I saw were these two little school desks all by their lonesome.

They were scratched, stained, and icky grimy but they were also DARLING. And at $4 each, how could I not take them home?

{Taking them  home turned out to be quite a trick, as I drive a very teeny car that is filled to the brim with car seats, but with one desk in the passenger seat and one sticking out of the trunk we all made it home.}

I had grand plans of refinishing them but of course they languished, untouched, for a while until I read about the Get Your DIY On link party over at Just a Girl and Her Blog. This link party is so neat because it has a different challenge every week this fall, and the challenge for September 22 was slated as "$20 Thrift Upcycle". It seemed like the perfect deadline by which to refinish my little dears--erm, I mean, desks.

It was going to be a bit of a challenge, seeing as I had already spent $8 of the $20 on purchasing the desks themselves. Luckily, I had most of the supplies I needed in my stash--I only had to buy two cans of spray paint: Valspar Primer + Paint in Tropical Gloss ($4) and Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze ($8). If I'm doing my math right, that adds up to $20! Dang I'm good.

First I put CJ to work giving them a good scrub-down. 

To prep both desks for refinishing I took them apart as much as I could. And threw all the hardware in a distilled white vinegar bath to soak all the gunk off.

Then I applied Citristrip stripping gel to all the wood parts and also to the metal. The varnish on the wood came off fairly easily but the metal had some stubborn parts that I had to work on with an abrasive pad. Then I wiped everything down with mineral spirits and sanded the seats, desk tops, and chair slats with 60 grit, 120 grit, and then 220 grit sandpaper.

Then I got a little creative with the stain application. On one I made horizontal lines with 1-1/2" painters tape and on the other I applied vinyl alphabet decals. The stain (Miniwax Dark Walnut) bled a little underneath both the painters tape and the decals,  but I kind of liked the resulting rustic effect.

The seats and chair slats got stained too, then all the wood got a couple of coats of polyurethane in a satin finish.

The metal needed many many MANY coats of spray paint.

But then it was finally time to put them back together. I almost failed at this part because I didn't take detailed pictures before I took them apart. Rookie mistake.

Be still my heart.

Don't tell Nemo, but I think owning these fabulous desks means we are morally obligated to homeschool.

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I've shared this post at Link Party Palooza, Inspiration Exchange, and Show Me What Ya Got

DIY Show OffToo Much Time On My HandsJust a Girl and Her Blog

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Postscript: There's more Humblebee on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Hope to see you there! Especially on Instagram. I love Instagram.


  1. Cute, cute, cute. I love this. What a great redo. I would love for you to link up to my Inspire Me party that will go live tomorrow afternoon. Hugs, Marty

  2. Wow, what an undertaking. I love the letters on the desk!

  3. Love it! I hope you'll link up!

    Dagmar's Home

  4. Awwww, so cute! We had a little vintage desk set when I was growing up, and I loved it! You did a wonderful job with these, and your helper is so darn cute! Thanks so much for sharing this at Get Your DIY On! Hope to see you on Sunday with your spray paint projects! Have a wonderful day, Miss Eva!

    ~Abby =)

    1. Lol he is getting to be such a big help! I can't believe how grown up he is!

  5. These are so adorable! We used to play school as kids all the time. I'm sure your kids love them!

    1. Thank you! I loved playing school when I was a kid, maybe because I was homeschooled so it seemed pretty novel:)

  6. Hello, I have a desk that is very similar and am also interested in staining the wood and spray painting the metal. I'm not quite sure how to go about taking it apart though. The parts that are used to attach the pieces together do not have holes in them to insert a screwdriver. I know this post was published a few years ago, but maybe you remember how you dismantled it and any tips you could provide would be awesome!