Think Before Throwing Out That Junk Furniture – Desk Restoration

1aTake a look at the above picture (try not to look at its surroundings, it is my son’s room and though we stay on top of him, he isn’t the cleanest in the world). This piece didn’t look anything like this in the beginning. Here is what we started out with:

This was a cheap desk from Walmart that was made of particle board overlayed with veneer. Very low end. Here are a few images of it all around:





It was just all around ready to go to the trash – or was it? Not if you put a little work into it, it can become what you saw in the first image. My son wanted me to make him a workstation for his Remote Control cars, as well as his computer and gaming equiptment. And at first I was going to throw his old desk out and build a new one, but not only would this have taken more time, it would also have cost more. Then I would have had to purchase hardware for it, including drawer slides, etc.. So I got the idea to just repurpose what I had available.

And this is how I started:


The hardware was that 1980’s brass plated hardware, back when they thought brass and ugly wood looked good together. I wanted to use the original hardware because it would make it not only cheaper, but easier to just pop it back into place once I was finished with taking care of the drawers. So I played with it a bit on my grinder brush, and just polished the edges. It turned out like so:


You can’t tell so much in the image above, but by just polishing the edges on the grinder, it made an outline all around the hardware, sort of looking like silver on brass. It cleaned up rather well. So once I got that taken care of I started getting the drawers ready. Everything I did was an overlay over the old, and in this way I really didn’t have to figure much out because I just measured what was there and put a layer of 1/4 plywood on top of the drawers.


This is what surprised me – the drawers, though particle board, still had beautiful finger joints. That was odd, but good. It made for a stronger structure and so I didn’t have to rework the drawers themselves. All I did was cut out a rectangle like so:


And I went ahead and just added it to the face of the drawer:


After holding it up to the drawer I figured it was good enough, so I applied the glue to it:


Then I screwed the face to it. Now if this was just a regular desk, I would have gone ahead and just clamped the face board to the drawer and let it dry, possibly tacking it with a couple of finishing nails. But my son wanted it to look like an industrial workbench, so I just added a ton of screws everywhere on the desk.


Of course, as you see in the image above, you need to predrill before adding screws or you could split the board. I also used a countersink bit on every hole so that the screws were recessed into the wood. Here is the first drawer finished:


And so I did the same thing for the other 2 drawers:


The drawers were the longest part of the project because I really wasn’t sure which way I was going with the whole process, but once I got going, I realized just overlaying everything would be my fastest and best bet.

Next I put the drawers in just to get a looksee at the desk. Just the overlay on the drawers made a huge and remarkable difference.


I went for the top next, so I just cut out the same size of the top that was already there, and again, I know it looks like I went overboard with the screws, but I wanted it to have that industrial look that my son was asking for:

17He also was wanting a back to the worktable to be able to hang different tools and work pieces on, so I started to add it. It was done just like a backsplash for the kitchen. To make it sturdy enough, I added a cleat underneath the top, and that way instead of just one row of screws going into a 5/8 inch sheet of plywood, I could screw into something sturdy and solid:


So here is the back board:


I put the drawers back in so that I could get the vision of the worktable. Looking good thus far:


Still had a ways to go though. I wanted to cover up as much of the old wood as possible, and make it sturdy. So I added wood to the side:



Now that we have that side done, I needed to take care of the front of the worktable because it still had that old 1980’s look. So I added a bullnose to it. A bull nose is just a rounded over piece of trim that is attached to the front like so:



Now the other side was ugly, and needed to be widened so it would be equal to the opposite end. This is what it looked like at first:


So we had to add to the side (and I say we because my son really helped me a lot on this project. What I did was this:


I made a board with a cleat attached – that way we had something to screw to:



Now we had a solid side to add a piece of veneer to. I used another 1/4 inch piece of birch plywood to this side:


Since it only needed a few nails I didn’t set up the nail gun. Just used some finishing nails. My son already started to stain the workbench as you can tell. He was really ready to get this going. Next we needed to do something about the bottom of the drawers. I didn’t want to just leave what was there, so I simply added a curve to the bottom instead of making it match the previous scrollwork:



Alright. This is the completed workbench for my son. But he wanted me to make an L type table on the side for his computer, his gaming equipment, etc.. so I just made a table on the side with a shelf underneath. And here is the finished product like you saw in the beginning with the stain dried and double coated:


Just remember – before throwing anything out – that it could be used for something else. To repurpose this desk it cost around 100-150 dollars in wood, stain, and hardware such as the screws. That is FAR, FAR cheaper than it would have been to buy an L shaped workbench of this sort.

Keep that in mind before throwing anything out, and you will really appreciate the results!


DO YOU HAVE a woodworking project or tip that you would like to submit to WooDesigner and get it added to our site? Then go to the contact tab below OR at the top of this page and let me know. Just make sure you are able to give us step by step instructions on it, as well as images as you see here, and we will put it on this site just like you have read on this page! As long as it is clear and concise like you just saw, it will go up. Your name will be credited to the project, as where you live. (Please include that.) Also include the type of lumber you use for the design. We look forward to hearing from you! (Take note that the tip and images and instructions have to become ours. I do hate that so much but in today’s society so many will sue, and yes, you can sue for a lot of money over images.) The tips will need to include YOUR IMAGES that you take. They can’t be images from somewhere online. Remember, we have to go through these images and if they aren’t your own, we will not be able to use them. This is illegal and it won’t be tolerated and you will be banned from this community by being blocked. We can get sued for this, and just one bad apple can ruin our community.

Ted Leger –


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Updated: February 16, 2017 — 11:57 pm
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