Refinish a Wooden Desk or Tabletop

One of the benefits of fixing things up yourself is that you get to try out some new toys! Not to mention you end up with a piece you can really enjoy because you had a hand in making it. Maybe that’s why people like their children so much?

Anyway, in order to make sanding down the desk a little easier, I picked up a Rigid 5″ Orbital Sander.

Here’s all the supplies I’ll be using today:

  • Minwax “Jacobean” Stain
  • Minwax Satin Water-Based Polycrylic Sealer
  • Respirator
  • Latex Gloves
  • Foam Brushes
  • Elmers Wood Filler
  • Safety Glasses
  • Man Mug

Ah, the directions. I skip straight to ‘Operation’. Sand in parallel lines with the grain. Easy enough. Oh and check out my man mug. The manliest mug of all time. Made in china.

Of course, right when I’m about to start I find out my safety glasses are missing the nose piece. Nothing some duct tape won’t fix though!

Before I get started I wipe down the desk with a wet rag, making sure to get all the dust and fuzzies.



220 grit sheets.

I swapped out the 80 grit paper the sander came with for 220, which was my first mistake. When you’re trying to get off old shellac or clear coat, you’re better off with a tougher grit so you don’t have to make as many passes. So go for the 80-120 grit to get off the clearcoat, depending on how thick it is. Be sure to wear a mask so you don’t breath in any of the dust.

My man mug came with a flannel shirt.

Now that I got the old stuff off, I’m going to move on to the next desk. Though I’d really like to start staining (can’t wait!), it’s best not to mix business and pleasure. Or in this case sanding with staining. So I’m going to get all the sanding out of the way first.

Once again I wipe down the wood with a wet and then dry rag to get all the dust off. You want to make sure there isn’t anything on the wood before you stain.

Throw on your gloves, mix up the stain with a mixing stick and grab a rag. Apply the stain with the grain of the wood, do not go against it!

Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then wipe off any excess stain that did not get absorbed. Be sure to wipe it with the grain, as was done in the previous step. Against the grain, you’ll live in shame. I made that up.

Now I’m going to let it sit overnight before I throw on the polycrylic clearcoat!

As with the wood stain, mix the clearcoat thoroughly before applying. They say you can use a regular brush, but I like these foamies. They don’t leave any streaks.

Action shot!

I always wear a mask, I had asthma as a young lad.

There’s the finished desktops! I think they look great, but that’s just my opinion. Check out the end of this post to see these in the wild!


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