Published on August 24th, 2014 | by Omar


Refinished an old school desk

We were driving home from a trip to the mall when we happened to come across a set of four desks next to a large “Free” sign in our neighbourhood. The neighbours had just sold their house and tried to sell them in a garage sale with no luck. Sameeta and I looked at each other and thought it would be an awesome thing to have for the kids. So I dropped them off and circled back with the van to pick them up.

Desks when I found them

Of the four desks, three were of the same style. We have two children and one on the way so I picked up the three that were of the same style. Anyone who grew up in BC in the 80’s will be familiar with these desks as every elementary schools had them. They were in good condition but were clearly well used and not very well maintained over the years. The three had a fair bit of rust on them not to mention stickers on the desktop and a host of things such as gum on the inside of the storage space.

Stripping Paint & Resurfacing

The desks came apart easily into four pieces:

  • Legs/frame
  • Table top
  • Fiberglass desk top
  • fiberglass seat

After some Googling I figured out what I needed to buy to strip them down:

  • Wire brush head for my drill to strip the paint off the metal ($5)
  • 400 grit sandpaper to scour the fiberglass components to allow pain to stick
  • Primer paint

I was only going to refinish two of the desks as I wanted each of the kids to choose their own colors. It took a few hours each to strip down the frame and another few hours each to prepare the fiberglass for painting. I used spray paint primer on everything which took another few weeks of time (not effort).

I bought some Bondo body filler to fill any divits/holes in the fiberglass which was a PAIN as sanding that down took forever. I also bought glitter paint to spray on the frame itself to make it as girly as possible.

Stencilling in their names

The kids chose their own colours.

Nusayba – Different shades of blue

Maryam – Purple and Yellow (she’s a Lakers fan and she doesn’t even know it 🙂 )

I went to the art store and bought four cans of Montana Gold  spray paint with some wider spray tips.

I also wanted to write their names on the desk. In asking them how they wanted their names written I got two very immediate and different answers that both screamed their personalities

Nusayba: “I want my name written in Arabic

Maryam: “I want my name written in English

I have been working on a number of Kufic Arabic  script pieces these days so Nusayba wanted that which I created in masking tape. For Maryam’s I created a stencil in photoshop, cut it out with an xacto knife and then recut it out in masking tape on the desk. I left the tape on and spray painted a dark base coat and then a Moroccan style leaf stencil on top to add some flair in the secondary color. I then proceeded to paint the seats the dark base color.

Word of warning: The Montana Gold spray cans don’t cover too much surface area so you may need to buy a couple cans. But in doing so make sure to buy them from the same place. I bought my initial cans from Colours in Coquitlam and then the others from Opus Framing and in the end they didn’t match so as you’ll see below, the chair on Nusayba’s desk is a darker colour than the base colour on the desk top.

Finished product

In the end it was a lot of effort but I learned a lot and had a lot of fun. As Sameeta said “If I knew they were in the shape they were in when we found them I would have told you not to take them because I didn’t want you spending weeks on them!”

Nusayba loves here desk but Maryam not so much as she seems to see the yellow paint and brown. After all that effort, having Maryam say that hurt a bit but she’s young and colours matter but I’m glad she was honest about it. Now they have a place to study their Arabic and do their homework along with their arts and crafts.

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