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I'm looking to make a desk from some solid oak, and want something that will last me a long time. I was wondering if such a piece of wood can be 'renewed' over time by say sanding to strip the stain and applying new stain ( of potentially a different shade? ), or say I screw some legs in and wish to change them, is filling the old screw holes a possibility that won't be too unsightly / compromise the future potential of it?

I'd prefer this to say buying a cheap desk, and then throwing it away if my room changes and buying a new one.

Whilst on this topic, if it is possible ( and sensible ) to do such a thing, what tools should be invested in? ( A band saw isn't really an option, but I was thinking electric jigsaw and orbit sander? )

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    Suggest move to woodworking site (woodworking.stackexchange.com) – tnknepp Jan 20 at 12:37
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    There are many, many considerations to making a solid wood desktop. Far more than what you've asked about. I would really recommend that you request that this be moved to Woodworking, as you'll get a lot more targeted answers (nothing wrong with the ones that are here!). While you're there, look at the other questions about making solid wood desk/table tops - you'll learn a lot! This is a very doable project, but you need to know some things that you haven't even thought to ask to get a satisfactory result. – FreeMan Jan 20 at 13:53
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    You're asking several things here, and all are hypothetical and vague. Please ask one specific question at a time. "Can an unnamed desk be refinished?" isn't specific. – isherwood Jan 20 at 14:59
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I think buying a secondhand or recycled oak desk is a great idea. So long as it has a strong construction you can prepare, change or upgrade the finish in many ways. An oak desk / table could last forever (or almost!). How many antiques are made from chipboard? None. They are all made from quality timber like oak.

The options you have for changing the appearance could be; Do nothing, many ‘shabby’ items of furniture look great just as they are. If it’s varnished, paint stripper and sanding will bring it back to the original wood. The stain can sometimes be a little more difficult to remove as it will have soaked into the wood, but it’s still possible with a little time and effort. Once back at the natural wood you could restrain it (hundreds of different colours/shades available) or leave it in natural oak. It can then be revarnished (gloss/Matt), waxed (looks great but not always practical) or oiled. When you get tired of this, start again. If the desk is waxed or polished to begin with, then again there are ‘strippers’ available from diy stores which will remove this without too much difficulty.

You mentioned about changing the legs. My personal opinion would be any item of furniture where the legs can quick be changed is not going to be particularly strong (others may disagree). The legs really should be an integral part of the furniture build to provide both quality and longevity. Finally, you mentioned tools and repairs. There is generally no problem to repair any aspect of oak furniture. The skill of the repair determines what it looks like afterwards. But minor repairs of scratches and nicks etc can be fixed with quality fillers or coloured waxes. Perhaps looking at furniture repairs on YouTube would help. Tools, great things can be achieved with patience and a pack of sandpaper but an orbital sander would be a good start. Good Luck!

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  • All great advice, but the OP asked specifically about building a desk. That said, I agree that buying a used desk is the better option unless the OP wants to have the adventure of building it. – tnknepp Jan 20 at 13:35
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Yes, this can be renewed over time with sanding etc. I am unsure of how much of the stain you can remove by sanding (it will definitely soak into the wood and remain visible longer than polyurethane). I've removed loads of lacquer and polyurethane for refinishing wood, but have yet to try removing stain.

Yes, you can fill old screw holes by drilling them out and gluing a dowel rod into the hole (use a good wood glue for this, my preference is Tightbond). This is probably as good of a fill as you can get. Sand the dowel down until even with the desk.

Regarding tools, that really depends on what how you want to build this and how good you want it to look. Are you using rough-cut wood, or something that is already pre-sanded and ready to go (something you buy at the big-box stores)? If you start from rough-cut then you really need a joiner, planer, good table saw, possibly a router, and ideally a drum sander. That's unrealistic for a single project.

On the other hand, if you're going to buy a solid piece of oak that is already cut and joined (e.g. something that is already 4' x 6') and you don't really care how it looks then you just need something to cut it (a circular saw or even a hand saw).

The point I'm getting to with the tools is that we need more information regarding how you plan to build this before we can help you build it (this probably fits better under woodworking than home improvement anyway). How you plan to build this will dictate what tools you need to do the job. Best of luck, this might be a fun project!

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Regarding your bonus question, what tools you need depends on the thickness. A power sander is good, but a jigsaw is marginal.

I wouldn't work anything but the quite thin hardwood with a jigsaw, except for curves. All the ones I've used tend to cut not quite square, however well they're adjusted before you start, and they're weak for thick hardwood.

I needed to make a small tabletop and some shelf brackets from an offcut of oak worktop (40mm thick, about 1.5") and was very glad I used it as an excuse to buy a circular saw. I used a simple wooden fence clamped to the workpiece to guide the saw.

On 28mm (1.125") beech (comparable hardness to oak) a jigsaw was fine, but I didn't have to do much straight cutting, mostly curves (some too tight for many other saws)

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  • BTW you can get solid wood desktops and legs (e.g. Ikea) and change the look with no more than a screwdriver and perhaps a drill – Chris H Jan 20 at 13:46

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