Monday, 14 January 2013

Child's desk

I am enjoying breathing new life into my little items of furniture but the stories behind them intrigue me too.

Take this desk, for example.  There was an inscription on the base of the desk which told me that it had sat in a classroom at Enner Glynn School in the Nelson district before being sold for $10 in February 1998.  At some point in the last 15 years, it has taken a trip across the Cook Strait and who knows where it went to before it ended up in my sister in-law's possession.

Four hours of sanding off paint and varnish led to this:

Thankfully, there were no borer, and surprisingly, no compass gouges, graffiti and very few scrapes - this desk must have been in the front row of the classroom.  When I sanded the paint off the lid, I discovered a faint manufacturer's stamp.  I may have inadvertently sanded off the first initial, so my best guess for the origins of this desk is G.P. Russell and Sons in Nelson, which was a furniture business established in 1929.

I bet you can all sleep easier now that you know some of the desk's history.  If you are still awake after that, here's a breakdown of what I did to revitalise the desk.

I removed all of the stickers by dabbing at them first with a turps-soaked cloth.  Most of the stickers came off cleanly after a minute or two, and others needed a helping hand with a scraper (I used a blunt knife).

After sanding off the paint and varnish, I undercoated the lid and oiled the legs and desk base with tung oil, which really brings out the lovely golden colour of the wood.  Then came the fun part.

No prizes for guessing the paint colour I used on the desk lid.  Sienna absolutely loves this colour, but then she also likes tofu so there's no hope for her.  I really wanted to put a world map on the lid, like this one, but I had no old atlases or maps at home and I really did not want to have to spend more money than I already had on this project (which was kind of a lot, really - just as well the desk was free).  To line the desk, I cut to size a piece of wallpaper from a roll that was left over when the girls' room was decorated a few years' ago.

Instead of decoupaging the lid, I decided to turn the inside of the desk lid into a memo board, which meant burying G.P. Russell and his sons under another avalanche of paint.  Sorry, guys.  I applied four coats of Magnetic Magic between the undercoat and topcoats.  This magnetic paint is totes amazeballs, and is acrylic, which may sound like a minor detail, but after working with enamel-based paint for the past little while, I know what paintbrush I'd rather be cleaning.  I am already thinking up other projects just so I get to use it again.

Just in case you thought they were for show, I am really pleased to report that the fabric button magnets I made actually do stay on when the lid is closed.

Overall, I am really pleased with how this desk has turned out.

The new owner absolutely loves it too.

Cost: $40 ($30 for the magnetic paint and $10 for a packet of magnets - I probably bought them from the most expensive places in town, but I had already spent 2 hours jumping in and out of the car with husband and children in tow trying to find what I needed and so the purchases were made in sheer desperation to Just. Get. Home)
Time taken: 3 days
Result: Love it.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Stella. Just as well I have three children to make use of this, my tree of an eldest daughter will struggle to get her legs under the desk within the year.

  2. I have a little sanding project of my own on the go and your 4 hours of sanding made me a little sad and happy all in one. Sad that it takes that long but happy that I'm not the only sucker sanding. I've been on the look out for a desk to do this to. Sigh. Another 4 hours of sanding coming my way. I also have some amazeballs magnetic paint (somewhere) which I brought for something. Not exactly sure what any more.

    1. I'm glad you had twin emotions reading this, I certainly had twin emotions working on it - respect and resentment. Furniture of a certain age was definitely made to last and I was starting to wonder if there was a minimum requirement for 7 layers of varnish back in the day. I thought my sander was going to blow up before I got down to the timber. Hope you will blog about your project, I'd love to see it.

  3. I love it Leanne! It looks gorgeous.


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