Hey, hey y’all! Soo excited to share this big project with y’all! I had been looking for a secretary desk for a while to put in the great room. Ever since I was little, I wanted a secretary desk, I’ve always thought they were so pretty! I love that you can just close the top and tuck everything inside away. I found this gorgeous solid wood secretary desk at a local antique shop, and I waited a full week before buying it. It is really old, and needed lots of work!
So I’m not sure about this desk’s background. There isn’t a stamp or writing anywhere on it to give me a clue about how old it is. What I do know, is that it’s solid wood, and there are many pieces that don’t match up very well, so I feel like someone made this in their shop at home. It’s very primative. Not a piece of vinyl on it! Which is exactly what I wanted, because I knew I could do the oven cleaner method on it since there wasn’t vinyl, except for that piece of vinyl leather. 😉
So after it home, I was able to check it out a little deeper than in the store. I realized then that this is going to be a lot of work! Haha! I needed these items for sure!
- Wood glue (You might need, depending on how much work your piece needs)
- Minwax Stainable Wood Filler
- Barkeepers Friend (for cleaning hardware)
- Easy-off Flume Free oven cleaner (I used about 7 cans total)
- Sand paper (80 grit, and 120 grit comes together in this kit linked)
- Scrub Brushes (in various sizes)
- Dawn Dish Soap
- White rags
- Dish Gloves
- Tarp to cover flooring (if needed)
I’ve put links to as many of these products as possible to help you find the supplies quick and easy! Please know that I get a small commission from the brand if you purchase something through my link, but it’s at no extra cost to you!
The first thing I did was remove the hardware to clean it. It was still really cold outside, and I knew I could do this in the garage to hide from the cold wind, but still get good ventilation if needed.
On the back of f Bar Keepers Friend, there was directions to clean the hardware, and I followed those! I laid down my tarp, spread out the hardware, dunked them all in water, then sprinkled on the Bar Keeper’s Friend. Then, I let it sit for a few minutes, then got a white rag and started to wipe it all off. Once I rubbed off the powder, I dipped it back in the water, and dried it with the towel. There were a few tough spots I had to do again, but for the most part, it all came off the first time! I forgot to take photos, but I got lots of video!
I did take a before and after photo of one of the pulls. It doesn’t make them all perfect, but the Barkeepers Friend, really puts some life back into them! Also, I lost one of the little pull knobs for one of the small drawers inside the desk, and I’m pretty heartbroken about it! Hoping I find it in the driveway somewhere, or in the garage under something one day! *Fingers crossed*
Secretary Desk – The Easy-off Way
So to make sure this was going to work, I did a test run on a small drawer. I chose to do the Easy-off oven cleaner method after seeing so many gorgeous projects refinished with it by @Vintageporch . Her blog has been so helpful through this whole process for me!
So I sprayed on a generous amount of the Easy-off on the front and inside of the drawer. My patience didn’t do me any good, cause I scrubbed it off with water and soap in about 10 minutes. This was the result. Got a good amount off, but not all of the layers of stain.
So, a few weeks later when the weather was much warmer, I decided to knock it all out! I did a generous coat of oven cleaner on the whole thing. Working in specific sections so I could time things out for the cleaner to sit longer. At first, the cleaner sprays on thick, but then it quickly becomes thin. Some areas work really quickly on the stain, and you can see it start to change color. Some images below show that!
So, one thing I learned, is that the longer the oven cleaner sat, the better! I let the oven cleaner sit for about 30 minutes before I started to scrub it off with water, and dish soap. I would occasionally dump out my bucket, and get fresh water and soap. Video below show that when I scrub off the oven cleaner, you can see that the stain starts to scrub off, but it doesn’t look as light as it will when it drys!
Scrubbing is super important!! It really helps remove the stain off, and it makes it easier for you to get in all those small detailed spots. The tough part with this larger scrubber though was getting the back and small spots on the inside of the desk. So I suggest purchasing a variety of sizes. I have some linked above! I used a toothbrush too, but I found that a grout cleaner brush worked best since the bristles are stiffer than a soft toothbrush.
Tip: Don’t dump it in your grass, I’ve heard that it will kill the grass. So I dumped it out in my rock driveway, where I don’t want the grass or weeds to grow!
This last image shows how the desk looks after one layer of Easy-off and it dried completely. There were a few spots that I needed to go back and sand. I learned really quickly that scrubbing is very important. I had to do the Easy-off twice on the inside of the desk. There aren’t many photos for that process, cause I was too busy working on the project! Also the image above is so crooked because it was a screenshot of one of my stories on Instagram. *insert face palm*
Once everything has been scrubbed, it’s time for a good wash down. We used our power washer, but you could also use a hose. I felt like the power washer really got the cleaner and stain junk off really good! I let it air dry for a few days before I decided on if it needed more, or if I could move on.
Secretary Desk- The Tough Parts
Now, the Easy-off got a TON of the stain off, and it looked so much better. It was definitely an easy process. I decided to go over the larger area with a sander (80 grit) to get a even, smooth feel to it. I also had to use a LOT of 80 grit sandpaper from all the glue under the faux leather vinyl that was on the pull down desk. Using a scraper, I got the backing of the faux leather off, but the glue wasn’t budging. I even tired Goo Gone. Picture below is after scrubbing cleaner off, but before power washing.
For the glue, I used 80 grit sandpaper and sanded it down. This worked perfectly! I was nervous that it would look different since it was sanded down and not stripped with oven cleaner, but it looked the same.
A few other things that made this project tougher, was that this desk is soooooooo old, and it needed a lot of repairs. We used wood glue for many of the pieces that were broken. Some areas we were able to use a small nail to put it back in its place. One major thing we did was remove the little center cabinet inside. I realized about half way into this project, that my Macbook wouldn’t fit inside. Oops 🙂 !! Jeremy removed the little cabinet, which was much easier than I thought. Then I had to sand down that area again, so it could match the other areas of the desk. I personally don’t think I would have ever used the cabinet anyways!
Jeremy also fixed the back right leg, used some wood glue to glue some of the drawer bottoms back in place, fixed the left pull out support from wobbling all over the place.
To seal, or not to seal?
That is the question and I’ve learned my lesson! Ha! I really wanted to do a wax matte sealer, but the one I wanted was sold out everywhere, even in stores or on Amazon! So I went to my local Sherwin Williams, told them what I wanted, and the suggested this Minwax Polycrylic matte clear sealer! I tried it out on the bartop below our kitchen window outside, and I LOVED it! But when I applied it to the secretary desk, it changed the tone ever so slightly to the wood, and I was not feeling it. I wanted this piece to be light and raw looking. Even though it was a matte sealer, my artist eyes could tell a difference.
So I sanded down the entire outside of the desk. I left the inside with the sealer on it just because it will get lots of wear and tear. I’m sure I’ll have my cup of coffee next to me while working, and I would hate to spill something and it soak all up in the wood. Now, please don’t think that this sealer isn’t good. It’s just not what I wanted!
As I am working on this post, I am sitting at my little mini office space in the great room. She fits so perfectly in this spot like she was always meant to be here. I have always struggled with decorating this space ever since we moved in. It never felt “right”. Now, it feels right! Tell me your thoughts on this process?? Have you done it, or do you have a piece you want to try it on? Comment below, and as always, thanks for reading y’all!
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