How to Restore a Shaw Walker Tanker Desk

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Shaw Walker tanker desks have a classic shape and design. Popular in offices and businesses during the 1950s and '60s, collectors and enthusiasts now use these desks in home offices. The design features a flat top and two or more drawers on either side of the desk. Some refer to the desks as pedestal desks because of the small pedestal feet on either side that support its weight. Restoring a vintage Shaw Walker tanker desk requires repairing and restoring its stainless steel finish.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Coarse- and fine-grit sandpaper
  • Spray paint primer for metal
  • Metal spray paint
  • Pull out one of the top drawers until it reaches the end of the track. Lift up and wiggle the drawer until it pops out of the desk. Remove each drawer with the same method. Set the drawers to one side as you work on the desk.

  • Sand the sides, top and edges of the desk with coarse-grit sandpaper. Rub the sandpaper in small circles over the metal parts of the desk. Keep sanding until you remove the top layer of finish to reveal a light silver shade underneath, which is the original metal.

  • Apply a coat of primer designed for metal surfaces on the desk. Shake the can lightly and hold it at least 6 inches from the surface of the desk. Press down on the nozzle and spray an even coat on all metal areas of the desk.

  • Paint the tanker desk with a coat of metal spray paint once the primer dries. Shake the can and hold it 6 inches from the desk. Spray the metal surfaces of the desk in an up and down motion then wait for the paint to dry. Apply a second coat of paint for a richer or deeper color.

  • Look at the inside of each drawer and find the screws that hold the drawer pulls in place. Remove the screws with a screwdriver and set them to one side. Sand, prime and paint each drawer, just as you did with the main body of the desk.

  • Sand the drawer pulls with coarse-grit sandpaper to remove any oxidization from the aluminum pulls. After removing the top layer, rub fine-grit sandpaper over the surface. Repeat the process on the legs and any other aluminum surfaces. Slide the drawers back into the desk to complete the restoration.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you find any fabric or cloth padding inside the desk, it might be made of asbestos. Contact a professional asbestos removal expert for help if you need to remove the padding.

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