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Refinished oak desk - reveal

Posted by linelle (My Page) on
Mon, Nov 25, 13 at 18:41

I've posted about this desk in Kitchens, Woodworking, and HDD. I probably shouldn't be cross-posting so much, so I'll do my reveal here.

Cheapo oak student desk, circa 1988, my daughter's through middle school and high school. Sharpie on the top surface. I've been using it as a makeup vanity in my office.

I figured I'd have nothing to lose using General Finishes gel stain. It could only look better, right? I had moderate success with the first coat, but the second one took off most of the first. It was awful. I was furious. I considered chucking the whole desk, but I need its function and don't want to buying new stuff right now.

I stripped and sanded down to bare wood. Not a pretty sight.

I tried lots of stuff on the backs of drawers and pieces of threshold. I ended up with General Finishes oil-based stain in Mahogany. It's a little on the red side, but I like it. I decided I'd already had one failure, so I wasn't going to risk another one mixing colors. Two coats of stain. Then GF High Performance water-based poly, 3 coats everywhere and an extra 3 on the top and drawer fronts. Black knobs from Lowe's. I treated myself to a new Milwaukee drill/driver. :)

When the stain went on, I had an immediate epiphany: I love oak. I had been bashing oak like many are fond of doing, but I realized it can be beautiful.

Even though I used a satin poly, it's a little glossier than I'd prefer, but it's okay. I really prefer an unpoly'ed look, but since it's a working desk, I think it needs more protection.

Before:
desk

Bare wood drawers after stripping
desk drawers stripped

After:
desk angle

Top:
desk top

My favorite drawer:
desk long drawer

Love the grain:
desk flames


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Absolutely beautiful!


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Pretty color and a rich, glowing finish. Very nice!


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

well done...You did a great job of prep and finish.


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

How pretty is that! Great job - it looks brand new ;) Enjoy!!
(Remember to give it a few weeks to let the finish fully "cure" before you start using it.)


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Beautiful ! Really..that is stunning ! And now I am going to look at the general finishes for my chairs. I love how you can still see the grain. You did a stellar job ! c


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Oh Linelle, that is gorgeous! I love the mahogany stain on oak. I love oak but I am sick of the old honey oak color. Just look how the gorgeous grain shows with a nicer stain color on it. I can't believe that it is the same desk!


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Wow! It looks like a new desk - no sign of it's 80's past.


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

I love the rich deep color , great job


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Very nice! Looks like a brand new desk!


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Wow, that's gorgeous! And a testament, that in most cases it's not really "oak" that's the problem, but rather the golden oak finish.


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Thanks all for your kind words!

chiefy76: No kidding. The realization hit me like a brick. Despite the GF gel stain not working out for me, their Brown Mahogany color was the BEST! Alas, there are fewer colors from which to choose in their oil-based stain line. When I first tested the Mahogany, it was way too red. I bought some of their water-based stain in Brown Mahogany but it came out drab brown and I just don't care for the water-based application. And does it ever raise the grain, which the oil-based doesn't do.

Although I live in a metropolitan area, there is only one store within 50 miles that sells General Finishes, and the one product they don't carry in the store is oil-based stain. :( That may change as they are just gearing up with carrying the brand. So I had to order online from Rockler, and have it sent ground across the U.S. because oil-based stuff can't be shipped by air.

I had originally ordered 1/2 pint, which looks so ridiculously small that I figured I'd never be able to apply two coats, so I ordered another quart. You guessed it: I got two coats out of the 1/2 pint and there's easily enough for at least one more. That's how well the product covers. So, there are a lot of mahogany-stained pieces in my future. :)

I'm not crazy about the half-curves on the top and drawers. That seems very 80s to me. However, once the golden oak was gone and I put some knobs on, the curves have been somewhat neutralized in appearance.


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

I'm drooling! I want a desk like that for my "office" area in my oversized living room.


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Wow! Your "cheapo student desk from the 80's" looks much higher end with that flawless finish. I can only imagine what you could do with a quality piece.

You are to be commended for sticking with the project until it met your expectations! Great learning piece.

Refinishing a piece of furniture is on my retirement bucket list, along with "piecing" a quilt top! I should say "trying" to do these things :).


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Wow, very nice!

Could you expand more on the steps you took with the gel finish? I'm sure that was so frustrating! I was going to try a project with the GF gel and brown mahogany was one of the colors. I was going to try another project with stain, and I'm really liking how the mahogany color turned out on your desk. You said it's a little red. Is it more red IRL than what's showing in the photos? It looks a really rich warm brown. I love it. Great job!

Also thanks for taking the time to post GOOD pictures. It's frustrating when someone posts a dark/blurry/grainy photo of something.

This post was edited by sheesharee on Wed, Nov 27, 13 at 0:49


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

I love how you added the knobs. That desk will be around for your grandchildren someday. :)


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

I love how you added the knobs. That desk will be around for your grandchildren someday. :)


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Wow! I know it was a frustrating and labor-intensive process, but the result is so worth it. Simply gorgeous!


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

sheesharee, my first attempt was with GF gel stain in Brown Mahogany. It is a fantastic color, less red than how my desk turned out. Unfortunately the gel stain was a disaster for me. I applied it with a sock and the first coat seemed pretty good. There were some sock marks I missed. Using a sock on a gloved hand is a novel idea, but socks have a lot pattern and, in retrospect, if I were to ever give gel stain another try, I would apply with either tshirt material or a foam brush.

Anyway, I needed a second coat for evening out. Everyone who's used gel stain says it gets better with subsequent coats. That was not the case for me. The work flow I use is to start with the drawers. As I applied the second coat with a sock, portions of the first coat lifted off completely, in strange patterns. If the first coat had gone on this way, I would have suspected the surface was not properly prepped, but I have no idea what went wrong. Clearly it was a total Charlie Foxtrot. I was livid and swiped mineral spirits across the top, but that certainly didn't help.

Then came the stripping/sanding. :)

So, I used GF oil-based stain, recommended by a very nice man I spoke to on the General Finishes 800 number. That line doesn't have all the same colors as their gel stain, so I had to get Mahogany (without the Brown part). Testing on drawer insides and backs, it looked rather red but I decided to go for it. The first coat seemed redder. By the time I applied the second coat, I was liking the red, and it deepened quite a bit. The photos show the color accurately. I was battling a low sun and reflection in my garage and my iPhone camera wanting to make its own adjustments.

I had considered modifying the stain myself with a bit of raw umber artist oil paint. However, I decided one major screw-up was enough and I would learn to love the redder color (and I have).

I wanted square knobs but didn't want to spend a lot on them. Lowe's has a much better selection than HD and I thought maybe with the desk's curved edges that round knobs would be better.

Refinishing wood is really fun. I have no special skills. It's utterly amazing how a little this or that can transform a piece.


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Thanks for the clarifications.

Looking at GF site, I see they have an oil base stain Antique Cherry. I'm assuming the guy directed you to the Mahogany color in the oil because it's the closest in color to the Brown Mahogany gel?

I'm glad to hear he red deepend after the first coat. Good info to know.

Did you go buy the directions (not sure what they are actually) on both cans?


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Really, really beautiful. I think it's awesome that you saw the project through!


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

sheesharee, no I made my own decision about what colors to use based on the online samples, which I think are pretty close to real life.

As for directions, I read up about it at the GF website and also used their recommendation to sand no finer than 120 on oak before staining to keep the grain open and more receptive to the stain. The guy I spoke to at GF confirmed it. He did apologize for the gel stain mess and I didn't really push him for answers, since gel stain was now in my rearview mirror. Once he learned my desk was down to bare wood, he said oil stain was his preferred method.


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

Linelle-are you sure that's the same desk? I remember when you started this project. All your experimenting with stains & hard work paid off. The grain & color are just beautiful.


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Romy, oh I'm sure. :) I'm eager to bring it back into the office but I'm giving the poly two full weeks to cure. I know that my cats will be all over it.

I did all my stain and poly application with HD foam brushes. Very smooth, no drips, no bubbles, easy cleanup.

The middle drawer of the 3-drawer stack has 5 or 6 totally separate and unrelated pieces on the face. It's ridiculous, but I find myself more tolerant of this piece than I would be if I'd just bought something.


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RE: Refinished oak desk - reveal

It turned out great! Makes me want to go buy some oak!


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