Desk Part 2: Prep Work

This blog post is a continuation of the desk project that I am working on. Previously I selected a design scheme and then sanded the desktop in preparation for staining. Now it's time for the un-glamorous part of the project . . . prep work. Here's my to-do list for today:

  • Apply shellac to base
  • Remove hardware from drawers
  • Clean drawers
  • Repair drawers
  • Shellac drawers
  • Stain top
  • Seal top

Preparation Phase

Since the desk has an old worn finish with dark stain, and I'm planning a lighter color scheme, I know there is a high probability of tannin bleeding through. Sometimes you cannot tell ahead of time, but after I washed away all the dirt and grime, I did a final wash and there was some staining on the towel. That's a big clue there will be bleed through.

My husband is helping with repairs
even though he doesn't get to keep the desk. :-)
There a couple of options to stop the bleed through. One is an oil based primer which works great except, because I'm impatient, it takes too long to dry. I opted to use shellac instead because it dries quickly. However, the problem with shellac is that you cannot always tell if you have good coverage and still might get spots of bleed through. If you missed a spot you'll notice it after the first coat of paint, so simply apply more shellac before the second coat of paint.

I went ahead and applied two coats of shellac to the base of the desk (hoping it will do the trick but knowing I will probably still have to spot treat it). 
Before applying shellac.

After applying shellac.
Here's a view of the back of the desk.

The Drawers

I removed the hardware then re-cleaned the drawers and scraped and sanded crud from the drawer bottoms. I applied shellac to the interior and exterior of the drawers. Normally I don't paint the inside of the drawers; however these don't look very pretty at all. Sometimes just a coat of shellac or poly is all that is needed to refresh the wood, but these will need further treatment as the project progresses. 

For today all I did was apply one coat of shellac. I will apply another coat later in the project once I decide what to do with the interiors. A couple of the drawers required some glue, but otherwise they are in good working order.

I number the backs of the drawers to keep them in the correct order.
You'd be surprised how many times they don't fit back in interchangeably.
This one is labeled "R1".
Not too pretty. Yet.
This shot gives you an idea of the condition 
the desk was in when I bought it.
Repairs in progress.
After one coat of shellac they are starting to brighten up.

Staining the Desk Top

The next step was to stain and seal the top of the desk. I chose Java Gel Stain by General Finishes. I also selected a gel topcoat in a satin finish. I've heard a lot of positive reviews about this product and was happy to have a chance to finally use it. The gel stain was very easy to apply and wasn't as messy as liquid stains. 

I had to move the desk throughout the day to keep it in the shade. Dry time is 6-8 hours but it actually dried much quicker since it was near 100 degrees outside.  Nevertheless, I waited the minimum dry time of 6 hours and then applied one coat of the gel top coat. It also went on easily and dried to a satin finish. The only thing I didn't like about the product was it was extremely difficult to open the lid. I'm not sure if it was user-error or if there was a defect in the can I purchased.

I had to wrestle the lid open. Not happy :-(
After applying the top coat; it's shiny because it is still wet.
Here it is almost dry. The satin finish is more apparent as it dries.
That finished up what turned out to be a long but productive day. I'm letting the stain cure for a couple of days before I begin the really fun part of applying color. Stay tuned and thanks for stopping by.


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