Teacher Desks – They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

I remember my teachers’ desks looking similar to this – minus the linoleum. Lol

It all started when my sister-in-law spotted this desk on the curb and called me to go look at it. So, we did.

Someone had turned this vintage teacher desk into a workbench, complete with a sheet of linoleum glued and tacked to the top.

We saw the potential in this piece of history, picked it up, and added it to our hoard….I mean collection….of pieces to lovingly paint someday.

As luck would have it, we were going to the open house of a retired teacher friend just minutes from then, so we just left it in the truck until later. This friend had built a new house and invited everyone over to see it. Her decorating skills are amazing and wouldn’t you know, there in her office was a desk almost identical to the one we still had in the truck! Minus the linoleum. Lol

Another retired teacher friend had been to the open house and had seen her desk, too. She told me later she would love to have one like that for her house they were in the process of remodeling. I laughed and told her we had picked up one almost exactly (lol) like it. Showed it to her and she said she wanted it at some point. I told her it wasn’t going anywhere, and so we waited until her house was finished.

And then the day came to get started. She wanted it painted and picked out the color in our Missouri Limestone Paint Company Chalk-style paint “Bourbon Street” with a little copper highlighting. Inside of the drawers will be painted with “French Roast”. The top will get at least four coats of Varathane water based Crystal Clear Satin Polyurethane. The rest will have Wise Owl White Tea Salve to seal. It was going to go in a large corner of her beautiful new kitchen and the pop of color and copper would work perfectly. She was thrilled to bring a little bit of teaching history into her home.

Products used:

The first thing to do was to find out if the original top was still on the desk under the linoleum. It was!!! And it was in good shape. The glue had long disappeared so the linoleum lifted right off. The top was veneer, though, so we opted to strip it rather than run the risk of sanding too much into the veneer. After many coats of Citristrip, we discovered some gorgeous detail.

It is wet with Mineral Spirit here after we cleaned it, but it shows off the beautiful detail. It still needed more Citristrip!

Top corner is dry, the rest wet from cleaning. Can you believe this beautiful grain was hidden under linoleum and years of yucky varnish.

Finished top of desk

We then sanded all the drawers, the writing inserts that pull out and the desk. It was ready for painting.

But wait!!! Oh my gosh! When I was cleaning all the sanding dust away, the panels that were on the inside and outside of the desk, including the back, showed this gorgeous grain when wet with our cleaning mixture of 50/50 vinegar and water. Upon closer inspection they were all 1/4″ solid wood panels. Forget painting the inserts. These were getting stained!

Just Wow!

One of the drawer handles had a chunk out of it, so we repaired it with JB Weld KwikWood. This is awesome stuff. Even I had to look closely and search for the repair after I put the drawers back in when finished.

Painting finished, drawers back in place and we are ready for the final reveal.

But….there is one mystery I can’t figure out. Behind the center drawer, there is a shelf. Seems to serve no purpose, but I realized I needed to paint it as you can vaguely see the edge of it from the back. It almost seems like it is a hidden shelf put there on purpose. The center drawer locks. Could it be that the teacher, at the end of the day, takes out the drawer, hides the gradebook, and then replaces and locks the drawer? If the desk was broken into, the gradebook would be safe? 🧐🤷🏼‍♀️ Inquiring minds want to know. I have done a bit of research but can’t find anything. My son thinks it isn’t a shelf at all, but a support board. I like to imagine otherwise. Lol

By the way, isn’t it cool the back of the desk is finished, too? But think about it. This is the view of the teacher’s desk students usually see. They need to look at a finished piece of furniture, right?

Now, for the final reveal! I will add a photo of this vintage teacher desk in the home of my retired teacher friend just as soon as it is delivered. As a retired teacher myself, this one was hard to let go.

As promised, here is the desk in its new home. Have you ever seen a more perfect setting??

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