Recently a very interesting child’s desk went home for a client’s grandchild. Over the years a lot of these small desks have passed through the shop. Most have had a cast iron base with a writing surface, seat back, and a folding seat on the front of a pair of base pieces. These were made to go into a school classroom and be bolted to the floor in a continuous row. They make a nice decorative piece for a small child’s room and, if you have a chair with it, a great place for the little ones to color or begin school work.
They originally wanted us to refinish the wood. Take a look at what this desk looked like when it arrived at the shop.
We always start by disassembling the desk and stripping all the paint. Once all the parts were stripped and clean we had to do some woodworking repairs. The writing surface and back were split so they had to be separated, the joint cleaned and re-glued. The book shelf and lower stretcher had been replaced years ago with some junk wood, so we made new parts from maple for these pieces. The base parts for this desk are made from stamped steel and riveted together. No repair was needed so we began to clean the metal for repainting and discovered a surprise. This desk has the manufacturer name and patent date stamped into the parts. The surprise was the name Heywood Wakefield, with a patent date in 1916.
I’ve had a lot of Heywood Wakefield furniture in the shop, but never would have expected a piece like this from them. The Heywood Wakefield companies played a huge part in the history of American furniture. Originally founded in 1826, they became one of the largest manufacturers in the country, as well as being one of the originators of American wicker furniture during the Victorian era. More modern furniture from the mid twentieth century is extremely collectible and valuable today.
Here is what we found under all the layers of paint on the base sections.
The base sections were repainted using DuPont automotive acrylic in a gloss black. We were unable to determine the original color, probably that ugly school beige. All the wood components were finished in a medium maple color with a durable satin sheen topcoat. This restoration will last for decades and maybe several grandchildren will get to use it and even pass it on to another generation.
The final result speaks for itself.
Built in 1916, restored in 2010, now that’s being green!