How To Refinish An Oak Desk: The Proper Guidelines




Furniture is undoubtedly the beauty of any house. When any piece of furniture starts looking old and dull, loses its original shine, and looks faded, undoubtedly it ruins the entire look of the furniture and the room. What to do if something happens like this with an oak desk? Is replacing the table or throwing it away the solution? The answer is not at all!

Then you must be thinking how do you make oak furniture look new again? Well, the solution is refinishing furniture. But How to refinish an oak desk? Well, this isn’t rocket science. It’s easy peasy work.

How To Refinish An Oak Desk


You can easily refinish an oak desk on your own at home. The process is similar to other wooden furniture refinishing processes. Start with cleaning the desk, sand down the old finish, then use the new stain or paint and apply the appropriate finish evenly. It will work as a protective layer.

Already rushing to start the process? Wait a minute because these are not about the process. To learn about the entire process properly, keep reading and refinish honey oak table or oak desk perfectly.

Why Should You Give Your Oak Desk A Refinish?

I must say one thing, the decision to refinish an old oak table is brilliant. There are many oak desk refinishing ideas available. You can choose any of them and can refinish the table. But are you thinking, why should you refinish your oak desk? Well, let me tell you, there are several reasons why you should try the refinishing method for your oak desk. Excited to know about them? Here you go;


As time passes, naturally, the oak desk starts looking old and dull because of getting damaged, scratches, dents, or fading. Well, then How do you restore an oak desk? Refinishing the oak desk is the answer. By refinishing the oak desk, you can get back the original look of the antique furniture and increase its beauty.

Enhanced Aesthetics

Thinking about trying a new color on your oak desk? Wanna try black color? But a question may come to your mind, which is Can an oak desk be refinished?  Yes, and The good thing is the refinishing process allows you to change the color of the desk and give it a new look. It can provide you with a natural color and enhance the natural beauty of the solid wood furniture piece.


Trying a new durable finish or the best finish can provide you with a protective layer to the wood furniture piece. It can protect your desk from any kind of damage, moisture, stains, also from daily wear and tear.


Through refinishing the antique furniture, you can personalize the piece of furniture and change the look of it anyhow you want. You can change the color of the furniture and add many decorative elements if you want. You can even customize the finish according to your choice.

Refinishing any wood furniture piece doesn’t only help to restore it but also helps to enhance its beauty and allows you to personalize your precious antique furniture as well. Compare the look of the refinished desk before and after refinishing, it will give you another reason to try refinishing for your old oak desk.  After seeing all those, you may want to give your old desktop a new look while fixing the laminate desktop, too.

Necessary Tools And Materials That Are Needed During This Process

Before you learn how to refinish wood desk completely, learn about the tools and materials that are needed during the process and their usage as well. Wanna learn about them? Keep reading and learn;

Necessary Tools And Materials That Are Needed During This Process
  • Safety gear such as gloves, goggles, and masks to protect yourself during the process.
  • Clean cloth to clean the wood surface before starting the procedure.
  • A fine-grit sandpaper or orbital sander to sand the wood surface.
  • Sanding block to use the sandpaper smoothly.
  • Steel wool, chemical strippers, or paint strippers to remove the old stain or existing finish.
  • Wood filler to fill the gaps or cracks if needed. You can use this to fix hole wooden desk.
  • Putty knife to apply wood filler and remove the excess.
  • Wood conditioner to ensure an even stain absorption on the solid wood surface.
  • Wood primer to set the paint on the solid wood properly.
  • Wood stain or paint of any color of your choice.
  • Finish like oil finishes, polyurethane, varnish, or lacquer for protection.
  • Paint brush, foam brush, or roller to apply paint, stain, and finish.
  • A damp cloth or tack cloth to remove the dust and debris from the surface before applying stain or paint and finish.

It is better to gather tools and materials and learn about their usage to make the right use of them and complete the process without any interruptions.

How To Refinish An Oak Desk: The Step-By-Step Guidelines

How do you refinish an old wooden desk? Looking for the proper guidelines that can guide you throughout the entire process? No worries, here are the step-by-step guidelines to help you complete the process 

How To Refinish An Oak Desk

Prepare The Surface

Start the process of preparing the wood surface. Remove the hardware if there is any. Clean the table using a clean cloth or damp cloth and remove the dust and dirt from the surface.

Remove The Old Finish

How to sand and refinish oak desk? Sanding is necessary during refinishing to get a smooth surface and remove old finishes or stains. Stripping the desk is necessary to remove the old finish. However, you can use chemical strippers, paint strippers, or steel wool to strip the old existing finish from the solid wood.

But if you want to refinish oak table without stripping you can take the help of a fine-grit sandpaper and a sanding block or orbital sander and sand down the existing finishes or stains from the surface. Sanding is necessary when restoring a tanker desk.

Apply Wood Filler And Sand The Surface Again

If you notice any gaps or cracks on the wood surface that need to be repaired, apply a wood filler using a putty knife to fill the gaps or cracks. Remove the excess wood filler using the same putty knife. Now let the filler dry properly. Fix the dent in the desk meanwhile if there are any.

Now sand the repaired lightly using fine-grit sandpaper to get an even and smooth surface. Don’t forget to clean the surface using a damp cloth and dry it before moving forward.

Apply Wood Conditioner

Now, it is time to apply a wood conditioner on the wood surface to ensure the even absorption of the stain. Apply the conditioner evenly and let it dry properly.

Stain The Surface

Now with the help of a paint brush, foam brush, or roller that is more comfortable for you, apply the wood stain, and try to choose a natural color. Now, using a lint-free cloth, wipe off the excess wood stain. Let it dry properly before you move forward to get a smooth finish.

Paint The Surface (If You Wish To Use Paint)

How to refinish a desk with paint? If you want to paint the surface, use a primer before applying any coat of paint on the surface. Apply the paint using a paint brush or foam brush and let it dry before applying another coat of paint or moving forward. If you are wondering how to refinish a desk with laminate on it? This step is for you.

Apply Finish

Now, using a paint brush apply the chosen finish. You can apply another coat of finish if needed. But let the finish dry before applying another coat. When it dries completely, sand the surface lightly to get a smooth finish. Try to choose a durable finish for the best result.

Reattach The Hardware

Now, when you are done with the finishing step, it is time to reattach the hardware that you removed before starting the process to your oak. You can fix the drawer that keeps sliding out during this process.

If you are somehow wondering how to refinish an oak desk before and after, follow the steps above accordingly, gather the necessary tools and materials, prepare the surface, apply the stain and finish, and enjoy the best outcome for your oak desk. You can refinish your kitchen table following these steps as well. You can try refinishing when fixing a roll-top desk.

What Type Of Paint Or Stain And Protective Finish Should You Use For Refinishing The Oak Desk?

There are many paints, stains, and finishes available in the market or online to refinish any wood furniture piece. The same happens when refinishing an oak desk. Therefore, people often get confused about which one to use when refinishing an oak desk. Let me help you deal with this situation.

What Type Of Paint Or Stain And Protective Finish Should You Use For Refinishing The Oak Desk


When choosing a paint for refinishing an oak desk, try to pick a paint of high quality that is specially designed for wood surfaces. It is better to use latex-based or oil-based paints. Because latex-based paints are easy to apply and oil-based paints are really durable.


When picking a stain for refinishing purposes, try to pick a stain that complements the natural color of the desk. It is better to use stains that are oil-based or water-based. The oil-based stains provide a shiny surface and durability. On the other hand, water-based stains protect the surface from water damage and spills; these also dry faster.

Protective Finish

When picking a protective finish, try to use a clear finish like polyurethane, varnish, or lacquer. Choose any finish between oil finishes or water finishes for a durable finish and smooth finish.

You can choose the stain, paint, and protective finish following these steps above and make the right decision for refinishing the oak desk perfectly.

The Cost And Duration Of The Process And Skills You Need

When someone is performing the wooden furniture refinishing process, three questions that poke everyone’s mind are: what is the cost and duration of the process, and what skills do they need to refinish the wooden furniture? Let me help you get an estimated idea about these all.

The Estimated Cost Of The Process

The cost of the process can be different depending on many things and methods. For the DIY method, the cost can be less than the professional service.

DIY Method

Tools and materials$10-$50
Stain or paint$10-$40
Estimated Cost$100-$130 (cost can be more or less depending on some factors)

Professional Services

Professional Service Cost$300-$500 (The cost can be more or less depending on the complications)

The Estimated Duration Of The Process

DIY MethodProfessional Service
A few hours to a few days (Depending on the desk size, complications, and skill level of the person performing the process.)A few hours to a few days (Depending on the desk size and complications. But professionals are experts in refinishing, so they can complete the process faster.)

Skills You Need To Refinish The Desk

When you are refinishing the desk on your own at home, you may need to have some skills to complete the refinishing process perfectly. Such as, you need to have skills in sanding the wood surface because if you mess up while sanding, you can ruin the surface. You need to have skill in applying the stain, paint, or finish evenly and perfectly.

Improper application can bring you an uneven, sticky, and worse result. However, you also need to have the skill of choosing the right finish and stain for your desk and patiently and carefully completing the process.

Common Mistakes To Avoid While Refinishing Oak Desk

The refinishing process of the oak desk needs to be completed properly without making any kind of mistakes to get the best result. But people often make some common mistakes that need to be avoided. Such as;

  • Do not skip the step of cleaning the surface before sanding the solid wood. Because it can result in a poor finish.
  • Avoid applying too much stain or paint as it can bring you a sticky surface 
  • Do not avoid using wood conditioner because it can result in an uneven absorption of the stain.
  • Avoid not letting the stain and finish dry properly before moving forward and using the table.
  • Avoid choosing the wrong finish to get the expected result.

Try to avoid these mistakes when refinishing your antique furniture, and your precious oak desk for the best outcome.

Tips To Maintain The OAK Desk After Refinishing

After refinishing the oak desk, it is necessary to maintain the desk to avoid facing this issue frequently. Is it possible to maintain the desk? Yes, it is possible! Some tips to help you maintain the oak desk after refinishing;

  • Clean the table using a soft cloth regularly and remove the dirt and dust.
  • Do not place the desk in direct sunlight as the UV rays can damage the surface.
  • Use desk mats on the surface to protect the desk from any damage.
  • Do not place any sharp objects directly on the desk as it can result in scratches or dents.
  • Wipe off the spill immediately as soon as possible as it can leave stains on the wood.
  • Do not use any toxic chemical cleaners as they can damage the desk.

Maintain the desk following these tips and keep the refinished look of the desk for a long time, same and new.

Core Findings-

  • An oak desk should be refinished for many reasons. But throughout the refinishing process, you can personalize your desk stain with different colors and add some decoration.
  • To refinish the oak table, you need to start with cleaning the surface, then you have up remove the old finishes by stripping; after that, you have to apply stain and finish.
  • The finish and stain or paint have to be appropriate for the oak desk. It is better to choose an oil-based, latex-based stain and clear finish for refinishing purposes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Long Does The Entire Refinishing Process Take?

The entire refinishing process can take a few hours to a few days depending on some factors.

Can You Use Any Type Of Paint For Refinishing My Oak Desk?

No, you can not use any kind of paint randomly to refinish the desk, you need to use oil-based or water-based paint to refinish the desk.

Can You Refinish An Antique Oak Desk Without Devaluing It?

You can definitely refinish an antique oak desk without devaluing it by applying the right techniques.

Can You Refinish My Desk Without Stripping The Old Finish?

You can try light sanding if you want to refinish the oak desk without stripping the old finish.

Can You Change The Color Of My Oak Desk During Refinishing?

You can definitely change the color of your oak desk according to your choice during refinishing.


You may get the solution to your problem, ‘How to refinish an oak desk’ reading this long. Refinishing furniture is easy if you are skilled enough and have the patience to perform the process on your own. The process is lengthy and time-consuming.

But if you stay focused and complete the task by applying the right method and following the guidelines step-by-step you can definitely get the best outcome so far.

Interested in learning more about restoring a desk? Stay with- Desk Restore .

Richard Journey

Written by

Richard Journey

Meet Richard Journey, the Antique Furniture Maestro. With a Fine Arts degree in Furniture Restoration and Conservation, he’s a guardian of historical craftsmanship. His accolades include the Golden Chisel Award, and he’s your guide to discovering and restoring antique treasures.

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