Making painted desk tops durable

Creating tough surfaces for office furniture. October 31, 2000

Currently I paint my built-in furniture with an oil-based paint to match existing trim in houses. I am receiving more and more requests for desk surfaces that stand up to everyday office/computer use. In short, I need to come up with a surface over my painted desk tops that is considerably harder than paint. Can I spray on lacquer, polyurethane, varnish or anything else that will not discolor my paint and give an adequate surface?

Forum Responses
If you have the appropriate spray setup and are familiar with spraying lacquers I would opt with the catalyzed conversion varnish. ML Campbells Resistant is a pigmented varnish that can be tinted to numerous colors and is tough as nails. That would be one of your best choices. Another alternative with less durability would be spraying a waterborne pigmented finish and then topcoating it with a waterborne clear.

I have suggested to most of my customers to cover the desk surface with 1/4" glass, which makes for a good writing surface. Especially with soft woods like mahogany. Most customers agree. Your glass store can take your top and get a good fit. Looks terific with beveled glass, but a little more pricey.

If I try waterborne paint and clear topcoat, would I encounter the "stickiness" associated with latex paint?

Use the waterborne approach. Try ML Campbells polystar. You will not get the stickiness that you get with a latex enamel and it is very durable when you apply the right amount of wet mil. It sands and looks just like solvent based products.

I would avoid placement of glass on a flat surface such as a desk. You could end up with another problem--liability.

On top of the painted surface you usually put plastic tabs so that the glass is not directly on the finished surfaces.