Last Updated on June 6, 2021 by Kristi Linauer
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My little writing desk that I built is now completely finished, and I decided to go with a stained and waxed finish.
If you missed the previous post on this project where I show how to build the desk, you can find that here…
So yesterday, I got to work on the finish. And after spending a bit of time working out all of the room details in my mind (especially how I would use the golden yellow velvet fabric that I had originally intended for a new headboard), I finally had my plan worked out, and decided to go with a stained finish on the writing desk.
The base of the desk and the trim around the desktop is pine, but the plywood top is birch, so I was afraid that getting it all to match might be a problem. But in the end, I’m very pleased with how it turned out.
I started by staining the entire desk using Varathane Premium Stain in the color Carrington. This particular stain is not a penetrating stain, but it’s also not a gel stain. It’s somewhere in between, so getting a similar finish on different types of wood is fairly easy with the darker colors. Here’s how it looked after one coat, brushed on with a paint brush, and after it had dried for a few hours.
It was fine at that point, and I could have just put some polyurethane on it and called it good. But the finish seemed really dark, and the stain had covered up most of the wood grain. While I’m not a fan of wood grain on pine, I did think that the birch top had pretty grain, and I hated to cover it up so much.
So I sanded the entire desk by hand using 220-grit sandpaper. And I just kept sanding lightly and strategically (meaning that I did more sanding on any areas that seemed particularly dark and splotchy) until I had exposed enough grain for my liking. But then the overall color was too light. 😀
I considered using a polyurethane with some colorant added to it to darken and even out the finish, but then I remembered that I had some Annie Sloan dark wax that I’ve had for years. So I got that out, and used it on the top, and it gave the wood so much depth of color.
I’m not really a furniture wax expert, and I hate reading directions, so I really had no idea what I was doing. At first, I tried getting a super smooth and perfect finish just by wiping it on and buffing it with a cloth all at the same time. That really didn’t work because it seemed to just smear and get streaky.
Then I remembered how I got a really nice finish on the console table that I built for the entryway. (You can see that project here if you missed it.) On that piece, I used Briwax liming wax (the white wax), but the process was to use a more generous amount, let it dry a bit, and then buff it with steel wool. So I decided to try that same process here.
I actually used a paper towel, and applied the dark wax in circular motions. I tried not to let it build up too much because those really dark areas clog up the steel wool pretty quickly, but I had a hard time getting a smooth application, but that may be due to the wax being so old. So after applying the wax to the entire top, it looked like this…
I left it like that for about an hour, and then came back and started buffing the surface using “000” steel wool. I’m sure that “0000” would have been better, but this is what I had on hand, and I didn’t want to make a trip to Home Depot just for steel wool, so I went with this. It worked beautifully. You can see the center area that I buffed with the steel wool compared to the rest of the splotchy top…
The sheen on the buffed area was beautiful, and it felt velvety smooth. It was every bit as smooth as any factory finish, but it had a much more beautiful, natural hand-rubbed look to it than a factory finish. Here’s what it looked like with the whole top buffed. See that gorgeous satin sheen?
(And hey! Look at me using a drop cloth! 😀 )
But seriously, this finish! I wish y’all could touch it. I mean, it’s velvety smooth. The only thing that would make it better is if I had an electric buffer or a buffer pad for my electric sander. But even without that, I’m so pleased with how this turned out.
So I went ahead and did the base in the same way. Since it’s pine, it doesn’t look nearly as good as the top. But with the base being such a simple design (meaning that there’s just not a whole lot of it), it’s fine.
I decided to keep the drawer natural and just stain/wax the drawer front.
This space doesn’t have room for a chair with a back because then the sliding closet doors won’t have room to open. So I need to find a cute little stool to go with the desk. I really love this upholstered stool from Target, and the price is good, but it’s too short to be used as a chair for a standard height desk.
That stool is only 17.5 inches tall, and I need one that is about 20 inches tall. So that’s a bummer, because it’s exactly the type of thing I’m looking for, and it’s the right price. But I’ll keep on looking.
Addicted 2 Decorating is where I share my DIY and decorating journey as I remodel and decorate the 1948 fixer upper that my husband, Matt, and I bought in 2013. Matt has M.S. and is unable to do physical work, so I do the majority of the work on the house by myself. You can learn more about me here.
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