This desk will be the death of me.

I found pinned this on pinterest a while back, thinking mostly of my career. But today, I have found another use for it:

Remember this desk?

My PLAN was to rock out a rehab of the desk in a weekend (the one before last, actually), and come back last week with an awesomely teal version of this mid-century bit of awesomeness.

But that would be way too easy. I’ve been having issues. And every time I try to make it better, it gets worse. I thought about waiting until I figured this thing out before posting the reveal, but then I figured… DIY is all about adapting to unexpected problems right? So come. Share in my pain.

Alright. So we started here.

The top had quite a few scratches, so I knew I would have to sand it well. On all of the surfaces except the top, I just sanded VERY lightly with a hand sander, but for the top I sanded down to bare wood, to get rid of all the nasty scratches and whatnot.

Then, following the advice of many a great blogger that has come before (and also my own laziness after the ordeal of painting our guest bed furniture), I decided to use spray primer. I forgot to take a photo, but it was the Zinsser 1-2-3 spray primer.

Two thin and even coats of primer.

Then finally, time to spray my teal!! I did everything I’ve read to do. I shook well, held the can 8-10 inches away, and did very thin and even coats. But almost immediately I could tell a problem was arising on the top of the desk. And yet I thought, maybe if I just did more thin and even coats? 4 coats later….

So from a distance, pretty awesome right? I love the color, and the spray paint seemed to do a good job on *most* of the desk. But check out the top.

A little funky, right? And wayyyyyy worse from the other angle.

What the..?

My best guess on the problem was that the bare wood soaked up the paint in a weird and inconsistent way. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I called on the advice of several friends while leaving the desk in the garage– hoping every day I’d come out and it would magically not be as bad as I had remembered. Except it always was.

Finally I decided, the only way to fix this problem was to start over, kinda. I planned to sand the top again, not to bare wood but just enough to get a smooth finish. Then two coats of ROLL ON primer rather than spray on, then try with the spray paint again.

So I sanded, again. And then I used the primer I bought for the guest bed furniture (Zinser that you have to roll/brush on rather than spray on). After two coats I was super confident this was going to work.

See? No unevenness! YAY. The can said to wait 1 hour to recoat, so I waited about 3 to be safe. But when I went to put my first coat of spray paint on… it just felt like the problem was resurfacing. I don’t know if my can was defective, if I am defective (entirely possible), if the surface was too large to adequately keep my hand moving at the EXACT RIGHT PACE to not have heavier spots… I dunno. But see? splotchy again after one coat.

Superbig sigh. And now I was almost out of spray paint, so I had a decision to make. Trudge forward and buy more spray paint, hoping that several more coats would fix the problem, or re-assess.

Considering my quickly fading confidence in spray paint, and the fact that I only had to do the top side of the desk, I opted for option #2. I figured that the easiest, most full-proof solution to the problem would probably be to sand (AGAIN), prime (AGAIN), and then simply use NORMAL paint. I figured that Lowes should be able to color-match the spray paint and this would allow me to buy a glossy finish paint that would probably be better for the top work surface anyways.

I waited until last night (maybe about 6 hours after I spray painted) and tried to just LIGHTLY sand the top to smooth everything out again before re-priming. Except… it didn’t work.

The sander, instead of sanding… seemed to just pick up the spray paint and redeposit it in gloopy splotchy uneven ways.

Seriously… WHAT? I thought okay, maybe it just wasn’t dry enough. So I waited until late this morning (a full day after I spray painted) and tried to sand again. SAME THING.

If the sander had not been borrowed, it would’ve flown across the garage. In a fit of exasperation, I picked up some courser grade sandpaper and hand-sanded a section of the top. This DID actually work to smooth the surface, but 1) it was taking forever and 2) it cut my fingers to shit (I recommend gloves if you are going to sand by hand!).

I figured I’d pop by Lowes for a sanding block and a pint of normal paint this afternoon. I happened to have a dentist appointment, and afterwards I was by Home Depot so I thought I’d just go there.

Except they don’t HAVE Valspar paints, which meant I couldn’t take the can to the paint counter to get color-matched. Sigh.

So to recap:
– spray paint fail
– spray paint take 2, fail
– sanding fail
– color matching fail

But I will not give up. By the time I’m done with this $10 desk, it might be worth $2,000 of my time, but I will not be beaten!

Current plan: Go to LOWES who will actually have the paint I can match. Sand by hand. Prime (again!!) with normal non-spray primer. Paint with normal (non-spray) paint.

Whew. Are you tired? I’m tired. But if things go according to my latest plan (lol, I won’t hold my breath), I should be done with the desk by Thursday and hopefully post an update on Friday. And if things don’t go according to plan, you can find me under my bed in the fetal position chanting “no-more-DIY.” Ya know. Either way.

Someone please tell me about your DIY fails so I am not the only one here failing?

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4 thoughts on “This desk will be the death of me.

  1. Ahhh I’m so sorry this project has been so frustrating for you! I had a total DIY fail this week too (though it wasn’t my fault) when I went to plant some ivy in my backyard and discovered a huge water leak in our sprinklers. I thought it was going to be a free project, but, um…it was NOT.

  2. Ugh, I’m so sorry it didn’t work! I really hope that the regular paint works out for you. I am starting to doubt choosing spray paint for my next project.

  3. I’m crossing my fingers that the regular paint works for you! I definitely think you’re right in that bare wood soaks things up unevenly, which is why two layers of non-spray primer, or one layer of primer and paint with primer in it is what I usually try to do. At least In my experience, I always have a lot better luck on bare wood with a smooth foam roller, regular primer and regular paint. It’s what I used on my guest room headboard I finished last week. I save the spray paint for metal!

  4. @Amanda- yikes!! water issues always suck the worst.

    @Amanda Tal- I recommend enamel, now that it is done. Also, I saw some metal primer paint at the store the other day and I thought I need to remember to tell you that!

    @Morgan- Definitely taking your advice on this 🙂

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