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Old     (nauty)      Join Date: Feb 2004       01-15-2011, 7:42 AM Reply   
I just finished refinishing a 90 + year old handmade desk. Here's the back story.....

Sometime around the turn of the century (1900's) my great grandfather planted a walnut tree on his property. About 20-25 years later he chopped it down. He owned a lumber mill in Louisiana and took the tree there to be milled. He then contacted a local carpenter to turn the wood into a desk for his oldest son (my great uncle).

After my great uncle died the desk was passed onto my grandfather. Sometime in the early 70's he gave the desk to my parents. Around 1973 my mother decided to paint the desk white to match her sewing room. Four years later my parents divorced and my father took the desk with him. In the early 2000's my father gave the desk to my younger brother. My brother gave to desk to me last year when he moved from Texas to California. For the last year or so the desk has been sitting in my attic collecting dust.

Over the holidays I decided that I needed a larger desk as I have been using a sofa table as my home work station. I remembered that I had this old desk in my attic, so I decided to renovate it to something more modern. When I first started this project I had no idea about the history of the desk, but as soon as I peeked at the wood grain behind the white paint I was curious to find out what the story was.

Long story short, this desk has been in my family over 110 years if you count from the time my great grandfather planted the tree. It is made of solid black walnut. As a furniture buyer for a large furniture retailer the last 14 years I can tell you that they don't make them like this anymore. Today you'd be hard pressed to find solid anything for under $10,000.

When I began this project I took some "before" picture. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted those photos (don't ask). To give you an idea of the differences between before and after, the original desk had side shelves built into the legs with mission style slats. As mentioned previously, the desk had also been painted solid white. I removed the side shelves and stripped the white paint off. I added a shelf across the bottom as well as a back support panel for stability. Unfortunately I didn't have access to black walnut for the shelf additions, so I had to use oak. Below are some of the photos of the desk project.
Attached Images
Old     (wakeboardingdad)      Join Date: Aug 2008       01-15-2011, 9:09 AM Reply   
Nice job. Looks like you've got some other nice furniture in your home too. I've got a cherry bedroom suit that belonged to my grandparents and was purchased in the 1940's. Not quite like we planted, cut and built it, but it is something that I hope to restore someday. My youngest son is using it now.
Old     (nauty)      Join Date: Feb 2004       01-16-2011, 3:57 PM Reply   

Refinishing furniture is a pain in the A$$!!! trying to get the old paint out of every nook and cranny was next to impossible, at least with the limited equipment I have. That is the thing that made this project such a PITA. Without the benefit of a spay booth I kept getting debris in the lacquer as it dried. I'd have to sand it out and add another coat. I ended up with 5 coats on the top which gave it a bit higher sheen that I wanted. It's not quite on par with a table at Hooters, but it's close
Old     (jonblarc7)      Join Date: Jul 2006       01-19-2011, 9:26 AM Reply   
NIce Job looks really good.

I've done the same thing when finishing furniture, Just when you think its perfect you'll look at it from another angle and see some $%*& laying in the lacquer.

Since your a buyer do you come to High Point twice a year. If you do hit me up if you want a pull while your here, I design furniture so I know it can get busy that week but I'll always make time to hit the lake.
Old     (fatsac)      Join Date: Jun 2004       01-20-2011, 7:05 AM Reply   
Great job! My parents refinished antiques while I was growing up. They ended up keeping most pieces, some dating back to the 1700s. I can definitely appreciate the work you put in. Tedious!
Old     (nauty)      Join Date: Feb 2004       01-20-2011, 8:03 AM Reply   

I do go to High Point, but our schedule is pretty hectic. Between appointments all day and dinner parties at night, I'd be hard pressed to break away for a pull, although it would be nice I'm not high enough up on the food chain to break away from the heard to go ride.

Do you design furniture for a living or just as a hobby? We have an in-house designer, but we're always looking for new ideas.
Old     (jonblarc7)      Join Date: Jul 2006       01-20-2011, 9:39 AM Reply   

Design is what i do for a living, my partner and I have our own design firm. Who do you buy for we are always looking for new clients and try to get some new idea's out there. Send me a PM and will aleast have a beer at one of the parties.

Oak Hollow lake in High Point is one of those lakes nobody goes to because they don't allow Jet Ski's or tuber's but is perffect for wakeboarders and usually I'm the only boat out there riding.
Old     (nauty)      Join Date: Feb 2004       01-20-2011, 11:45 AM Reply   
I buy dining and entertainment case goods for the Texas division of RTG. If you have anything you think we may be interested in you can shoot me an e-mail at

I'll definitely give you a shout as we get closer to April. I'm sure I can squeeze in time a beer or three at some point
Old     (jonblarc7)      Join Date: Jul 2006       01-20-2011, 11:58 AM Reply   
Will do I think I got and entertainment/home office you might like.

I used to do casegood for Schnadig and would have meetings in Atlanta
with Eyal, another Richard and Jeff the president of RTG (its bad I can't remember Jeff's last name).
Old     (nauty)      Join Date: Feb 2004       01-20-2011, 12:16 PM Reply   
Small world! Richard is my counter-part in the Atlanta division. When I'm at market he and I usually shop together. Eyal swings a pretty big stick at RTG and oversees kids and entertainment for the whole company. The owner would be Mr. Seaman.

We don't do a ton of office; mainly just writing desks. What I really need are wall units with entertainment consoles that can also be sold individually.
Old     (wakecumberland)      Join Date: Oct 2007       01-20-2011, 12:17 PM Reply   
Great job! That is a true family heirloom. I love stories and projects like that. Make sure that the story and background on the table is not lost to future generations as it sounds like it almost was for you!
Old     (nauty)      Join Date: Feb 2004       01-20-2011, 12:31 PM Reply   
My grandfather had written down the history of the desk with a lot more specifics than I listed above. My dad has this document packed away in storage. I'll get it from him at some point and when I do I'm thinking about taking all of that info, along with what all I did to it, and having the story engraved on a tin that I can tack to the underside of the desk. I thought this might be a good way to preserve the history as the desk is handed down to my kids and (someday) grand kids.
Old     (wakeboardingdad)      Join Date: Aug 2008       01-20-2011, 4:45 PM Reply   
Originally Posted by nauty View Post
I'll get it from him at some point and when I do I'm thinking about taking all of that info, along with what all I did to it, and having the story engraved on a tin that I can tack to the underside of the desk.
Nauty, do it today. If you don't it'll never get done or someone else will end up with the document in some estate issue. Speaking from experience. My nice old bedroom furniture; I let my grandfather keep the blanket chest (because he had blankets in it ) when he gave me the bedroom suite when I got married. When he passed, my uncle got the chest. It didn't matter to him that I had the bedroom suit it went with. A couple of years later he died and his gold digging, wife, of one year, kept it and I'm sure sold it. (She bought and sold antiques and collectibles all the time.) I felt lucky because my cousins (his kids) didn't get sh@t. Not even some the collectibles that belonged to their mother who had passed several years earlier. I'm talking family china that was bought when the family was stationed in Okinawa.
Old     (nauty)      Join Date: Feb 2004       01-20-2011, 5:47 PM Reply   
I will get it, but it's gonna be a while. My dad just retired and moved from Nebraska to Houston to care of my 93 year old grandfather. I'm in Dallas, and the document is in my dad's storage in Austin. Sooooo, as soon as my dad gets back to Austin he'll get the document for me. Fear not, it will be done!

That sucks about losing your chest. I can understand the animosity that you must have towards your uncle's gold digging wife. That would piss me off too! My dad has been somewhat estranged since divorcing my mother over 30 years ago. I have some cousins who live blocks away from my grand father, so I would imagine that when the time comes most family heirlooms will not make it past my cousins.

I was pretty happy to have this desk somewhat fall into my lap. It has some real history behind it and I feel a part of that now by refinishing it. I do think the older we get the more we want to hold onto something from our past that isn't around anymore. With that in mind, I am stoked to have this thing and really don't mind if this is the only heirloom that I get to pass on.

Last edited by nauty; 01-20-2011 at 5:56 PM.


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