How to Refurbish a Heywood Wakefield Desk

Are you looking for a way to refurbish an antique Heywood Wakefield school desk that is badly damaged? Then, you’re going to love this transformation!

The following post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and then buy something, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you! Thank you for supporting my blog. full disclosure here.

This post is sponsored by Dixie Belle. All opinions are my own!

Pinterest graphic showing before and after of antique desk makeover

Heywood Wakefield desk

This Heywood Wakefield desk was in pretty bad shape when it came my way.

And there were two of them! They were both in equally bad shape!

Names and words and been carved into the wood by students over the years.

lady using orbital sander on Heywood Wakefield desk outside

how to restore an old desk

There were paint drippings in several spots.

orbital sander sitting on top of Heywood Wakefield desk showing before and after sanding

Some sort of adhesive had been spilled inside the desks.

inside of Heywood Wakefield desk showing damage, old gum and pencil slot

And the gum.

Omgoodness, this pair was covered in old, chewed up gum.

It was inside the desks….

on the underside of the desks…

on the back of the desks…

and even on one of the legs!

lady using a putty knife to scrape off old gum on underside of antique Heywood Wakefield desk

use an orbital sander

After the scraping and chipping away of all that gum, I pulled out my DeWalt Orbital sander and suited it up with an 80 grit sanding disc.

And I sanded like a crazy woman!

Ok, really I only sanded the tops. The tops would look amazing in natural wood and I was careful not to sand out all of the character that generations of kids had spent adding!

lady sanding rounded edge of antique school desk

Heywood Wakefield makers mark

When I looked at the back of the desks (the side that the teacher would have seen), I knew I had to be careful with sanding.

The makers mark for the Heywood Wakefield desk was in great condition on one of the desks!

Heywood Wakefield is a well-known furniture maker from the early 1820s! Unbelievably, the company is still in operation but they use a different name now and produce outdoor furniture.

wood desk makeover

Anyway, I sanded the backs of the desks by hand being careful around the Heywood Wakefield desk label.

Next, I cleaned the ink wells carefully with a small wire and brass brushes, #0000 steel wood, and the pointed edge of my chisel for the groove in the ink well.

The ink well on the top has been cleaned, the one on the bottom still needs some love 🙂

close up of before and after cleaning of ink well in vintage Heywood Wakefield desk

preserving the story

The remaining parts of the Heywood Wakefield desks got a light sanding with 220 grit sanding discs on my orbital sanding. To me, leaving the carvings in the wood was part of the story of this pair. Preserving their story is important in my opinion 🙂

After the sanding, the pair of antique desks got a good scrubbing. Simple Green in a bucket of hot water, a microfiber cloth, a Scotch Brite pad, and the outdoor hose are my go-to supplies for scrubbing old furniture.

Oh yeah, add some sunshine to that list of supplies!

antique desks drying in sun after thorough scrubbing

Remember I said I wanted to preserve the story of these vintage desks? Well, I definitely want to do that but I also don’t want the desks to scream their story either!

A custom mix of Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Typewriter and Curio will help to quite their voices just a bit 🙂

lady painting first coat of Miss Mustard Seed Milk paint in Typewriter black on antique school desk

Two coats later, a bit of knife distressing, and they were ready for Miss Mustard Seed Hemp Oil.

Brush it on, wipe it off and it creates a gorgeous, vintage-style patina while hydrating the wood.

pair of antique school desks that have been painted, one with hemp oil finish, one without

how to create an aged wood look

The wood tops needed a bit more help. The natural color was fairly light and I wanted more of an aged wood look.

Restor-A-Finish is a great product as a scratch cover but I decided to try it out as a stain.

The bare wood soaked up the color Dark Oak that I had on hand. Doesn’t the wood look so gorgeous? The ‘stain’ settled into the marks I chose not to sand out perfectly.

close up shot of Restor-A-Finish scratch cover product

The Restor-A-Finish worked wonders on the inside of the desks too. I also used it on the back of the desks. You’ll see those images further down in the post.

before and after using Restor-A-Finish scratch cover product on vintage school desks

how to seal milk paint

Once my ‘stain’ had soaked in and dried overnight, I added one coat of Miss Mustard Seed Hemp oil followed by two coats of Miss Mustard Seed Wax.

You can see in the image below the backside of the desk that the teacher would see. That is also the side with the Heywood Wakefield label.

staged shot of pair of Heywood Wakefield desk after refurbish

vintage chairs

Fortunately, I had two chairs in my stash that I thought would go beautifully with this pair of refurbished antique school desks!

They were painted in Miss Mustard Seed milk paint in Typewriter and were given two coats of hemp oil.

side view of refurbished school desks & chairs, staged with apples, vintage books and old frame on wall

Don’t they look so good with the desks?

refurbished antitque chair painted in Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Typewriter black
close up shot of refurbished wood chair and school desk

gorgeous details

Look at the tops of the desks! Don’t you love how they turned out?

close-up of restored wood top of antique school desk

And check out those vintage hinges!

The inside of the desks has a hole cut out of the top right. Look closely at the image below and you can see the hole.

Sounds perfect for a laptop cord, doesn’t it?

view of inside of antique school desk after being restored

The ink wells look so much better!

And that makers mark label for Heywood Wakefield is still in such great shape!

BTW, the second desk is missing the label. The desks match so well otherwise!

Just wondering, when you were in school, did you put your chair on top of the table like this at the end of the day?

Or maybe, you turned the chair upside down and placed it on top of the desk at the end of the day?

Our school had the students get the chairs off of the floor at the end of each school day so the maintenance staff could clean the rooms quickly.

side view of refurbished antque chair with stack of books and an apple sitting on top of antique desk

how to decorate with an antique desk

Let’s chat about how to use a pair of antique desks like these Heywood Wakefield desks.

They could be used as a desk most definitely. There is a place to store books, notepads, and such. Or maybe a laptop or iPad?

No matter the school supplies your child uses, there is plenty of storage.

front and back view of refurbished antique school desks with chairs

Or maybe these desks will be used as an at-home office. One of these desks is small enough to tuck away in a corner of your living space or a bedroom. When you are finished work for the day, hide the laptop inside and out of sight!

front and back of refurbished school desks

Here’s another idea you might not have thought of. One of my followers on Instagram suggested that they make great nightstands in a bedroom! Isn’t that a great idea?? They could also be sofa end tables in a living room.

Let me know you’re ‘outside of the box’ decorating ideas for a pair of antique Heywood Wakefield desks in the comments!

pair of antique Heywood Wakefield desks and chairs after being refurbished with Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Typewriter

Thanks for joining me for this Tuesday’s Tutorial! We share a new tutorial each Tuesday and we would love to have you join us each week! You can sign up below and I will send you this fun freebie plus I will keep you updated with our latest tutorials!

steps to refurbish Heywood Wakefield desk:

  • inspect the piece for repairs
  • remove any residues including gum, glue, or any other substance
  • sand piece
  • thoroughly clean the piece
  • choose a paint color and paint the piece
  • seal the piece
  • decorate and use the piece in your home!

supplies used:

We would love you to join our journey over on Instagram and Facebook! You can also find more inspiration on our Pinterest page! We’re always pinning fresh ideas!

Here are a couple of other projects painted in Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Typewriter:

Antique Gentlemen’s Dresser Makeover

Antique Desk Makeover

Repairing Caned Chairs | An Alternative Method

Pinterest graphic showing before and after of antique desk makeover

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. You find great pieces! Love how these turned out. You are great at what you do!!!!

  2. Emily Baker says:

    Oh my stars / these are amazing! You did
    Such a fantastic job.

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Thanks Emily! They look much better without the gum don’t you think 🙂

  3. I have been waiting to see this since you showed it on Instagram! It did not disappoint! Just turned out so amazing, it brought me back. And your stating is gorgeous! Love the touch of the apple!

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Thanks Melba! The apple seemed to be the right staging piece!

  4. What a treasure to find two of these beautiful old desks to restore. You did a fabulous job and the end result is so pretty.

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Thanks Paula! We’re hoping someone will snatch them up quickly!

  5. These turned out beautifully! I can’t believe there was gum all over them. That is so crazy! LOL.

  6. I can definitely see these used as bedside tables or end tables! As I was reading through your post I was watching an old episode of Flea Market Flip and there was a Heywood Wakefield school desk! Not as cute as these of course 😉

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Omgoodness, I love Flea Market Flip! Thanks for stopping by Marie!

  7. Cheryl r Atkinson says:

    Cyndi, you did an awesome job on these desks. I just love them.

    1. Cynthia Gayle says:

      Me too! Aren’t they amazing?? Have a great holiday weekend!