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Project Information

This client/friend saw an old desk about to be thrown out and wanted to save it, but it was in rough shape.

She decided to paint everything and have me simply build a top for it. I would have liked to have repaired the drawer front in the same manner as the top but she wasn't too hot on the idea, and didn't want to put too much money into it.

The table itself is very, very old. A small metal plaque on the inside of the drawer said "designed and hand crafted for the Hotel Peabody." Neat stuff. The table top was gone, and all that remained was some trim on one edge. It fit the profile of a roman ogee bit exactly, so my suggestion to the client was to rebuild the top from Oak ply and edge it with 3/4 Oak, matching the original (I presume) style.

It was simple but I had a few disappointments.

I used GF Medium Brown water based dye (after a prestain conditioner), and it looked incredible when it went on but after it dried you could see the pores of the wood really visibly. I didn't know how else to solve it other than another application of the dye, which worked but it darkened it significantly. It wasn't what I really wanted.

Secondly, the wipe on poly I used - which has worked great before - simply wasn't drying to hard finish. I think I must not have waited long enough after the dye, but the gent in the woodworking shop said you can finish over dyes in as little as 2 hours, and in fact I have done that before to success but with water based topcoat. Maybe that was the issue. My solution was to topcoat the failed poly with Shellac, which dried incredibly hard but appeared a little too plasticy.

All in all, I think it looks great in good lighting. The grain and tones show up really well. But in anything other than perfect lighting it simply looks black.

The client was incredibly happy, though, so I suppose I am too.

I'm open to constructive criticism - if you would have taken a different route please let me know.



477 Posts
Wonderful transformation. To see the before and then after images … very nice!