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How to Restore an Oak Roll Top Desk

Hubert Oresco

Oak roll-top desks are practical pieces of furniture for a home or office that add a touch of elegance to their surroundings. Regular use and exposure to dirt and moisture will wear the desk's appearance over time. Restoring an oak roll top desk will revitalize its look and protect it for many years to come.

Restored oak roll top desks maintain their appearance for generations
  1. Apply a heavy coat of chemical stripper onto the oak roll top desk with a brush. This will loosen the old finish from the wood surface. Allow the stripper to sit for the time recommended by the manufacturer.

  2. Scrape the old finish off with the putty knife and steel wool. Take care not to gouge the wood as you scrape with the putty knife. Scrub hard to reach areas with the steel wool. Wipe the entire oak roll-top desk with a damp cloth to clean the stripper off.

  3. Sand the desk with 120 grit sandpaper. Sand until the old finish is completely gone and the surface of the oak is rough. Wipe the desk with a tack cloth to clean off sawdust and sand it again with 220 grit sandpaper. This will smooth the wood so it accepts the new finish. Wipe it with the tack cloth.

  4. Wipe grain filler onto the oak roll-top desk with a cloth and work it into the wood. This fills the oak wood's open grain structure and makes for a cleaner finish. Allow the filler to dry and scrape off excess with a putty knife.Lightly sand the desk with 220 grit sandpaper and wipe it with the tack cloth.

  5. Brush a heavy coat of sanding sealer onto the desk with a clean brush. Allow the sealer to absorb into the oak and wipe off excess with a cloth. Let the sealer dry. Lightly sand the wood with 220 grit sandpaper and wipe it with the tack cloth.

  6. Brush a coat of stain onto the oak roll top desk and let it absorb into the oak for a few minutes. Wipe off excess stain with a clean cloth and allow the stain to completely dry.

  7. Brush a very light coat of polyurethane onto the oak roll top desk to protect the finish. Let the polyurethane dry and lightly sand the wood with 220 grit sandpaper and wipe with the tack cloth. Apply one more thin coat and sand again after it has dried.