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I'm looking to repaint & resurface a wooden desk in our house that is currently untreated. My desire is to bring the desk surface to a polished/reflective gloss white finish using a combination of acrylic high-gloss paint, and buffing/wet-sanding up to 3000 with a random orbital sander to bring out a shine.

My expectation—from the research I've done—is that this should bring out a reflective and clean finish on the surface.

My one cause for concern is that this desk is also in a fairly high use area, and gets used multiple times per day. For example, it's not uncommon for this desk to be used as a workspace, so you can imagine keyboard/elbows/arms/hot drinks are all sitting on its surface.

What sort of expectations should I be setting with respect to this finish lasting over time? Will the reflectivity dull over time? If so, what precautions and steps can I take to ensure this is either mitigated or doesn't occur?

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With the type of prep and finish you are describing it sounds like the desk our Dad made for his masters project. It still is in use today by my little brother in his home office, the only difference is you have to know how to open the secret drawers and those can be hard to find , never made it to that level because I went into the sparky world , any time a good sanding and many coats of quality finish is used it can last generations. I love DA or dual action sanders I have found to make high end quality finishes a very fine paper is used , dad taught me to use up to 1200 wet paper for custom jobs with varathane on oak & walnut that looks like glass 20 years later.

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Varathane by the way is a brand name of a high strength polyurethane coating, usually clear, and can be glossy or semi-gloss. Sounds as though you want gloss. I would not spend the time sanding and polishing the paint itself if you intend on applying a polyurethane finish afterward. You are going to have to do that with the final coat no matter what. You can get an acrylic paint buffed up to a high shine, but the durability will not be as good as a polyurethane varnish.

Actually, polyurethane is the "modern" version of what used to be done with "varnish", or often called "spar varnish" because it was used on the spars of ships and therefore had to be tough, but flexible. The problem with spar varnish was/is that it decays and has to be periodically replaced. Polyurethane will outlive us all. Epoxy is another choice, but is difficult to sand after it hardens and doesn't take to buffing, although it may not need it.

The thing you have to decide first is if you want a synthetic finish like that, or a more "natural" material, such as varnish (made from various vegetable oils) or shellac (made from the secretions of female lac beetles that they use to hide from predators as they drink tree sap from branches). From a durability standpoint, polyurethanes win hands-down. There are other options, but none of them would give you that glossy look, the others tend to be "semi-gloss" or scratch easily.

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