Diamond in the Rough

My great-aunt died recently and she left me my great-grandfather’s desk. It’s a beautiful piece but it had definitely seen better days. My love of marine science has really taught me to respect even the smallest thing, and it bothered me to see such a nice piece of furniture showing its age so poorly. There were scratches and scuffs, and the wood had changed color slightly in some places where I imagine the sun used to hit it. Plus, as my aunt got older, she was less able to take care of things around her house and it had about ten years’ worth of dust covering it. I took some pictures and went to an antique shop to talk to them about it. The price they quoted me was a little more than I could pay to have it restored. However, the employee on duty was really nice and basically walked me through the whole restoration process, which was incredibly helpful.

I listened intently to all the instructions that he gave me. Once I got to my car, I wrote as much of it as I could remember down on a receipt I had in my car. I knew one day not cleaning out my car was going to pay off! Then I headed to a home improvement store to pick up everything I thought I’d need for the paint stripping process: sandpaper and paint remover. I used the paint remover and a brush to get the paint off the legs and drawers, but the top and edges needed a little sandpapering to buff out the scratches and dents of many years of use. It felt like a long time, but it felt like studying sea life. I know, I know. What I mean is that when I am looking at, say, an aquarium every day, I start to learn details about each creature’s habits and history. By spending so much time focusing on this desk, I’ve learned an incredible amount about it—little imperfections in its surface, the curves of the wood, the look and feel of the grain.

Once I had the old paint off, it was time to stain the desk. I decided to use my airless paint sprayer because I wanted a nice smooth finish with no brush strokes marring the surface of the stain. I’ve probably got the best airless paint sprayer around—I can just stick a hose into the gallon of stain and turn it on and I’m in business. It has a fantastic pump that forces the paint out at the perfect speed to get a project like this done quickly. It didn’t take long to get the first coat on and before I knew it, I was getting that second coat finished. Oh, it looked so great when I was done!

I put it in my study, replacing my old assembly-required-and-not-quite-wood desk. I very excitedly moved my trilobite fossil on the corner along with my coral reef desk lamp (don’t worry, its faux coral). The soft and warm tones of the stain practically glow under the desk light. It looks amazing and I think my great-grandfather would be proud.