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Restoring Antique Desks

Updated on January 28, 2013

Tips for Restoring Antique Desks

If the antique writing desk you have stashed in a garage, barn, or in storage and the potential is there but the furniture doesn't look good, you may want to take some time to clean up, repair, and restore that writing desk to make it look like new. One of the most important things to realize, however, is that restoring an antique writing desk has to be done very carefully.  Many fantastic antiques, and ones that should have been very valuable, were destroyed by a well intentioned individual who didn't repair the furniture correctly and thus ended up damaging it.  There are a few things that anyone who is even considering restoring or repairing an old desk will need to look at.

  • Figure out the exact background, model, or origins of your antique writing desk
  • Record any stamps, carvings, initials, or any other marking or bit of evidence that might help an expert to figure out where and when the desk was made
  • Understand what type of wood and finish make the desk, and use that information to get a better idea of how you will need to go about making repairs and doing restoration work.

If your particular desk out of storage is old, but common enough that it's not a high end antique, then you can feel much more comfortable in working on it than if your desk is an extremely valuable antique like the kind you sometimes see on the Antique Roadshow on PBS.

More on Antique Writing Desks

If restoring an antique desk is actually something you're interested in, or something that you have to do to fix up an old piece, then remember one cardinal rule:

The more original the final product is and looks, the better.

An antique that is completely original with some signs of scruffiness and age is going to be far more valuable than one that is 85% original but looks modern because it's been waxed, polished, and finished over.  Be careful with any cleaning, waxing, or polishing.  You want to make the restored desk look good, but you don't want to do so at the expense of the original integrity of the antique.

Talking to museum curators or furniture restoration experts is a good way to get started when you're not completely sure how to proceed.  Some people start out repairing desks as a hobby, and then end up turning the newly learned skills into a part time job or business that can be very lucrative and enjoyable.

Writing Desk Pics

Click thumbnail to view full-size
One example of a great writing desk with drop down lid.Another example of a solid writing desk.A small antique school writing desk.A fine example of a replica antique writing desk.A simple writing desk.
One example of a great writing desk with drop down lid.
One example of a great writing desk with drop down lid.
Another example of a solid writing desk.
Another example of a solid writing desk.
A small antique school writing desk.
A small antique school writing desk.
A fine example of a replica antique writing desk.
A fine example of a replica antique writing desk.
A simple writing desk.
A simple writing desk.

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Comments on Restoring Antique Writing Desks

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    • profile image

      Mark 

      8 years ago

      You're quite right - without knowing exactly what you're doing you can completely destroy an antique desk in an attempt to restore it.

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