Introduction: Roll Top Desk Flip

About: I am an artist, builder and teacher living in Japan.

We found this lovely roll top desk on over here in Japan. It's a popular site in Japan where you can basically sell anything you want.

We've always wanted a roll top desk to makeover and found the perfect one on this site.

Furniture flips are easier to do than they look and this Instructable is how we transformed a busted up piece of furniture into a stunning keeper.


Step 1: The Desk!

It was in BAD shape! The top of the desk and fronts of the drawers were all scratched up and the tambour door needed the back re-canvased. This is the perfect kind of furniture to flip!

Step 2: Sanding Time!

Sanding is the most tedious part! The top of this desk had deep marks and gouges in it, so I needed to sand a couple millimeters off of it to smooth everything out. I sanded it so much that I lost the lovely step half bullnose edging that goes around it.

I used an orbital sander and no matter the wood grain’s direction, an orbital sander will smooth the surface without leaving marks. Because of this, you can easily sand two pieces of wood at the same time, even if their grains are in different directions. I used my orbital sander with #80, #120, #180, #220 sandpaper and in that order.

I only sanded the parts that I was going to wax.

*We used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and the great thing about this stuff is no prepping needed!

Step 3: Briwax!

I love this stuff! It goes on easy with a rag and buffs to a handsome shine. I used a shoeshine brush to buff it.

The Briwax site says:

If your piece is smooth and relatively clean
-Apply Briwax with a soft cloth – a small terry cloth towel works very well.

-Using the soft cloth, pick up a SMALL amount of Briwax on the cloth.

-As the British would say, “use it sparingly”.

Now, spread the Briwax onto your furniture as far as it will go – you’ll notice that the areas where Briwax has been applied will be dull.

-Work in small areas at a time.

-It is acceptable to apply the Briwax in circular motion; however, smooth out and always finish the application WITH the grain of the wood.

-Buff between all applications of Briwax.

-You don’t need to worry about match lines, Briwax will blend every time.

-The application of Briwax is the same whether the piece already has a finish or is raw wood.

-Briwax likes a rough surface, so be careful and don’t sand the piece too much.

-The rough surface gives Briwax something to hold on to.

If your piece has lots of dirt and grime from years of storage in a basement, attic or maybe even a barn

-You can apply Briwax using steel wool (0000) to cut through the grime more quickly.
-Even with using steel wool, "use Briwax sparingly".

-Using the 0000 steel wool, pick up a small amount of Briwax on the steel wool.

-Now, spread the Briwax onto your furniture as far as it will go – applying light pressure to cut through the grime and dirt. You’ll notice that the areas where Briwax has been applied will be dull.

-Especially on antiques, we recommend to try Briwax first to let it reveal what the next step should be. Often times, Briwax is the only product you'll need to refurbish the piece.

-Once the grime and dirt have been removed from the initial application of Briwax, use a soft cloth for additional applications of Briwax.

-Buff between all applications of Briwax.

-You can clean, stain and polish -- all with one product - Briwax!

Step 4: Annie Sloan Time!

We used Annie Sloan Emperor's Silk chalk paint for the color. I know that it's easy to make chalk paint, but we wanted to try out this specific color on this desk.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint doesn't require any prep work.

-No Sanding

-No Primer

Just start painting! In our experience, two coats is enough.

We waxed the chalk paint with Annie Sloan Clear Chalk Paint Wax followed by Dark Soft wax.

This is directly from

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is used to bring depth of color and texture to your paint work.

1. This is best achieved when Chalk Paint® is a little thick so don't add water to the paint. You may need to leave the paint pot open for a short time to make it thicken a little.

2. Apply Chalk Paint®, moving the brush in different directions to create texture.

3. Now it is painted and dry, tackle the waxing a section at a time. First apply Clear Chalk Paint® Wax allowing it to absorb into the paint so the surface seems 'dry' to the touch.

4. Now apply Dark Chalk Paint® Wax rubbing every which way so the Dark Wax seeks out all the crevices and texture of the painted surface.

5. Leave to absorb for a minute or so then wipe off the excess with a clean cloth.

6. The Dark Wax should now be apparent filling the grooves and ruts in the paint work. To clean the paint, gently wipe with Clear Wax.

Step 5: The Tambour Door!

The tambour door!

This isn't as difficult as it looks. The door on this roll top desk is held together by fabric glued to the back of it. I needed to replace the fabric and this is how I did.

*When removing the door, draw numbers on the ends of the pieces of wood so you can easily put them back in the original order.

After removing the old fabric and sanding the back of the door, I built a frame on a piece of plywood to hold it.

*Cut the fabric first!

*Paint or stain the front of the tambour door before gluing fabric on the back!

-Lay the door facedown with all of the pieces in order. -Measure and cut pieces of wood the height and length of the door. You're going to screw pieces of wood around the door to keep it from moving while you're gluing fabric to it.

*Cover the frame wood with painters tape so the door doesn't stick to it!

*Don't glue fabric to the part of the door that slides in the door track!

-Smear glue all over the back of the door avoiding the sliding areas.

-Cover the glue with the new fabric.

-Press down the fabric and press out excess glue. -Cover with something heavy for 24 hours or manufactures suggestion.


Step 6: The Finished Roll Top Desk!

We love it!

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