This vintage typewriter desk, and antique Royal typewriter are roughly 80 years old (and looked it), but check out the gorgeous finish I was able to achieve with just a little elbow grease. It’s ready for its next (or first) great novel!
This typewriter desk was my Step-Grandmother’s. I include “Step” in there, not because I loved her any less, but because I’m feeling terribly guilty for selling it when it really should go to one of her sons who grew up using it (I’ve asked several times, but I don’t have any takers).
My grandmother passed away 5 years ago now and since that time the desk has lived in my Uncle’s garage, and for the last 6 months or so, mine.
Needless to say, this vintage piece was neglected and unloved and taking up considerable room, so it was time to get off my ass and change that.
It wasn’t this bad when my Uncle brought it over – it wasn’t good, but I’ve used it as a planer stand so I’ve added extra scuffs, scratches and a bit of paint to the surface as well.
What do you think? Lost cause?
That is a Royal typewriter with “KMM” (the patented “magic margin” system) which was introduced in 1939, so I can only guesstimate that this antique typewriter desk is roughly 80 years old.
Did you know that the James Bond novels were written on a Royal typewriter? Or that Ernest Hemingway used a Royal? We’re talking a true piece of history here – one owner, well-loved and solid oak.
Refinishing this antique typewriter desk was certainly worth a shot.
I won’t go into the step-by-step refinishing process today – you can check out any one of the bazillion refinishing projects on the blog for a detailed how-to – I’ll leave it at; there was a lot of sanding, two coats of different stains (with a slight panic between coats because it was coming up orange) and then two coats of triple-thick varnish to finish it off.
I pulled out the drawers and sanded and refinished the insides and outsides of those as well:
That file sorter is built right into the drawer! Amazing!
This antique typewriter desk is primarily oak – and for those that don’t know – working with oak means a few things:
- Stain doesn’t absorb quite how you’d planned (hence my orange panic)
- Oak is a hard wood – which means a LOT of sandpaper is needed to get scratches and dents out. (Oak is a terrible wood for a cutting board because it will dull your knife blades quickly, but it’s a fantastic wood for a desk.)
- Oak has a very prominant grain pattern. If you don’t like the look of a strong wood grain, you won’t like oak (you can see the different grains between the side of the typewriter desk and the drawer sides which I believe are pine)
- Oak is expensive. I couldn’t afford to build an oak desk from scratch, so refinishing one (if you can find it) is the best route.
These vintage typewriter desks are so neat – we really should have something like this for our computers today. If you lift from the handle on the front of the desk, a portion of the top will tilt back into the desk frame and the typewriter section will come up.
It tucks away just as easily so you can have a flat work surface as well. It really is a brilliant design.
The top of the antique typewriter desk was the worst part:
It only took months for me to get off my duff and get this vintage typewriter desk back into fighting shape – and now that it’s done, I feel like I’ve done it justice.
Hopefully it will find a new home where someone will write the next great classic on the antique Royal typewriter – or at the very least, the history and beauty of the piece will be appreciated.
Have a great one!