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Antique wooden furniture usually suffers a build up of grime and dirt. The diminished lustre and colour also result in a rather dull appearance.  Desks may even have old watermarks and stains that require attention.

Fortunately, it is easy enough to restore old writing desks yourself, provided you use the right tools and methods. If you have an antique desk that you want to restore before selling or reusing, here are steps you can follow.

The Right Tools

To restore an antique desk, you will need:

  • A dust mask
  • Work gloves
  • Paintbrushes
  • Chemical stripper and a stripping tool
  • Sanding block and glass paper
  • Fine steel wool
  • Polish and wax remover
  • Wood dye
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Wax polish
  • Finishing oil

Step 1: Strip Back

Stripping antique furniture can be quite messy, so if you can, work outside. If you must work indoors, be sure to protect your floors and any nearby furniture. Also make sure there is adequate ventilation.

You don’t want to damage the finish on the body of your desk, so cover it with a plastic sheet, only exposing the top. You can then start applying stripper with an old brush.

Step 2: Leave the Layers to Dissolve

Leave the layers for around half an hour at a time until the finish has dissolved. The finish is a mixture of old polish and varnish.

Step 3: Neutralise the Stripper

Next, neutralise the wood using steel wool that you have soaked in white spirit and polish remover. Make sure you follow the grain of the wood.

Step 4: Clean the Rest of the Desk

Next, wipe away any residues using cotton rags and leave the desk for 24 hours. You can then clean away old polish and dirt on other parts of the desk by applying a wax remover with steel wool or coarse cloth. Leave for a couple of minutes to allow the wax to soften and then wipe away with a clean cloth.

Step 5: Go Back to the Top

Once you’ve left the top of the desk for 24 hours, use a sand block and fine glasspaper to smooth over the wood that was raised during the stripping process. Again, work with the grain. Shake off and vacuum your protective sheet to rid it off any dust that might spoil your finished desk and then wipe the top of the desk using a tack cloth.

Step 6: Sort out the Bleached Wood

If sun damage has bleached part of the desk, apply a mahogany wood dye to make the top look like new. You should apply the dye generously using a brush and then leave the stain to penetrate. You can then wipe away any excess with a cloth.

Step 7: Bring out the Sheen

Once the desk is dry, apply a coat of finishing oil using either a lint free cloth or a brush. Leave the oil to penetrate for around ten minutes and then wipe away any surplus. Wait another five hours and then gently rub with fine steel wool before applying another coat and repeating as necessary to get the desired sheen.

Step 8: Finishing Off

Finally, apply a very thin coat of quality furniture wax over the table. Leave for about an hour and then use your lint free cloth to polish.

Take note of these tips if you want to restore your old antique desk successfully.