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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/E.H. Stafford MFG. Co School Desk


Bench seat
Bench seat  
Top Desk
Top Desk  
QUESTION: Hello Eileen,
I recently obtained an antique E.H. Stafford school desk for $30. I plan on restoring the wood and re-selling the desk to someone who collects. My only problem is that I do not want to mess up the wood in any way or tarnish the "originality" of the desk. In the pictures shown, it seems that someone in the past has painted (or some sort of stain) the wood. The back of the bench looks original and untouched. What would be your best opinion on what to do to the desk?
Thanks for your time!

ANSWER: Hi MattNice to hear from you.
Well it looks to me like someone has already messed up the wood.
You have 2 choices..leave as is and sell as is (usually my recommendation), or strip and refinish (is this case my recommendation).
Not a big job. Just don't start sanding the finish. It must be removed correctly.
Here is the stripping info
Get back if needed. I'm here.

The first thing you must do is assemble the material to do the job.
The stripper is the most important item.  
I am hoping you can get "CIRCA 1850" brand paint and varnish remover in your area.
Here is a link

MATERIAL LIST For the stripping stage.
1 gallon stripper
3 boxes of Bull Dog steel wool in medium grade.
One 3 inch oil based paint brush.
Rubber gloves (like you do dishes with), and a pair of cotton gloves inside the rubber ones.
People react differently to stripper. A lot of people feel heat through the rubber gloves, but I feel cold. Have no idea why.
An empty large coffee can. (for the stripper)
A couple of old tooth brushes.
Lots of old rags (I like t-shirts or cotton but for this first stage whatever you have)
Lots of newspaper to protect the garage floor
That's all you need to get started.
Work in sections.
Brush on the stripper with the brush. Stripper will quit working if it dries, so keep it wet till the finish softens.
Then take a rag and wipe this mess off.
Then another coat of stripper, rag off again, then while the wood is still wet, take the steel wool and rub with the grain till the wood is nice and clean.
Depending on the material you are removing, another coat of stripper is often needed but you will know this as you progress into the job.
Use the toothbrush in crevices.
Thats all there is to it ...move to another section and continue.
No other prep is necessary...and DO NOT SAND
When the stripping is complete, stain with Minwax stain applied with a rag, then 3 or 4 coats of low lustre tung oil also applied with a rag.
Please let me know if anything is not 100% clear.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Eileen,
That was amazing advice! Thank you! One more quick and probably obvious question. If I am stripping the paint and finish on the frontside of the bench, should I strip the whole bench down (The side that hasn't been painted over)?
Thanks again!

Hi Matt
Strip the entire desk. Inside and outside and under (have I missed any sides LOL0?)
You will want it all uniform. Otherwise you are selling a half finished desk.
Get back if you run into problems.
PS I would remove the metal supports before stripping..its easier.

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Eileen Cronk


I can answer most questions about the repairing and refinishing of all your old furniture items (the things we call antiques). I can also give you advice on what wood items to choose and what wood items to avoid at auctions, flea markets etc. I DO NOT give appraisals on antiques as this is not my field of expertise.


I have been repairing, refinishing and of course buying old furniture for the past 30 years. On any given weekend I can be found at auction sales or flea markets searching out a good buy. I have taken several courses in this area over the years, but I find "Hands On" learning to be the best teacher. I can help you avoid the pitfalls and problems of this wonderful rewarding craft.

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