I'm having a bureau used as a working place (for writing, working, studying). Its top has artificially (I suppose) texture finished with lacquer or varnish. It looks OK, but using it as intended (to hold papers, write down thing, put arms on it) is not so comfortable. I'd like to have a flat surface.

I'm going to refinish the bureau's internal surface (only the surface that is contacted with humans arms when he is using), keep all other surfaces as they are (when bureau is closed it will be looking as not modified)

What is the best way of refinishing this kind of surface? My best suggestion is sanding with a random orbital sander on 80 grit, going up to 200. Or maybe strip the finish and then give it to planer, and only then sand from 120 to 200?

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  • 2
    Your orbital sander strategy looks sound to me.
    – Ashlar
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 1:54
  • 1
    Odd surface! I wonder how they ended up with it? It almost looks like something you get by sandblasting. "Or maybe strip the finish and then give it to planer" Just as a general point, if you are planing there's no reason to strip the finish first — planing can take a finished surface off with ease. But when you say planer do you mean hand plane, a powered hand tool or a thickness planer? You can only really do this type of panel safely with the first of these and even then it must be done carefully due to the changes in grain direction.
    – Graphus
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 4:59
  • I meant hand plane. Thickness planer is not an option here, because second part of the surface (not door) is glued up very tightly, it's really a mess to get it off from there. So refinishing needs to be done in place Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 7:31

1 Answer 1


From the photos this looks like oak, and I think your just seeing the grain, i don't think its an artificially textured surface.

If you are just refinishing the door / writing surface, you could hand plane it, but if you are going all the way inside, there is not space to handplane. IF you handplane, the wood will be notable lighter in color where its been planned away than the rest of the desk, creating a high contrast. Planning would not be a commonly used technique for this application.

I suggest stripping chemically, and then a very light sanding - the wood below the finish has already been finished, so unless you scratch it badly while stripping, you could start with 120 grit, and finish with 200.

Green's is a great stripper brand, you want gloves and a stiff brush to massage the old finish out of the way, this looks like an old and easy to strip finish. Some light steel wool, and some denatured alcohol will help you clean off any gunk left in the corners of the inside of the desk if you go that route.

  • thanks for answer. In my region we almost do not have liquid chemical strippers (and it's a pity, US customs do not allow to order them online abroad). We do have few, but they are so bad, that's better not to use them at all. I have two types of cabinet scrapers and I'm considering to use them to clean off the finish (the lacquer). After that I'll try light sanding (I can plane just the door, because it's de-attachable, but I can't plane the inner side, right). I postponed this project for a month or so. Will post pictures later how it would go. Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 13:38

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