EASY SCHOOL DESK REVAMP (video tutorial)

September 25, 2013

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I’m a wee bit obsessed with thrifting these days.  I just love the idea of taking something old and inexpensive and giving it new life and purpose.  However it can be a little tricky to redo metal furniture.  Interior Designer, Angie Helm, shared such a neat technique with me to refinish an old elementary school desk.  I love love love the finished product and now can’t stop scanning the isles of thrift stores looking for old desks!

This technique would work great for any piece of metal furniture, and it’s so simple.  Ok, so here we go!  First, check out the demo video James put together.  It explains it well and shows you exactly how to paint/refinish the metal.

The idea behind the project:  Angie picked up the old school desk from a local thrift store, and wanted to enhance its vintage charm by giving it a more industrial look. Here is how she did it.


Minwax ebony wood stain (8 oz.)
Black chalkboard spray paint
Metallic craft paint in gunmetal gray (2 oz. bottle, available at the craft store, Michaels, Joann’s etc)
Medium sea craft sponge (available at the craft store, Michaels, Joann’s etc)
White vinegar, or mineral spirits
220 grit sanding block
Cleaning cloths
Paper plate
Rubber gloves


First, you clean.

Starting with a clean piece is essential. Gently clean with a mild dish soap to remove any stickiness or debris. Wipe down until it is completely dry. Take your 220 grit sanding block, and drag it across all of the metal surfaces until the metal sheen is gone. You want a nice matte finish when the sanding is complete. Next, take the vinegar or mineral spirits and a clean cloth, and wipe it across the metal surfaces. These two steps will help prepare the metal to take the paint, and will also help remove any rust or tarnish spots left begind. You will also need to take the sanding block across the wood top of the desk to prepare it for staining later on. When your piece is dry, you can move on to the painting process.

Glove up, and get ready to paint!

Tape off the top of the desk with some newspaper or plastic to protect it from the spray paint. Take the blackboard paint, and spray the metal surfaces in a smooth, continuous motion until they have all been coated completely. Try not to hold the spray can too close to your piece, as your paint will run, creating streaks. Allow the paint to dry COMPLETELY (at least 2 hours or more). I cannot stress how important this step is. Be patient, and you will get the best result.

After the blackboard paint has dried, take the paper plate, and squeeze a little bit of the gunmetal craft paint on it. Add a few drops of vinegar or mineral spirits to the craft paint (just enough to thin it out). Take the sea craft sponge and dip it into the paint. Dab off any excess. Drag the sponge across the metal desk surfaces in long strokes. You can apply as much or as little as you want. Take the other side of the sponge, and wipe off any excess. The craft paint is what will give the desk a nice gunmetal, industrial look.

While the craft paint is drying, take a clean rag and dip it into the minwax wood stain. Apply the stain in long strokes in the direction of the grain. Again, you can add as little or as much as you want. Once you have achieved the look you want, allow the desk to dry and cure completely overnight. You may also choose to apply a thin coat of polyurethane to the wood top of the desk to protect it from any liquids that may get onto it in the future.

And there you have it! A darling little industrial desk with loads of character!

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Thank you so much, Angie!  Check out her blog for more inspiration.  It’s one of my faves.  And thanks to the amazing James for the video!

Now, I’ll be on the hunt for metal furniture to refinish….

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  1. Kim says:

    how did you finish the top of the desk?

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