Repairing Vintage Desk Legs - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 07-05-2020, 04:10 PM Thread Starter
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Question Repairing Vintage Desk Legs

Greetings!

I just joined so please bear with me for any mistakes. I've recently picked up a vintage wooden desk and have been in the process of "restoring" it. I'm not trying to restore the desk to look new; I would like to keep some history attached with it and keep small dings and scratches help show it's stories. However, the legs are pretty chewed up and I'm not sure what's the best course of action on attempted amateur repairs.

Image 001 is a close up of one of the feet. All feet are in more or less this state. The brass cap at the bottom looks squared, but over the decades, the wood has been chipped and rounder over. I would like to keep the legs squared but obviously I can't do that when there's no material left to reshape. This is my predicament... Do I round over the edges to make them look uniform, but by doing so the brass cap's will no longer match since they are squared? Alternatively I can do the opposite, and somehow add wood back to the corners of the legs so I can reshape them to be square and match the brass caps?

Additional pictures 002, 003, and 004 show other angles and close ups of the damaged leg. All leg's are in similar states, and there are 8 total legs to the desk. I'm fairly handy at working with tools, but I am also a complete amateur by woodworking experience. I'm hoping to open this up for discussion so I can learn from those more experienced at this than I, and to receive some good suggestions for how to proceed.

Thank you in advance, Cheers!
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post #2 of 15 Old 07-05-2020, 04:24 PM
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welcome to the forum.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xander42 View Post
I'm not trying to restore the desk to look new; I would like to keep some history
attached with it and keep small dings and scratches help show it's stories.
I'm not sure what's the best course of action on attempted amateur repairs.
Thank you in advance, Cheers!
just from a personal perspective. when I watch the TV shows about furniture.
the most popular projects are those where the ametuer woodworkers and restorers,
with the best of intentions, ruin the piece.
I guess you just need to learn "when to say when". and leave well enough alone.
if that were my project, a light cleaning, some sanding to cut the splinters off,
a coat of clear, and call it a day.

have fun with your project !!

.
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post #3 of 15 Old 07-05-2020, 06:10 PM
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Agree. Any attempted repairs that are significant will more than likely cause more harm than good.


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post #4 of 15 Old 07-05-2020, 11:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Smith_inFL View Post
welcome to the forum.



just from a personal perspective. when I watch the TV shows about furniture.
the most popular projects are those where the ametuer woodworkers and restorers,
with the best of intentions, ruin the piece.
I guess you just need to learn "when to say when". and leave well enough alone.
if that were my project, a light cleaning, some sanding to cut the splinters off,
a coat of clear, and call it a day.

have fun with your project !!

.

Totally agree.

To me those legs looked well enough. Light sanding, polish the brass, some type of clear coat.

OP- it your that concerned about matching the brass to the wood shape, then I would consult a local artisan that works with brass and see if they could scribe a new piece form fitted to the leg.

But honestly I think it looks good now.

The last thing I would do is add more wood to the leg. It will never look right.


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post #5 of 15 Old 07-06-2020, 03:50 AM
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Me too, just use some resin if brass ferrules are loose.
Damage from normal kicking which will happen in use.
Show us again when all cleaned up and polished.
johnep
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post #6 of 15 Old 07-06-2020, 05:26 AM
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I go along with the rest of the crowd. Clean, sand and coat it
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post #7 of 15 Old 07-06-2020, 06:51 AM
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I have seen a lot worse.
In really bad cases I have used wood filler to build up the surfaces, sand, stain, and then use a dye stain on the filler areas to match the stain.
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post #8 of 15 Old 07-06-2020, 01:42 PM
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agreed

100% says leave... what will xander do....
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post #9 of 15 Old 07-06-2020, 02:08 PM
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A completely different approach.......

Just typing outloud here .....

If you were to saw about 1" off the bottom of the legs, it would expose fresh wood when you retapered them to fit the brass caps. This would be a relatively "advanced" project for someone with little woodworking experience. Tapers are always tricky to get even on all 4 sides. But, the sides may not all show, being hidden by the dresser case.... I donno? It would be a labor of "love" .......



Wood putty rarely stains the same shade, for a perfect a match, so if you choose that route, test it first on a spot not easily seen from above.
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The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #10 of 15 Old 07-06-2020, 08:29 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Smith_inFL View Post
welcome to the forum.

I guess you just need to learn "when to say when". and leave well enough alone.
if that were my project, a light cleaning, some sanding to cut the splinters off,
a coat of clear, and call it a day.

.
That's some sound advice, thank you! I did have that fear for how far should I go in restoring the desk. I didn't want to go to far in making it look new again, because almost everything done to the existing condition is irreparable. I understand that if there's any loose material, it should removed. As for the splintered parts of the wood that are still firmly attached, how far down should I sand this area? How should I go about sanding or removing the existing finish around the splintered parts of the leg? I don't want to sand to far and make the legs look all wiggly.

Cheers!
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post #11 of 15 Old 07-06-2020, 08:37 PM
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roll up your sleeves - get into it.
you can figure it out as you go. let your conscience be your guide.
it's your desk - not ours. you be the judge of "how much is enough".

looking forward to seeing your completed project.

.
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post #12 of 15 Old 07-07-2020, 06:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
Just typing outloud here .....

If you were to saw about 1" off the bottom of the legs, it would expose fresh wood when you retapered them to fit the brass caps. This would be a relatively "advanced" project for someone with little woodworking experience. Tapers are always tricky to get even on all 4 sides. But, the sides may not all show, being hidden by the dresser case.... I donno? It would be a labor of "love" .......



Wood putty rarely stains the same shade, for a perfect a match, so if you choose that route, test it first on a spot not easily seen from above.

That's why I said dye stain, with an alcohol stain you can pretty much match the putty to the wood. I have tubes filled with different shades from light to dark, always start out light until you get the match you want, multiple coats of lighter is better than one dark, work up to the color, for larger areas you can use grain pens. Often when refinishing furniture sometimes it is the only option. I'm not saying it's easy and takes some practice to only hit the areas that need it but it does work very well. I've have had many customers say that couldn't even see the repair.
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post #13 of 15 Old 07-07-2020, 07:30 AM
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Just to expand on my opinion, I have repaired table and chair legs chewed on by dogs, cutting and replacing the legs was not an option because a cut line is more visible than a jagged edge and a lot more work. This is not a paid advertisement but I only use Elmers Probond wood filler, it takes stain better than plastic wood, being water soluble it is easy to wipe excess with a damp rag before it sets, sands easily, and takes stain better, if you use a water based dye stain you mix in into the putty before hand.
And as far as the alcohol dye stain I have used it to color epoxy repairs, dries in seconds, hitting it with spray shellac to seal it prior to applying a finish.
Just some tips I use.
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post #14 of 15 Old 07-07-2020, 01:21 PM
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if... if the desk is one that can be disassembled successfully, look at swapping the front and back legs. most desks spend their life on a wall and have virgin legs out back
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post #15 of 15 Old 07-10-2020, 07:33 AM
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Don't remove the accumulated character of the piece, appreciate the history and wear and tear that make it interesting.

The last thing you want is a patched and pasted Frankenstein monstrosity that you will never be happy with.
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