Thrift Store Find a Vintage Gem

I have been looking for a desk for myself for sometime. Perferably made of a good quality wood, open to refinishing if the size was right. Because this would be going in the family room I really wanted it to look nice & not feel like a place of work. I was dropping off donations at a local thrift store (just outside of Boston) and saw this desk sitting out front, right away I noticed it and knew it had potential. At just $12, I didn't even think twice and bought it. It was an old sewing machine desk.

Not sure if I had to completely refinish this, but I received some advise from an antique dealer: before refinishing see if this works (and it did!). Clean with Gojo hand cleaner and the finest Steel Wool 0000, it cleans and brings out the natural beauty of the wood. These won't scratch or damage the piece so I thought it was worth a try. The 2 items were just $5 at the hardware store.

I took this photo on a sunny day, so it appears much lighter than it actually is. I was relieved I didn't have to refinish it, just some elbow grease and it came out perfect.

Dovetail construction

Gojo, a cream hand cleaner, comes in many varieties. Its important to get the non- gritty kind, it contains NO pumice. The Super Fine Steel Wool 0000 will remove spills & most stains without scratching. You don't have to wear gloves, since you are using a hand cleaner, but they will get messy.

After removing the hardware, add just a small amount of Gojo on the steel wool and rub it on.  Cover the whole piece.  Then with a clean lint free cloth wipe off, this does take some time.

I wasn't sure the material of the hardware but once I started cleaning with steel wool ( I didn't use the Gojo for this) I discovered they were solid brass.  I researched some natural cleaners and found that squeezing a lemon, then rubbing with the steel wool worked great.
After cleaning I realized I forgot to take off this smaller hardware, this button you push to open the top and a sewing machine use to be stored underneath. No sewing machine there but I like that it adds character to the piece. After cleaning these I discovered they were made of copper and had a serial number on it.

I was happy to see made in the U.S.A. by SIMANCO, which stands for Singer Manufacturing Company. After some research, I learned that this desk contained the Singer Model 640 Sewing machine from 1969.

Before & after, discovering copper

Thanks for looking! I couldn't be happier with my new desk!


  1. I inherited a similar desk-not a sewing machine desk, though. I'm grateful for the cleaning and restoring info.

    1. That's great! I'd love to see a picture

  2. I found the exact same desk for free on the side of the road this morning! I was browsing Apartment Therapy to see similar projects and came across yours. Thanks for the tip about cleaning, going to give that a try before refinishing. Awesome to find out the details about the piece too!