New life for a school desk

SCHOOL DAZE: A lot of elbow grease and sanding later, this desk looks better than ever.
SCHOOL DAZE: A lot of elbow grease and sanding later, this desk looks better than ever.

Whoa, I am so excited. I have that buzz, that electric feeling when a crafty project just digs its claws in and takes over your day, or days even. I imagine it's that same feeling that anyone doing anything creative, from Mr Nobody to Matisse, gets.

At this stage I am rubbing my hands together in glee - I've finished the hard slog.

The project that took over my waking (free) time this past week was the upcycling of an old-fashioned school desk. Last year I spent a cold, miserable Saturday learning the art of decoupaging furniture using fabric instead of paper. These drawers were the result. I love them and they take pride of place in my craft cave.

So anyway, I was bitten by the decoupage bug and when I saw this desk (left) at a garage sale for a fiver, I knew it was meant to be. Like lots of relationships, the desk and I have had our ups and downs. I mean, this week I spent days stripping layers of white and mint green paint and then dark, dark varnish. At first I broke out the sander but it gave up the ghost before even revealing what wood lay beneath. As a paint stripper virgin, I shelled out for the best I could buy and sped home to lather the desk in it. It worked, kind of. Kind of as in the top layer of paint bubbled and came off with a scraper but it was still pretty much hard work, and too slow given how many times I had to apply the nostril-burning stuff. So a new sander it was and gosh, has that made much shorter work of it. The best bit of the sanding business was revealing all the graffiti some school kid applied eons ago and the compass gouge marks. Oh happy days, reminded me of just what school was like for me.  I decided I wanted to leave some of those as they were gouged rather deep (I certainly did that with my compass during fifth form maths) and plus, I think they add nostalgia to the finished product. The worst bit was the green and white dusty eyebrows that I sported when I did the school pick-up. Note to self, always check mirror before facing the mummy mafia.

So the desk is a fait accompli. Once I sanded the bejesus out of it I dithered over what and how I was going to cover it. I had originally intended to cover it in its entirety but as I sanded it back I was taken by its rustic charm so I opted to cover the lid only. I had some sepia world map fabric which I thought would work well but when I realised that New Zealand wasn't on it, well I thought I would feel treacherous in using it. I googled and found world map wrapping paper and my mind was made up - I'd seen something similar in a magazine and it worked well so I'm putting my hand up and saying the idea wasn't mine entirely. So, I measured the paper, cut to size and then diluted a little Mod Podge, which I lathered over the top. On went the paper, which was then allowed to dry. Another coat or two of Mod Podge (gloss finish) followed and then I covered the lid in clear varnish to really seal all the edges and to make sure little fingers couldn't lift the edges. Finally (finally!) I covered the rest of the desk in a pine-coloured varnish and let it dry somewhere where dust wouldn't stick to it. Mister Six is impressed and, actually, so am I.

All up I spent about $30 on the desk, paper and paint stripper plus the cost of the sander, which I only had to cough up as the other one carked it. I'm pretty happy with what I managed to do with not very much money but a lot of elbow grease and tender loving care. What do you think? A waste of space or a worthwhile venture? Should I have left it at the garage sale or have I turned someone else's trash into a little piece of treasure? Go easy on me, I still have blisters from all the sanding....

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