Refinish a Vintage Desk & Chair

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I found this stunning pink chair sitting beside a dumpster 
while driving near downtown Calgary.  Step 1 is to get over your fear of dumpster diving.  I personally love when people ask me "do I need a coaster".  My favorite reply is "oh no, I found that table sitting beside the dumpster".  The best time to look is of course around the end of the month, you would be suprised what you might find.  Dumpster diving alone is not enough for me I also frequent the second hand stores looking for treasures.  I bought the desk for $14.99. 

As inexpensive as this is beginning to sound it is a lot of work.  Often refinished furniture is more expensive than buying new, although the quality today is not the same, unless you spend a fortune for the new (which of course I don't mind doing either).  I like the look of mixing price points, styles and eras to achieve a lived in, collected over time, unique interior.  

Knowing how time consuming striping furniture is I opted for striping only the flat surface areas of the chair using a power sander and mask.  It's hard to know what you're breathing in when you sand furniture and based on the smell I don't think it's healthy.  I also sanded the finish off the top of the desk.  I gave a quick sand to the parts of the chair that were to be painted black to get rid of the paint drips from the previous paint job.  I lightly sanded the entire desk so the paint would stick.  I removed the metal decorative plate on the desk and filled the holes and any cracks with Polyfilla from a tube.  Joints can be hard to paint if they don't meet properly after 1 coat of paint it will be obvious the cracks that could use a little Polyfilla.  I painted 3 coats of black paint, Benjamin Moore 2133-10 Onyx.  Then I sanded off the black paint that I got on the wood areas, this is why I finished the black first. 


The wood on the desk and the chair were not the same.  To fix this I mixed brown acrylic paint with Varsol to thin it out.  I dipped a wet J-Cloth in the paint and rubbed it on the wood surfaces, creating the look of time worn wood.  I finished by painting the entire desk and chair with 3 coats of semi-gloss Varathane.  I have experimented with using bristle brushes and foam brushes and usually use a combination of both.  I keep a brush that is almost dry to clean up spots that get to much Varathane on them as it will bubble and look milky if over applied.  I replaced the knob on the desk with a knob from Lee Valley and I put furniture feet on the bottom of the desk and chair.