Resurrecting a bureau

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Project by YorkshireStewart posted 01-30-2009 12:25 AM 2894 views 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This isn’t a serious entry in 2009 Winter Awards as it’s not exactly ‘Fine Woodworking’ but I think it’s an interesting story that happens to fit the theme.

When my step-daughter moved into her C18th country cottage in Yorkshire, she found this wreck of a bureau amongst the debris in a garden shed. It was being used to store flower pots and old seed packets. ”You don’t think you could clean it up for me??” said she. What can a fella do?

I imagine it dates from around the 1920s, so it was worth bringing back into use.

To remove the accumulated filth, I used a mixture of linseed oil, vinegar and methylated spirit (denatured alcohol) in equal parts; applied with fine steel wool. Yes, I know I shouldn’t have used steel wool on oak, but there’s no sign of any problem after several years.

‘Cleaning it up’ included replacing the craftsman built(?) shelves with something a little more stylish. See above.

I took the opportunity to incorporate some ‘secret’ drawers (and now I’m telling the world!) as was the tradition with some of the finer desks and bureaux. Picture # 4 (not a very sharp image) shows the four secret drawers. The two bigger ones were so secret that when I went back after a couple of years to take a picture, it took us half an hour to find them! The distressed finish, or lack of finish, was deliberate in an attempt to make them blend in.

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

17 comments so far

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4121 days

#1 posted 01-30-2009 12:31 AM

you made a GREAT job well done it looks German to me as I brought baack a German table from when I lived there and it is similar in design bnut maybe not cheers Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Colin's profile


246 posts in 4457 days

#2 posted 01-30-2009 12:40 AM

At last Stewart, I have been watching the contest waiting for your entry, I knew that you would not let me down, the restoration work looks great as do the secret drawers, good luck with the contest.


-- Colin, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. "Every craftsman was once an amateur"

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4121 days

#3 posted 01-30-2009 12:58 AM

Hi Colin I hope you are keeping well kindest regards Alistair from Argyll and bute

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Andy's profile


1713 posts in 4444 days

#4 posted 01-30-2009 02:19 AM

Thanks for sharing this story and the process.
My wife and I have been fixing up,repairing and refinishing old furniture for 34 years now.It started out of need and now is mostly out of enjoyment.We love seeing the transformation.

You did a real nice job on this Stewart.
I imagine your step daughter was very happy with you :-)

-- If I can do it, so can you.

View TonyWard's profile


748 posts in 4864 days

#5 posted 01-30-2009 02:27 AM


Nice work, great to see an old work given a new lease of life.

Tony Ward

View Karson's profile


35207 posts in 4937 days

#6 posted 01-30-2009 02:35 AM

Steward. A great job.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4209 days

#7 posted 01-30-2009 03:19 AM

Nice peice.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4850 days

#8 posted 01-30-2009 03:21 AM

Great save!

View griff's profile


1207 posts in 4298 days

#9 posted 01-30-2009 05:47 AM

Great job,

-- Mike, Bruce Mississippi = Jack of many trades master of none

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4863 days

#10 posted 01-30-2009 06:54 AM

fantastic save….
if only you’d show us how you fit in the secret drawers – in such a way that even you couldn’t find them!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4411 days

#11 posted 01-30-2009 11:48 AM

What a great restoration. You do nice work!

View HallTree's profile


5665 posts in 4303 days

#12 posted 01-30-2009 09:07 PM

Nice Job! I have been wanting to make a small desk for my wife. Have never seen one like yours. Very different.

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 4335 days

#13 posted 01-30-2009 09:12 PM

always nice to save a good one…

-- making sawdust....

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4783 days

#14 posted 01-30-2009 10:29 PM

Mr Stewart, it never ceases to amaze me the extreme bounds of your ability. The restoration of the desk is another example of your endless talent. Fine job.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Grumpy's profile


25772 posts in 4387 days

#15 posted 01-31-2009 12:36 AM

Excellent restoration Stew. Don’t worry about your secret I won’t tell anybody. LOL

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

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