How Not to Get Schooled – A Roll-Top Desk Chalk Paint Revamp 

How Not to Get Schooled – A Roll-Top Desk Chalk Paint Revamp 

My baby is starting highschool this year.  And, yes, I am avoiding pondering the significance of this very thought.

In preparation for the year ahead, it dawned on me that she needed a better space to study. A place not tucked into the deep recesses of her room, but also not in the midst of the family noise.  I found a perfect place- however, it is the first room you see when you walk in the front door. This posed a little aesthetic problem for me.  Visions of paper strewn about, piles of books and pencils scattered was enough to send me digging into my garage looking for a solution. 

This is my knight in shining armor

He has the answer to all my problems- deep drawers, cute cubbies and best of all- a fabulous roll down top to hide any residual chaos. 

While I planned on using this to help my my daughter’s education, this desk had more than a few lessons to teach me.  And I thought perhaps I could pass a few of them on to you- to keep you from being schooled by a roll top desk. 
Lesson #1 – Deep dark wood grains are hard to cover with white chalk paint.  


   Despite sanding and cleaning, the wood grain and some persistent stain kept seeping through. I had hoped three coats would cover, but it did not. 

Solution: Ideally, I read that sealing the wood before painting is the best option. There are primers and sealants on the market designed to do this, but I read mixed results on them. I tried a few less expensive options. First, I tried waxing the stain seepage. Sadly, it didn’t completely block the stain.  

 Next I tried a poly-coat test over one particularly dark area.  It blocked it a bit better, but sadly, not completely.  

After a determined effort, I finally decided to go with the flow, and changed my plans for the desk to include an aged appearance. A little dark wax rubbed here and there at the end and the imperfections just seemed to disappear.  

 Lesson #2 -Moving parts and paint don’t like each other. 

I suspected this may be a challenge, so I read up on how to best paint the roll top portion of a desk. Light coat, avoid tracks etc.  Sadly, even following these well meaning tips- it was very difficult to roll up and down.  

Solution: remove the roller cover completely, clear channels and repaint while detached.  Once it was dry, a simple light wipe with the paint in the channels lessened the contrast of the dark channel with the ivory top, yet still provided the flexibility it needs to roll freely. Once dry, I tightly rolled the cover a few times to make sure everything was nice and loose. 

In addition to avoiding getting paint in the channels, it is also important to not allow a build up of paint on the edges where the cover fits into the tracks on the desk. I sanded the edges of the cover 1/4″ from the edge to keep the cover moving freely in the grooved tracks.  A bit of candle wax rubbed into those tracks before reassembling the top helped everything to glide smoothly as well. 


Lesson #3– Cubbies may be cute but they are painful to paint.  


 This may be obvious to everyone but me, but long handled brushes and tiny spaces make for a clumsy effort. Brush strokes, unintentional paint build up and the incessant “knock-knocking” of the brush handle just about made me pull out my hair.  

Solution: A shorter handled brush, if possible; a bit of patience and determination;  and, eventually, removing the back panel of the desk for better access.


In the end, it was all worth it.  It has a lovely old world charm that works so well in my room, yet will give my daughter all she needs to achieve her scholastic goals. A win-win for sure.  Don’t you agree?



2 responses »

    • Thank you! It was a fun project. The design on the top was transferred and hand painted. After all the effort to stop the stain seepage, I didn’t have patience to cut a stencil. Haha!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s