Introduction: Leather Top Desk Restored

About: I enjoy repurposing and restoring old furniture and making woodwork projects that are not seen every day. I make most of my projects using wood that is either, recycled,reclaimed and love to repurpose and rest…

I was asked by a local doctor if I would have a try and restore his office leather top desk. He said it had been in the family for a while and had sentimental value. When the desk arrived it looked a lot worse than when I looked at it in his office. The computer and notepads were hiding all the damage. He was also under the impression that it was an antique.

Step 1: Sanding the Wood

Once I started sanding the wood I realise the top, sides and drawer fronts were a veneer and the base front was MDF.

Step 2: Clean Up the Leather

To clean up the leather pad on the top I used Dove Bath soap and a soft cloth. Using a damp cloth and soap I cleaned the leather using small circles at a time. This did take some elbow grease, but the results were great. Don't add to much water or the leather will become soggy and pull away from the table. If this does happen , wait until the leather is dry and using a syringe add contact glue and hold in place.

Step 3: Remove All the Old Varnish and Stain

Next, I put some Kraft paper over the leather top to protect it from getting damaged by the orbital sander and stripper. The layers of varnish were so thick and cracked, that in the end, I used Citri-strip to remove most of the layers.

Step 4: Stain and Varnish the Wood

Once the varnish started to lift I used a scraper and removed the bulk. The surface was then smoothed out using the orbital sander. I added a dark mahogany stain and 3 coats of oil based gloss varnish

Step 5: This Is the Before and After of the Table Top

Step 6: Restore the Drawers

The fronts of the drawers were veneer which was very thin. I used an orbital sander with 120 grit sanding discs to remove all the old varnish and stain. These were fairly straight forward. The drawers were missing some handles, and as luck would have it I had some spare ones from an old piece of furniture I stripped down for parts. If you are a regular DIYer this article will interest you. How to find your DIY materials for free.

Step 7: Make a Plan to Seal the MDF

Next, I tackled the front of the desk which was a total disaster. It was all MDF which had gotten wet at some stage in its life and had blown out. It was too late to change my mind and take it back. So I used the orbital sander to try and smooth out the edges that had blown out. Most of the varnish had chipped off the front and looked awful so it all had to be removed. Once smooth I added a dark mahogany stain to the MDF. But it just kept absorbing the colour straight away. To stop this, I added a thin layer of varnish to the MDF to seal it. Once it was dry, I added some dark mahogany stain to the varnish and added a few coats which worked great to hide a lot of the damage. I cleaned up the hardware and attached them back to the drawers.

Step 8: Restored Desk

The finished desk after the restoration. This was real trash to treasure project. The desk is now back in his office looking good. The captain's chair for this desk was in even worse condition and he threw it out. I saved it and restored it and the transformation was amazing. Check it out.

Material list

Orbital sander

Sanding discs

Gloss Varnish

Dark mahogany stain

Dove soap/ leather cleaner