Hello Design Dining + Diapers readers! I’m Shelly from Dolen Diaries where I share a little of this & that….DIY projects, kids crafts, cooking, & life lessons learned. I’m SO excited to be here today for Taryn while she enjoys some time off with her sweet little baby boy! Today I’m going to share with you how I turned an old metal desk into a really cool rustic piece.
Here is the before. I actually used it in the driveway (classy, I know) as a project table for months. It was beyond dirty and before I could do anything I needed to give it a good scrub down. Luckily for me it has actually been really nice and sunny here in the PNW so I didn’t need to worry about drying. A day tipped on it’s side with all the drawers open dried it perfectly.
After the desk was totally dry I popped off the pulls and it was time to sand. I used a 5 inch random orbital sander and started with a 60 grit sandpaper just to give it a quick scuff. (60 grit would take all the paint off in a hurry) After the scuff, I switched to a 120 grit to focus more where I thought the desk would have had the most natural wear and tear. To buff it all out I used a 220 grit. *The grit number is the number of grits (is that a word!?!) per square inch. So the lower the number the more rough the sandpaper.
After the sanding was complete, I got our 11 yr old involved, it is going to be his desk after all, and he used an air compressor to blow all the dust particles off. Next, I used old cardboard to cover the desk top and shop towels to cover the feet of the desk to protect them from the rusting solution I used.
To rust the desk I mixed a 50/50 solution of bleach and white vinegar in an empty spray bottle. You can get these spray bottles at Home Depot for cheap so I stash a few just for projects like these. I sprayed all the exposed metal that I sanded and within a couple of hours it was rusty. *Now this is a SUPER smelly process so I would highly recommend doing this outside and not in your garage. I did this right in our driveway by our open garage door with a fan blowing the air out and plenty of fumes wafted in our house. I can only imagine how bad it would have been, had I done this actually in the garage.
After leaving the desk to air out overnight I sprayed a coat of lacquer all over the body of the desk. A couple hours after that I put a coat of wax on top of the lacquer. *Here are my favorite brands to use.
After the wax it was time to pop the pulls back on. I love the way it turned out and I can’t wait to see it in Gray’s room!
Now you may be thinking that’s a really cool idea but where can I get my hands on a metal desk? School sales…call your local districts and/or universities and ask them if they sell surplus items. Most school districts have sales once a year and some universities have weekly sale days.
Thanks so much for letting me share my rustic industrial desk! I’d love it if you all would pop by Dolen Diaries to check out my latest creations and projects!
Elena @The Silberez Life says
Awesome tutorial and the desk turned out really cool. Thanks for sharing Shelly!
Elena, thanks SO much! I’m really glad you liked it!
Toodie (Ellen Hyde) says
I have one of those old metal teacher’s desks with the drawers on both sides that is about five feet long and 2-1.2 feet wide. Love it! I got it at a yard sale for $5 several years ago and have always thought to do something with it, but never had the chance. This is a cool idea.
So nice of you to help Taryn out so she can enjoy her new baby with her family. I’m sure she’s enjoying the time off.
Those old metal desks last forever, so great you’re giving one another life. Did you son want the rusted look? Just wondering. Good to get him somewhat involved in helping out with his desk. Great job and tutorial, never know what rest of us might decide to tackle. Happy week
JaneEllen, Gray was all in favor of the rusted look. He’s a pretty stylish dude and he would have let me know if it wasn’t cool enough for him. He’s thrilled with his “new” desk and is impatiently waiting for me to finish the rest of his bedroom makeover.