This Blog post will be a quick walk through of how I took this desk from going to the dump, to what you see in the first collage of photos. The first step making this happen was removing that old and very dried out leather inlay. there was no way around it... It was already cracking and falling off and even IF I wanted to keep it, the process to try would be far beyond my skill set. So... I decided to remove it and go a different way with the space left behind. From the start I had an idea and hoped it would turn out as I saw it in my head. Seeing it now, it really was worth all the time put in bringing it back to life.
While I worked through the process I documented the steps on how I did it, and now want to share it with you.
This piece ended up being a very special piece for Veteran's day 2019, in a new finish I'm calling "Military Veteran".
This new finish is Wise Owl Paint "Military Bronze", with Hemp Oil Furniture Wax in natural for a top coat, then Hemp Oil Furniture Wax in Black Walnut for the accenting/aging. The top is the "Old World" transfer from Re-Design with Prima, top coated with Wise Owl Varnish in Matte, then Wise Owl Glaze in Black Walnut blended in to also add top the aged look. The hardware & keyhole were embellished with Rub & Buff European Gold.
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As you can see... the top was dry, cracked and peeling up in spots, so I knew I need to remove it. but where to start???
This absolutely was a challenge... I knew starting off that removing a leather inlay was no small task. But, for this piece, it needed to be done in order to have a chance at breathing new life into it. So to start, I grabbed a metal stiff putty knife and dug under a couple of the cracks in the leather to see what would happen. Thankfully the leather inlay was old, and VERY dry, which allowed me to scrape away almost 75% of that old leather. The main part to this, if you're going to use a metal anything, be careful not to scrape too hard and dig into the wood. Many times under the leather you'll find veneer, especially in older pieces, so that layer may be thin and you don't want to ruin it scraping too hard.
Next up, stripper. But why??? After scraping off as much leather that I could with the putty knife, I realized one area was just too stuck to the glue. And as you'll see in the picture, it was that front middle area, likely due to that area getting used most and that leather getting pressed down into the glue the most over time. Here's a video, of after I'd let it set for a few hours and how it pulled up the leather inlay so very easy... couldn't have been happier, especially knowing how stuck it was to the wood.
As you see in the video, after 4 hours the stripper soaked through the leather and the glue. And with that I was able to very easily scrape up the remaining leather inlay and clear it all out and get it ready for cleaning.
Once the stripper was scraped off and disposed of, I'm left with the cleaning process. For this the best method for me is using a Hot Water and TSP Substitute mix, 000 Steel Wool and rubber gloves. I mixed the TSP & Water in a small bowl, dipped the steel wool in it and scrubbed all the stripper off. The TSP will help break down the stripper and also any remaining glue. It's definitely messy business so please be sure to do this in an area you can control so the run off of the stripper and cleaner don't get all over. Also, when using a stripper on a top area, be sure to tape off and cover the bottom area to ensure you don't accidentally get stripper on another area of the piece where you don't want it. Lastly... use safety glasses. I can't stress this enough. Using stripper and a watered down version of wants to splatter around and the last thing you want is to get any of that in your eye. So please be safe.
After you've finished cleaning up the surface, be sure to let the wood and/or veneer dry thoroughly before going to the next step. My best advice is getting it into the sun directly after cleaning and certainly in a dry space if not.
Next was supposed to be sanding back the remaining glue and prepping the area for primer, but upon closer inspection I realized the top, under the leather was veneer. Not necessarily a bad thing, but since it was thin, some of it started to peel up in a corner. So to fix that I used a lil Gorilla wood glue in those areas and whatever I could find in the garage to weigh it down. This worked like a charm and flattened the veneer back down for me to continue the process.
The last step before priming the wood was sanding. I didn't take any pictures of this, but I simply grabbed my orbital and sanded it smooth.
And that was it, how I removed that ugly, dried and cracking leather from the top of this desk. But of course I didn't stop there. As you'll see in the following pictures I went on to truly give that space an entirely new look.
The new look on top started with Wise Owl Primer in Clear (two coats), then Wise Owl Chalk Synthesis Paint in "Military Bronze" (2 coats). Then I added the Redesign with Prima "Old World" Transfer. It didn't fit the entire space, left to right, so I cut the sides of a second, and filled in the space needed. Before top coating the transfer I used a fine grit sand paper to pull back just a lil of the transfer and allow the paint to peek through. next I used Wise Owl Varnish in Matte for one coat. Then used Wise Owl Glaze in Black Walnut, where I blended it into the corners to give a worn, aged look. Then finally I added 3 more coats of Wise Owl Varnish in Matte to keep the flat finish I wanted to match the painted areas.