Lamp Black Antique Typewriter Desk

Mar 7, 2020 | Arm R Seal, General Finishes Milk Paint | 2 comments

An Antique Typewriter Desk Painted in General Finishes Lamp Black Milk Paint

This antique typewriter desk has come SO far since it first arrived in my workshop. It may look classic and lovely now, but it was far from it when I first found it. Thanks to General Finishes products, it’s got a new lease on life. Buckle up as I share how I refinished this unique piece.

Antique typewriter desk in General Finishes Lamp Black Milk Paint with Arm-R-Seal on top

Rescued From A Condemned House

Not too long ago, I joined the owner of Morgantown Market on a “clean out”. I had never been on one of these excursions, but basically we show up to a home and pick through the items inside. Anything we like, we load up and we settle on a price for everything once we’re finished.

I had no idea what was in store for me when I pulled up to this 1800’s school house.

Photo via Google Maps

You could barely see it through the trees, and it didn’t even have a driveway! Luckily I had my pickup truck, so it made short work of rumbling onto the grass lawn.

Once I got inside, I smelled mold, mildew and years of moisture. The house was literally falling apart around us and there was carpet on the walls. Yes, you read that correctly. CARPET on the walls! Yet despite all of those…ahem…challenges, there were gorgeous antiques everywhere I looked. An oak side-by-side secretary desk was in the living room and an antique typewriter desk was by the front door.

Antique Typewriter Desk

Now if you’re not familiar with a typewriter desk, you’re in good company. I had no idea what it was when I first found it either! It’s essentially a desk that has a cavity in the middle that housed a metal typewriter. Here’s a photo I found on the internet illustrating the concept.


The desk pictured above is more vintage than antique, but you get the idea. There’s a mechanism in the middle that raises and lowers a wooden platform, allowing the typist to store the typewriter when not in use.

Reworking the Desk

The antique typewriter desk I grabbed from my clean out was mahogany and very fancy. It has 3 drawers on each side of the desk and it has 8 legs total.

Antique typewriter desk in General Finishes Lamp Black Milk Paint with Arm-R-Seal on top

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the typewriter mechanism working again. It was jammed and wouldn’t release, so I had to remove it completely. It also needed a new top because there was a flap cut out in the original top to allow the typewriter to raise up.

I took my desk to my friend Greg of The Furniture Fix, and he installed a reclaimed walnut top on the desk. The walnut was so beautiful that all it needed was a clear coat of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal oil based polyurethane.

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Polyurethane Semi-Gloss Pint

I opted for a Semi-Gloss sheen because I wanted clarity and durability for the walnut top of the desk. It was incredibly easy to apply too! I actually teach you how to apply Arm-R-Seal in my “Stripping and Refinishing Wood” online course.

The results speak for themselves.

Walnut top of typewriter desk sealed in Arm R Seal Semi Gloss by General Finishes

Just look at that shine! It’s like a sheet of walnut colored glass!

Other Features

In addition to a new reclaimed wood top, my antique typewriter desk has two pull-out writing surfaces on each side.

Mahogany pull out writing surface on typewriter desk

The drawers were very difficult to remove when I first got the piece home. The whole piece had been sitting in such a moist environment for such a long time that the entire desk was swollen shut. I let it dry out in my basement workshop for at least a month before I started the cleaning process. Even when I had it all clean and dry, the drawers still stuck. It took some chiseling, planing and sanding to get them working again. It was so worth it though! Just look at that hand-cut dovetailing.

Hand cut dovetails on mahogany desk drawer

That brilliant mahogany finish is gleaming once again on the sides and interior of each drawer.

A Difficult Lamp Black Milk Paint Finish

I truly struggled with the painting process on this desk project. At first, I wanted to paint it white. Halfway through the priming stage, I gave up. It was simply going to be too much work, so I opted for General Finishes Lamp Black Milk Paint instead.

Lamp Black Milk Paint Color Chip

In hindsight, I should have continued with my white plan, because painting black paint over white primer was not a good idea. There’s too much contrast between these two shades, and after 3 coats of black, you could still see my white primer through the paint.

To neutralize the base, I painted on a layer of Dark Chocolate Milk Paint. This simulated a wood surface, and then I applied more Lamp Black Milk Paint.

Antique typewriter desk in General Finishes Lamp Black Milk Paint with Arm-R-Seal on top

This desk project took much longer than I wanted it to. I definitely wasted paint product and made some mistakes in the painting process. Despite the frustration the extra steps caused, it provided me with the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson. Now I know how difficult it is to paint a dark color over white. I have first-hand experience and can pass that on to others who might bump into this issue down the road. Because this piece wasn’t a custom project, I had unlimited time to complete it. That makes swallowing such a tedious setback a bit easier.

There’s a quote by Winston Churchill that I found today that summarizes my experience in a nutshell.

If you find yourself in a difficult project, keep your chin up. You’re in very good company! Even those of us who have been refinishing furniture for years still struggle with pieces. Stick with it and keep going. You’ll learn very valuable lessons along the way!

Antique typewriter desk in General Finishes Lamp Black Milk Paint with Arm-R-Seal on top

More Lamp Black Inspiration

If you’ve enjoyed this furniture makeover, perhaps you’ll like these projects I finished using General Finishes Lamp Black Milk Paint too!

Lamp Black Spool Bench, General Finishes Milk Paint, High Performance Topcoat, Lamp Black Milk Paint, Milk Paint, Eight Hundred Furniture, Sweet Annie Acres
Spool Bench
VanSciver, hutch, Lamp Black Milk Paint, General Finishes, Eight Hundred Furniture, Dry Brush, High Performance Topcoat in Satin, Lion's Head Ring Pulls
A Dry-Brushed VanSciver Hutch
Nutmeg Gel Stain. Lamp Black Milk Paint, General Finishes, High Performance Topcoat, Eight Hundred Furniture, Federal Style, Hepplewhite Handles, Eight Hundred Furniture, Full length view
Vintage Desk in Lamp Black

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I'm Jenn Baker - Milk Paint lover, photographer, blogger, and QVC Guest Host. Click below to learn more about me and my creative business.  LEARN MORE ABOUT JENN

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