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March 16, 2017

Refinishing Our Heywood Wakefield M328 Desk Bookcase…….The Definitive Post If You Want To Refinish Heywood Wakefield Furniture Too!

This post was originally published in 2012 and is my most in-depth post on refinishing Heywood Wakefield furniture. As I posted about various pieces of H-W I had refinished in the past people would leave comments that they’s like to see a step by step process of my refinishing process…..I decided to put together this tutorial so that everyone could get an idea of what goes into refinishing a piece of Heywood Wakefield furniture. I am no expert to be sure – this is just what I have figured out that works for me! Honestly, I think refinishing furniture can be done by just about anyone – it just takes time and patience. Before I refinished our dining room set I had never refinished a piece of furniture in my entire life…so seriously, this IS something you can do! 

By Sara In AZ

Sooooooo, as many of you have already figured out by now I am a sucker for Heywood Wakefield blonde furniture. I am SUCH a sucker for H-W that I always seem to get myself involved in these crazy refinishing projects so I can buy the furniture on the cheap, but have a nice piece in the end. I’ve refinished my Dining Room Table, a Corner Table I found at Goodwill, and a  set of Encore Night Stands so far.

I came across this Craigslist ad for a Heywood Wakefield M328 Desk/Secretary Bookcase and I knew I’d fallen into the trap once again. I told myself I’d only go to look at it and if the finish was really bad I’d pass.


Uggghhhhh, I tried to be strong……I REALLY, REALLY did. But in the end Heywood won again. The finish was shot and I knew it would take a ton of work, but I just could not leave the Secretary behind. I bargained the guy down to $160 and we left with ANOTHER refinishing project. eek!

Some of y’all have left comments, or e-mailed me, wanting to know my specific refinishing methods. So I thought I would take this post to let everyone in on exactly what I do when I refinish a piece of Heywood. I am, for sure, not saying my refinishing method is the only way. I am certainly not an expert. I am only saying this is what I have found works for me. When I first set out to refinish my Heywood dining room set  9 years ago (lord have mercy I almost cannot believe it’s been THAT long!!!)  there really was not much info online about refinishing H-W, so through trial and error I’ve figured out what works best for me. One other thing to note – the new finish you achieve will look fantastic…..MUCH better than what it was, but you probably will never be able to fully match an original vintage piece of H-W in either color or sheen. Honestly though, I have pieces of Heywood with the original finish and the ones I have refinished are such a close match it would be hard to tell unless you were up close inspecting it. With that said let’s get on with the refinishing!

And here is the H-W Secretary…… patiently waiting for me to start my work. It’s pretty daunting at the beginning of a project just looking at this huge piece of furniture and knowing ALL the steps you have to go through to get it pretty again. But trust me, once you start it actually does go pretty fast.

I know, I know – y’all are probably thinking “Sara, this secretary looks just fine, why are you refinishing it?” Well, in this picture it does look ok – but let’s take a closer look shall we!


The top left pull-down door (where the desk is) had these spots and streaks that were all over the front. I tried to get them out with Feed-N-Wax but the stains remained. The drawers below also had some streaks and stains, but the desk door was the worst.


The shelves were also pretty beat up…..and then there was that HUGE ink stain on the bottom.


Paint???? on the legs.


You could tell this H-W secretary had seen better days, so it was Sara to the rescue once again!


The very first thing you want to do before starting any refinishing project is disassembly. Whatever you can disassemble such as legs, drawer pulls, etc., definitely take the time to remove – as your finish will be all that much better for you having taken the time to do this.


Here you can see I am removing one of the drawer pulls from a drawer.


This is a very important step. You must note what drawer goes with what handle and the like, so you can keep all of the original pieces together. For the drawer I just disassembled above I wrote a number “1” in pencil on the bottom of the drawer and the back of the drawer pull  where it will never be seen – that way I can easily discern what goes with what when I reassemble.


This is also an extremely important step. See how the screws in the picture below are varying in sizes. You will have to note, as you are removing the screws, what screws go where. In my case here, the top drawer pull had the 3 smaller screws – while the other drawer handles had one larger screw in the middle of each pull.


After I removed all of the hardware I placed everything in little baggies and labeled all of it so I would know exactly what went where.


And here is everything disassembled and just waiting for me to attack it with the sander!


I also had Mike remove one of the back panels (that the shelves backed up to) because I knew this would be terribly hard to refinish if left in place. The other back panel did not need to be removed because it backs up to the drawers.


Said panel, now removed. I have to say, it is a bit tricky removing these back panels. It is a thinner veneer type of birch that will more than likely crack and split if you try to just yank it off, and the nails that hold the panel on have a tendency to be a bit rusty after all of this time so the nail heads might pop right off leaving the rest of the nail still inside the piece…..so you will need to drill the old nails out if you want to use all of the existing nail holes. But obviously it is do-able, it just takes time.


If you need to remove one of these backer panels in your refinishing process you will need to proceed with caution as, like I said, these are thin pieces of birch veneer and will crack and split if you put too much force on them. In our efforts to remove this backer piece we wrapped a wood block in a small towel and then VERY gently pounded at the backer from the interior with a rubber mallet. We gently pounded the entire perimeter of the backer from the interior, as close as close to the edge as we could get, trying to get the nails out by pushing on them from the inside. We tried to ease off the backer as gently as possible, not trying to force it in any way at all. We worked our way all around the interior perimeter a few times easing the backer out more and more. As we were easing the backer out some of the old rusted nail heads fell off and left the nail point end in the back of the secretary. This is not a problem in any way. If you want to use all of the original nail holes (and not drill any new holes in the back of your piece) you will have to use a VERY tiny drill bit to drill out the old embedded nail point end…and obviously, if you do not want to drill out the old nail point ends you will just have to drill some new small holes in order to re-attach your backer. And who knows, maybe you will get lucky and not have any rusted nails to deal with….either way any problem can be overcome!

OK, here are my tools for refinishing. I have a palm sander for the bulk of the sanding.


And an orbital sander for more of the finish/final sanding.


Honestly though you do not need 2 sanders and can definitely get by with just one sander. If you only had one sander I would probably stick to the palm sander as it can get into more tight spaces than the round orbital sander.

I personally always sand everything I refinish with 3 different types of sandpaper. I start off with the 60 grit sandpaper, which will really dig in and take all of that existing finish off. 60 grit sandpaper is what you will probably use the most of , as it takes a lot to remove that old finish. I then sand with 150 grit sandpaper to bring the wood down to a bit of a finer finish because the 60 grit really roughs it up. Lastly, I sand with 220 grit sandpaper to really get a nice fine finish on the wood in preparation for the stain. After you sand with the 220 grit sandpaper the wood will feel so smooth, almost like silk.


In the picture below you can see I have been sanding a while. I wanted to point out that the top section has been sanded down totally and all the old stain has been removed from this area. You can see that the wood is very white looking and that is what you want to see. This was all done with 60 grit sandpaper.

You will note in the middle section of the picture the old stain has only been partially removed, it looks kind of dark and streaky. As you sand the wood down you will see stain still embedded into the wood grain and you need to remove as much of that as possible as you do not want to apply stain over the old stain.

In the bottom section of the picture no sanding has been done at all.

Getting the wood to have that ‘white’ look will take you quite some time and will be the hardest and most time consuming part of your sanding. Not all areas of your project will be able to be sanded with a sander, it is then that you will need to sand by hand – such as in corners.


The ink stain that was on the bottom shelf of the secretary took literally FOREVER to sand out! I seriously had to sit there for hours with the orbital sander, going back and forth, to sand that out.


A word of caution if you are going to try to sand out a stain in wood…….you can very easily find that you have made a HUGE divot in the wood if you are not extremely careful in your sanding method. Like I said above, it took me a few hours to remove to stain and here is why…..I would sand the ink stain for a while, then I would feather out sanding from the stain area all across the shelf to make sure I was not left with a big divot in the one area of the stain.  It was a very time consuming process to make sure that I had removed the stain and that the wood was also level. There are also various bleaching methods that can remove stains.  I cannot personally attest to any bleaching method as I have never used bleach to remove a stain in wood before, but it is an option.  You can search google for “bleaching stains out of wood” and that should provide you with some insight.

It FINALLY came out though!!! YAY!


Whew, all done sanding now!

Your next, and final step, before the staining starts is the clean everything off with Acetone. Literally everything. Sanding dust gets everywhere and you do not want that mixing with your stain. I know it seems weird to put something liquid on wood, but acetone will not hurt  the wood as it is super fast drying. So get yourself some big ole rubber gloves and go to town cleaning……you can see on my paper towel below all the yellow sanding dust from just one swipe. After I clean everything with acetone I try to touch the raw wood as little as possible with my bare hands – as you do not want your body oils, or anything else,  absorbing into the wood.


And, we are finally onto the staining process! I always use the Wheat ‘Heywood’ stain I get off of a seller on E-Bay. There is a seller on there, needful useful things,  who mixes stain to match Champagne and Wheat finishes of Heywood Wakefield blonde furniture. It is a stain AND a topcoat all in one so you do not have to worry about too many steps. I have always had really good luck with his stains, and he will mix custom colors for you if you need that as well. Here is a link to his E-Bay store needful_useful_things . He is a really great seller who is super nice to deal with and is really customer service orientated as well! Check him out!!!


I have tried many different manners of applying the stain – clean white socks, cut up white t shirts, clean white towels…………they all worked ok, but I always thought there must be something better out there. I walked around Home Depot for a while one day and came across these Workforce Staining Pads. It’s kind of like a sponge wrapped up in a low nap terry cloth. I decided I really liked these best of all to apply the stain, as it holds it shape very well and you can apply a nice layer of stain in one fell swoop. I think, for the pack of 4, it is around $5.



When you are in between stain coats you can keep your sponge in a Zip-loc bag. However, if you notice stain flakes starting to dry on your sponge toss it out and start using a new one as you do not want stain flakes embedded in your fresh stain.

Also, when applying your stain be sure to not drag the applicator back and forth over the stain. You really only want to go across the surface one time and keep working your way across. If you try to go back over the stain when it is even just a little bit dry (say 5 to 10 mins) you could leave streaks in the finish that will never go away. And trust me, you REALLY don’t want that!


When I apply my stain I get enough stain on my pad to go over one section (the width of the stain pad) lengthwise (with the wood grain) without ever pulling up the pad. Here is an example from a H-W table I refinished a while back, you can see the red arrow…..I apply the stain in one fell swoop, with the grain, a section at a time (the width of the stain pad) never pulling the pad up until I reach the end. You obviously WILL want to overlap the stain section to section so time is of the essence and you will want to work quickly so the stain sections will just kind of “flow” together if you will.


This Heywood Wakefield type stain is very different than normal stain you would use off the shelf from a big box store (the kind of stain that you would literally wipe on and then wipe back off) as this type of stain is a layering process so NONE of the stain is ever wiped back off.

When applying this stain you can apply as many or a few coats as you want to, as long as you think the wood has sufficient coverage there is no right or wrong. The fewer coats you apply will obviously leave you seeing more of the wood grain, the more coats you apply you will see less wood grain. Seller needful useful things recommends 4 applications of his Heywood Wakefield stain, and that is pretty much what I have always done because I am trying to mimic the mostly ‘grain hiding’ original blonde stain that H-W used on their furniture.

Also important – in between coats of stain, but only when the stain is totally dry, buff the stain out with 0000 steel wool. This will remove any imperfections in your last coat of stain such as little fibers that get left behind in the stain coat when you are applying it. Be sure to clean over the area that you have just ran the steel wool over too, as you do not want steel wool fibers embedded into your next stain coat.


Sometimes people have a preference as to what to use for cleaning after they use steel wool…..a regular tack cloth, a dry rag etc. – I know some refinishers are adamantly against using normal tack cloths. I personally have used all of the above and have never noticed a problem with my finish. One cleaning cloth I have used with good results is this Micro Fiber Tack Cloth


I have also used these regular old normal tack cloths as well.


I’d say to find what works best for you and go with that!

One other note I wanted to make in regards to the buffing process between stain coats….lately I have started using a VERY high grit sandpaper to buff the stain between coats (as opposed to using steel wool) and this has given me very nice results. I have been using 1000 grit sandpaper like this 3M Ultra Fine Grit Silicon Carbide Sandpaper.


This high grit sandpaper will cost you more in the end than using steel wool…which is much cheaper, but to be perfectly honest with you I think using the high grit sandpaper has given my refinished pieces a much finer finish. Either way you will be fine…using steel wool or high grit sandpaper…..I just wanted to put it out there as an option!

Wow, can you believe we made it all the way to the end of the staining process!?!

And yes, I was staining right in the middle of my kitchen! Ha!!!


Letting all of the handles dry………….


And voila, here we have the finished Heywood Wakefield Bookcase/Secretary! No more big ink stain on the bottom, no more streaky door fronts! Yippee!!!


Here is what the desk/secretary cubby looks like.


I wound up really loving this piece even more after I refinished it. It has tons of storage and comes in super handy in our bedroom!

I hope that anyone out there looking to refinish Heywood Wakefield will find this tutorial post helpful, let me know if y’all have any more questions!

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79 Responses to Refinishing Our Heywood Wakefield M328 Desk Bookcase…….The Definitive Post If You Want To Refinish Heywood Wakefield Furniture Too!

  1. Sharon Reply

    October 18, 2012 at 9:12 am

    This is a very inspiring post! I have several pieces of midcentury and older furniture that could use a new finish, but I’ve been afraid to touch them. Your finished secretary looks so great that it gives me confidence to work on my own pieces. Thanks for the step by step.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      October 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      Hi Sharon! Yes, you can definitely do this! Do not be intimidated by refinishing at all, seriously the most time consuming part of it all is the sanding and even that is not really that bad. Let me know when you’ve refinished something, I would love to see! 🙂

      • Meg Hadtings Reply

        September 6, 2016 at 11:53 pm

        Hi Sara,
        Will this stain-clear coat cover water stains or do I need to completely sand them out? Will they actually come out with sanding? Help!

        • Sara In AZ Reply

          September 7, 2016 at 6:07 pm

          Hi Meg – See my response included in the answer to your other question below!

  2. Desirae Reply

    October 18, 2012 at 9:37 am

    That is beautiful. What a great deal and a great job.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      October 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      Thank you so much Desirae, I really appreciate that! 🙂

  3. thatmidcenturyfella Reply

    October 18, 2012 at 9:41 am

    I loved this tutorial! Great work!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      October 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks Midcentury Fella…..hey – you gotta love the blonde right!?! 😉

  4. Jennifer Reply

    October 18, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    I’ve been tip toeing around my 2 HW pieces. I am usually gung ho to refinish anything, but I love my end tables so much I’ve been afraid to give it a shot. This is an excellent set of directions. Thank you!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      October 18, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      Jennifer – I know you can do it!!! Seriously, do not be afraid. I was terrified going into refinishing H-W at first, but it really is completely do-able and you will be thrilled with the results. Let me know when you refinish your end tables!

  5. Andrea Reply

    October 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Fantastic tute, Sara! I’ve definitely picked up some tips from you that I will be using on my next refinishing project!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      October 18, 2012 at 3:39 pm

      Thank you Andrea! 🙂 Ooohhhh, I am excited to see what you have to refinish…definitely post pics!!!

  6. John Bachman Reply

    October 18, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Looks amazing! My Heywood Wakefield dining room table was refinished by the previous owner and there is no sign of the label left.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      October 18, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks John! 🙂

      Eek! That is one of my HUGE pet peeves – when someone sands out/removes all the labels. I take great pains when I refinish to make sure that none of the stamps/labels come off when I am refinishing. That said, I have seen some H-W stamps that are very, very light and super hard to see and in a hard place to spot………..is it possible your stamp is there and you missed it???

      • John Bachman Reply

        October 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm

        I’ll look harder but not much luck.

        • Sara In AZ Reply

          October 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm

          Yeah, let me know if you do find anything. I wouldn’t be surprised if the re-finishers did sand it off – but you never know…..it could be hiding somewhere! Initially sometimes I would swear that some of the H-W I have gotten had no stamp on it at all either, it was not until I had it in the bright sunlight looking all over the place that I finally found the stamp. And don’t forget, they also used paper tags in the earlier days – so if your table is old enough it may have had one of those too.

  7. Eartha Kitsch Reply

    October 19, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Amazing job, Sara! I can never get over how detail oriented you are.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      October 19, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      Oh gosh, thanks so much Eartha! 🙂

  8. Laura Reply

    October 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Wow. You’re hired next time I need furniture refinished. 😉

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      October 22, 2012 at 11:50 am


    • Kathy McCreedy Reply

      May 29, 2016 at 11:47 am

      I’m with Laura! GREAT job, I actually think I may be able to refinish my HW kitchen table and four chairs all by my lonesome! 😀 Your secretary is to DIE for!!! 😀

      • Sara In AZ Reply

        May 30, 2016 at 8:42 pm

        Thanks so much Kathy and good luck with your refinishing project…you CAN do it!!!!

  9. Sherree Reply

    October 21, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Oh I love it; you did a great job.
    Post pics of it all staged 🙂

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      October 22, 2012 at 11:52 am

      Thanks Sherree! I will definitely try to post pics of it staged too…..eventually!

  10. RetroRuth Reply

    October 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    As always, you are the best!!!

  11. NGB Reply

    October 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Hi…Gorgeous job! I have a dumb question…when you wipe down the piece, after steel wooling….is it with a tack cloth or just a dry lint free rag??
    I, too, have rarely seen a H/W piece I did’t love…can’t get enough…EVER!

    I love your blog and read it daily!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      October 24, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      Thanks so much NGB, I appreciate that and I am so glad to hear you like the blog! 🙂

      No, not a dumb question at all! I left that kind of open intentionally because I know sometimes people have a personal preference for what they like to use for cleaning after steel wooling…..a regular tack cloth…..a dry rag…..ect – then I know some people are adamantly against using the normal tack cloths. I personally have used all of the above and have not noticed any problems with my finish, but one cloth I have also used with good results is this Microfiber Tack Cloth. Check out the link


      I got mine at Home Depot, you might want to check them out!

  12. Rebecca@MidCenturyModernRemodel Reply

    October 31, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    WOW. Just wow. Nice work. I read every single word of that post. I just went to a huge store of H-W where the owner refinishes everything and then charges $$$. They pay big in So. Cal. Based on what I saw in that store, your labor of love would go for at least $1,200 if not more. I think more.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      November 1, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      Thank you so much Rebecca! 🙂

      I can only imagine they pay big $$$ in Ca. for this stuff…..maybe I should think about shipping all of my refinished furniture out there and selling it for big dollars! 😉

  13. Jill Reply

    February 5, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I recently discovered Heywood Wakfield vintage furniture and fell in love. This caused me to aquire the following pieces in one weekend!… dining table and chair set, a buffet and hutch, a encore utility dresser cehest, and a Mr. and Mrs. Encore dresser. All pieces need refinished and I will tackle these in the Spring. I scoured the internet for help on refinishing and your post was by far the best. Thank You!!!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 5, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Thanks so much for the nice compliment Jill! I have to say that I think vintage Heywood is some amazing furniture and I think you will be thrilled with your results! Please send in some pics so we all can see!

  14. Keith Reply

    May 24, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Sara, I came across your blog while researching this amazing desk I came across at a yard sale. I now know it’s a H-W kneehole desk (M320W). It’s in very good condition except for a spot on the top, where the original finish appears to have been dissolved by some kind of liquid. Now that I know the asking price is pretty good ($250) and with your tutorial as a guide to refinish it, I’m going to be headed back to that house! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      July 18, 2013 at 5:41 pm

      Hi Keith – Sorry I missed your comment for so long! Glad I could help you out, and let me know how your project goes!

  15. Pingback: Refinishing and Restoring A Vintage 1940s Heywood Wakefield Extension Dining Room Table | No Pattern Required

  16. AtomicVault.etsy.com Reply

    July 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I know this is a super old post, but we have the exact same Heywood Desk!!! And it also is in need of a re-finish. Not quite as bad as yours was, but still a bit too scratched up to ignore. Will be tackling this next after our furniture guy finishes the surfboard tables 🙂

    Great job!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      July 18, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      Oh my gosh! How wild that we have the same desk! I don’t think they are very common at all. Great find on your part!

      Sounds like you are going to have a house full of beautiful Heywood furniture! AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Pingback: Refinishing Our Heywood Wakefield C3971 Corner Bookcase | No Pattern Required

  18. Malissa Reply

    January 9, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Glad to find your post! I have an atomic lamp table I picked up and needs the top redone. I will most likely be doing the whole piece. So by rough sanding, no need to ‘strip’ the finish off? I’m trying to figure out where to start. (Ironically, I work for a woodworking company full of men who really know what they are doing! hahaha I could probably pay someone to do it for me! And we actually use the Sherwin Williams Kemvar system that the new H-W company uses and have 2 spray booths!) Your finished product looks fabulous and I’m excited to get my table back to it’s original beauty! I’ve seen my table in books, but in person, it was even more fabulous! But I say that about every H-W piece I encounter! Great job!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      January 9, 2014 at 9:37 pm

      Hi Malissa! Congrats on scoring the H-W lamp table and I’m so glad you found us!!!

      You will definitely want to re-do the whole table for a consistent look.

      You do not have to strip the finish before you start sanding, the 60 grit sandpaper will take everything away! From there it’s all the finish sanding….then deciding on what stain to use.

      It sounds like you will do great…esp. with ALL of those woodworkers around you….give us an update when you can!

  19. Aric in MA Reply

    March 10, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Sara, great looking stuff! I’m about to start refinishing an early sideboard, which is how I found your site-
    how long does it take for each coat to dry? do you simply wipe it on and wipe off the excess like you would an ordinary stain? is there any finishing treatment other than the steel wool, a polish or oil?

    thanks so much!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      March 10, 2015 at 11:37 pm

      Aric – it is really dependent on weather/humidity/temperature in regard to how long it takes each coat to dry. The first coat always dries the quickest as it goes straight into the raw wood…the more coats you apply however, I’d say it could range from hours to approx. 1 day.

      The Heywood stain that I linked to above is an ‘all in one process’ meaning the top coat/varnish and color are all mixed together. When you apply his stain it is A LOT different than ‘normal’ stain you’d apply……as you DO NOT wipe it off after applying it. With the modern line of H-W furniture the finish was meant to be more grain hiding, so it is a process of building up the layers of stain…and you, as the refinisher, get to decide just how much grain you want to hide! I normally apply 4 layers, but you could do as few as 2, or more that 4…totally up to you! Applying the stain is a bit tricky since you do not wipe it off so you want to have the cleanest applicator possible and definitely steel wool between layers to smooth everything down.

      As for finishing – I have personally never used any polishes, oil, or waxes……so I do not know how those would mix with this stain as the finish winds up being quite glossy on it’s own……if you wanted to change the sheen a bit you could think about using a super fine finishing sand paper….like around/over 1500 grit…..I know with those you can achieve a more glossy or more matte finish depending on the level of grit you use.

      Good luck with your project – let me know how it turns out!

  20. Aric in MA Reply

    March 11, 2015 at 12:23 am

    Sara- great information, that’s very helpful- looking forward to ordering up some of his stain!
    thanks so much!


  21. Kim Alger Reply

    June 20, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I have a Wakefield Chippendale desk. I have only found 1 online so don’t know much about it. It looks so different than the “normal” hw pcs. Questions: what is best to clean this with. Most cleaner leaves it sticky. And. .we are moving and want to sell it but don’t know how much to ask

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 20, 2015 at 8:54 pm

      Hi Kim, I am really only familiar with the H-W Modern line furniture….the blonde furniture mostly made in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Your desk could be from one of their other furniture lines as they had many! If I were you I’d look on ebay from time to time and see if I could find a similar desk that has sold to gauge the price. As for cleaning it, if I had to steer you in a direction for cleaning products it would probably be to the Howard’s products.


      In looking at the Howards site is appears that they have a few different cleaning products….the orange/lemon oil cleaner/conditioner and also Clean-A-Finish wood Soap and the natural wood cleaner and polish. If you are going to clean the entire desk I’d test in a more inconspicuous spot first and just see how you think it’s going. If your desk does still have the original finish……H-W had a pretty darn durable finish from the factory so I don’t really think the Howard’s products would destroy it or anything like that.

      I think you can pretty much gets Howards at most hardware places…..I’ve seen it at Ace and Home Depot personally.

  22. Herb in UK Reply

    July 6, 2015 at 3:44 am

    That’s very helpful, thanks Sara. I’m in the UK, have inherited a Heywood Wakefield desk (M320 Kneehole), which my late father in law must have bought when he was based in the US in the early 50s. I have just been quoted £1000 (about $1500) for refinishing it, so I think I’ll go down the DIY route as well!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      July 9, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      You can do it Herb…..I promise! All you need is some time and patience and you will save a lot of money, let me know how it turns out!

  23. WL Reply

    July 19, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Great information. We just got a H-W dining table that we plan to refinish. When doing the dining table top, did you use your orbital sander? Thanks!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      July 21, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      Hi WL – Glad this helps you out! Yes, use the orbital sander on the top – it will provide a much more even sanded finish for you overall…however, if you have A LOT of old finish to remove (or if it is a very dark finish) you might need to start with a palm sander first, then finish up with the orbital. I’d just start with an orbital and see how it goes! Good luck and be sure to let me know how it goes for you!

  24. mary Reply

    August 29, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Beautiful work!

    We have a set of Heywood that needs refinishing but I would want to finish it with polyurethane to protect it from water spots & general wear.

    Is this a “sinful” idea?

    Thank you

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      August 29, 2015 at 7:43 pm

      Mary – If you are going to refinish with the stain I recommended above (from the seller on ebay) I would highly recommend against using poly, as the ebay sellers stain already has a protective topcoat mixed in with the color….so essentially you are completing two steps at one time when you use his product. I have used his stain for years and have never had any kind of problem with it.

      If you are mixing your own colored stain I would recommend some kind of protective top coat though and if poly works for you then I say to go for it…it is your furniture after all!

      Also, with any stain…no matter what…..if you put a wet glass down on the wood you will get water rings, poly or no poly….and if you use the piece a LOT, well….you are probably going to get wear marks and scuffs.

  25. Steve fay Reply

    September 27, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    Hi Sara beautiful job. The piece is one of my favorites. I have a question …how do you use a drill to remove the old nails in the back? I am currently doing a piece and just as you said am struggling to get the back off…don’t want to split it as it is thin. Any tips. Thank you. Steve in Lowell MA

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      September 28, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      Hi Steve, Thanks, sounds like you have your hands full! I’m trying to think how I can explain this well in words……..we didn’t actually go around the entire perimeter of the back and drill out the whole entire nail (head and all) in an effort to remove the back…..we ONLY drilled out the nail when the nail head had fallen off and the only remaining piece was the nail point embedded into the back of the bookcase area.

      In our efforts the remove the backer, starting off, we wrapped a wood block in a small towel and then very gently pounded at the backer from the interior with a rubber mallet… only going all along the edges – as close to where the the nails were as possible. We tried to ease it out as gently as possible not trying to force it at all. We worked our way all around with the wood block/mallet a few times trying to ease it out more and more. As we were easing the backer out that was when some of the rusted nail heads broke off and basically just came out with the backer… yet the nail point end stayed behind in the bookcase. We knew if we wanted to use all of the same original nail holes that we would have to drill out the old nails that were now embedded into the back of the bookcase (with no nail head now) and that was where the drilling came into play.

      I would not bring a drill into play until you absolutely HAD to use it. I would first start off using the wood block technique I described above and seeing if you can ease the back out that way. Some of the nail heads will invariably break off…that’s when it is time to break out the drill.

      Let me know if you have any more questions!

  26. Scott Reply

    October 22, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    I’ve refinished one table in my life and loved the process and outcome. Have kind of wanted to do it again but don’t really need anything so the desire faded. Yesterday I found a small Heywood Wakefield on the side of the road, it caught my eye as a nice piece so I stopped to take a look, liked it even more up close and brought it home. After looking it over I came across the H-W stamp inside so looked it up. Now i’m researching their furniture and I love much of it. I’ve decided im going to refinish it with your advice. I cannot wait to see the final project. Thanks for all the info.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      October 23, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      Wow Scott…LUCKY you to have found a piece of Heywood just laying by the side of the road!!! Glad I could help you out, please let me know how it turns out for you!

  27. Renee bickar Reply

    June 22, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Sara,

    Thanks for your tutorial. I just read through and made a list of what I will need for my upcoming project. I was referred to you from needful useful things. I was jazzed when I saw on ebay that he makes custom stain for HW furniture. I recovered a Heywood Wakefield bed that had been in my parents garage for about 50 years. It has mold and stains and first thought I would need to strip it. I was advised by needful useful things to view your tutorial and Sand-Sand-Sand!!!
    Going to take pictures as I work through and will share when I finish!



    • Sara In AZ Reply

      June 24, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      Renee! Yay, so glad my tutorial can help you out and that Jeff referred you along to my post! I am excited to see how your piece turns out so please do share pictures when you are done, just leave a comment back here and I will get in touch with you asap! Now get ready to sand! 🙂

  28. Meg Hastings Reply

    September 7, 2016 at 12:02 am

    Hi Sara,
    Thanks for posting instructions! I was literally agonizing about stripping versus sanding (prefer sanding obviously). Will sanding out deep water stains leave an indentation or will the stain/oil combination cover them? I found three peices of HW FREE on craigslist and they need a full refinish.
    Appreciate any help or advice you can give!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      September 7, 2016 at 6:31 pm

      Meg, SO glad my post can help you out! To answer your questions…..yes, you should be able to sand out the water stains….however, I want you to be VERY careful as you sand the stains out. As you can see above I was able to sand out a very bad ink stain. I would highly recommend using an orbital sander to sand out stains like these as the orbital has a nice circular motion and you can just move the sander slowly around the surface of the wood to “feather” out the removal of the stained areas. If you do sand and hold the sander in just the spot where the stains are you will have indentations and that will not present well on your finished project. For me to remove the ink stain (above) it took about an hour or 2 of careful sanding to both remove the stain and feather it out so the wood had a nice flat finish. I almost think a water stain might be a bit easier for you to sand out though! Just take your time and you should be good to go!

      As for the covering of the water marks with the stain/lacquer finish from the seller on ebay…….I would not recommend counting on that. To some degree the lacquer stain will hide imperfections in the surface of the wood…..you can certainly build up the layers of stain to hide more and more of the surface graining…but it has been my experience that any obvious larger imperfections you see when the wood is bare is sometimes even more obvious when the piece is stained if it is left in place. If I were you I would just take my time with a circular sander and sand out the stain as much as you possibly can before moving onto the staining process. Let me know how it goes for you with the sanding…..or if you have any more questions!

      And wow…..FREE H-W…..color me jealous!!!!!!!!!!! SCORE!!!!

  29. mary ann Reply

    September 28, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Hi Sara,
    There was a store in the LA area called Penny Lane. The guy there (I think his name was Salvador) refinished HW for the store. He had the really pink champagne finish that was just like the original HW finish. Have you heard of him and would you know how to get in touch with him?
    Many thanks
    Mary Ann

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      September 29, 2016 at 1:20 am

      I am so sorry Mary Ann, I am not familiar with the store or the re-finisher.

      I know the type of champagne color you are talking about – it was a beautiful color. As far as I know, the seller I buy the stain from on ebay does not make his champagne finish quite as “pink”, BUT with that said, if you are in the market for H-W stain, I would not hesitate to send him a message and see if maybe he could accommodate you.

  30. Shannon W Reply

    October 25, 2016 at 3:27 am

    Hi Sara 🙂 I see this post has been online a while but I just found it, happily I might add! So I am very interested in clarifying (before I touch my furniture 😉 did you really just sand the finish off and not use any kind of chemical stripper? It never “wood” have occurred to me that the finish could be removed so nicely with just sanding? I have searched far and wide for the right stain and I do believe that you are correct- the seller on ebay is the best resource for the most authentic color so I will go with his product. Thanks again for the great tutorial and all the encouragement. I am sure there are many “new” HW pieces out there with proud owners. I hope to be one of them, lol!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      October 25, 2016 at 8:00 pm

      Shannon! Hi – Yes, I ONLY used a sander to remove all of the old finish. I don’t like to deal with a lot of chemicals if I don’t have to so when I first forayed into refinishing H-W I threw caution to the wind and broke out the sander…it’s been my best friend ever since. Like I said above – if you can afford 2 sanders I found I liked using the palm sander initially to remove to top coats of old finish and then followed that up with the orbital sander and the 220 grit paper. When you are done with the 220 paper the wood will feel buttery smooth. Let me know how the project goes for you….you CAN do it!!!

  31. Greg R Reply

    November 5, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Looks fantastic! I too have refinished a good number of Heywood pieces, including the very same M328 desk, and agree with your process except for one point. I cringed when I read that you sanded for hours to get the ink stain out. Sanding a stain out like that will remove too much wood and leave a divot. There are various kinds of stains but they can pretty much all be removed with one of three bleaches: chlorine, oxalic acid, and two part wood bleach. A google search for “bleaching stains out of wood” should get you the details. I had to apply all three to a dining room table that looked like it had been used as a workbench in an auto shop. Lots of work but it was like-new when I finished. That’s the beauty of real wood furniture like HW, no matter how abused it has been it can always be brought back to life.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      November 5, 2016 at 5:48 pm

      Greg, I would agree that the ‘sand-out’ method is not the ideal method to remove ink stains from wood……however it can be done if you are SUPER careful. If I were to refinish this piece now I probably would use some kind of bleach type method. When I refinished this piece I was extremely careful NOT to leave a divot and kept “feathering” out everything that I was sanding…that was why it took me SO long……I’d sand the ink stain a bit then feather everything out….it definitely was a process.

  32. Annie Reply

    February 11, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    Hello! Great tutorial. Question, am I to sand with a super fine grit in between stain coats? And if so, am I also using the acetone again to clean up or just a dry cloth?

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 13, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      Thanks Annie! Yes, use the super fine grit….ONLY 1000 or higher grit…in between your stain coats. You can also use steel wool, but the super fine sand paper will give you a better finished result. You don’t have to go nuts sanding or anything….it’s just to buff out any debris that is in the stain coat before you start applying the next stain coat…and obviously you will NOT sand/steel wool on your final coat of stain. Also, no acetone on the actual stain…..acetone is ONLY for the raw wood when you clean immediately after sanding. Use some form of a tack cloth to clean up between stain coats…see the options I have listed above. Good luck!

  33. Mayda Reply

    February 21, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Wonderful tutorial!

    I’m trying to find a recipe for the HW Sable Grey finish (got a Cadence dresser in need of some love). After this tutorial I’m feeling brave.


    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 25, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks Mayda! I know the finish you are talking about, but I’m not sure where you can get it. You could ask the seller I buy my stain from on ebay if he has any suggestions


      But, I’m not totally sure if he will be able to help you out or not. Hope you can find the stain somewhere and good luck on your project, you can do it!

  34. Susan from Boston Reply

    March 16, 2017 at 12:23 pm


    Sara, you did a brilliant job.

    You can make mid-century pinch pleat curtains, refinish HW furniture… restore mid-century condos. Is there anything you cannot do?


    You rock sister!


    • Sara In AZ Reply

      March 17, 2017 at 10:06 am

      Susan! Thank you!!! Ha-ha! Is there anything I can’t do?! I am sure I can figure out something I’d be horrible at….let me get back to you on that one! 🙂

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  41. Walter Eisenhardt Reply

    December 7, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    Hi Sara-

    I stumbled upon this site and saw a very old post, you were talking about an old oval print by Hans Zatzka that you found at goodwill. I was interested in buying the print if you were interested in selling it? My name is Walter, if you google “Bellmore man restores historic house to 1910 appearance” you see me, my little son, and you understand my interest in the print.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      December 12, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      Hi Walter!! Amazing job on restoring the house!!! We are currently restoring a 60s home that doesn’t need nearly as much work as what you just went through…so I can definitely empathize!!!

      My Mom now has the Hans Zatzka print, I do not believe she wants to sell it but I will definitely ask her. If so I will be in contact!

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