How to make a 100% reclaimed wood retro desk

I’ve been looking to make a piece of furniture for a while now and I’m excited to say I’ve finally finished my first major piece.  From all the inspiration on Pinterest I found the perfect design that I’d model my very own desk on.  The retro look is on a comeback at the moment and this desk just screamed style.  I also thought it would look perfect in my 60s house.  Not only that but the desk is made from 100% reclaimed wood thanks to my friend Martine for contacting me before disposing of her built in wardrobe.  It may only be pine wood but I think the end result is quite remarkable and should be quite durable with the several layers of protective oil I’ve added.

So here’s a quick guide and step by step of how I got this pile of pine to look like this.

Tool list:

  • Circular saw
  • Table saw
  • Router and router bits
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Hand saw
  • Ratchet straps
  • F clamps
  • G clamps
  • Wood glue

Reclaimed materials list:

  • Pine from wardrobe
  • Pallet wood
  • Handles
  • Left over laminate flooring
  • Drawer runners from old set of drawers

Step one.  Making the rectangle top section.  Before you start decide how wide and tall you want the desk to be.  The standard desk height is around 750mm (29 1/2 inches).  My desk is 1500mm (59 inches) wide.  I started by cutting the lengths required using the circular saw to make the mitre joints.  I used a piece of straight wood to guide the saw down the cut.  I then lined them all up and prepared them for glueing and tightening with the ratchet straps.  Using a couple of F clamps also helped produce a good contact down the length of the wood.


Step two.  The legs are made from the support sections of a small pallet.  I cut them into a tapering point using a basic jig on the table saw and rounded the corners with the router.  Using a thick piece of wood from the old wardrobe as the leg supports I cut out sections to allow for a strong anchor point.  To further strengthen the join I used wooden pins.

Step three.  The drawers were relatively straight forward.  The runners and the drawers had to be carefully measured to ensure a tight but smooth fit.  Using the table saw I cut the lengths and grooves for the draw bottom which was made from some spare laminate flooring.  All parts were glued together and the handles screwed into place.  I also wanted this desk to be suitable for the modern worker and hide unsightly cables behind one of the drawers.  Therefore I made the right hand drawer 100mm shorter than the other and built in a hidden shelf behind so that power cables and such could sit neatly out of sight.


Step four.  Painting and oiling the wood.  I wanted to leave a nice protective finish on all the wood so I treated to top with a dark stained Danish oil and finished off with 4 coats of Osmo Top Oil (Clear Matt).  The legs are painted with a white furniture paint by Rust-oleum.


Step five.  Fixing the legs to ensure a strong standing desk.  Simply screwing these legs to the top wasn’t going to leave a good strong join so I had to glue them.  I didn’t want the screws to be visible so I used a Kreg Jig to cut the holes and covered them up with dowel.


After a bit of sanding and retouching the paint the job was done.


So there it is. A wardrobe turned into a stylish retro desk. And all for under £60.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing.  As I said, I’m new to this as my first piece so there were plenty of learning experiences to remember for next time:

  • Store all wood flat.  Over a relatively short period of time wood will warp if standing upright.  Thats what happened with this pine which made it difficult to work with as the wood had bowed.  All the remaining pieces I have are now stored flat on the floor.
  • When working with a mitre joint, ensure the cuts are perfect.  Try a couple of practice cuts before doing the actual cut.  My circular saw didn’t quite cut a 45 degree angle which made it impossible to get a good fit when glueing.
  • Take your time to ensure a good cut.  Some of the hand made cuts could have been better to ensure a nice clean join.
  • Measure twice and cut once.  I’m still not getting this right and making silly little mistakes.

Finding reclaimed materials

Here are a few great ways to source some reclaimed materials for your next project:

  1. Salvage yards: Salvage yards often have a range of reclaimed timber available, including old barn wood, salvaged lumber from demolished buildings, and reclaimed flooring.
  2. Demolition sites: If there is a demolition site in your area, you may be able to salvage timber from the site. Make sure to get permission from the site owner and follow any safety procedures.
  3. Online marketplaces: There are several online marketplaces that specialize in reclaimed timber, such as Etsy, Reclaimed Lumber Products, and The Reclaimed Wood Shop. You can also check out general online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
  4. Architectural salvage stores: These stores specialize in reclaimed architectural materials and often have a selection of reclaimed timber available.
  5. Local sawmills: Some local sawmills may also offer reclaimed timber, so it’s worth reaching out to them and asking if they have any available.
  6. Networking: You can also try networking with local builders, carpenters, and woodworkers to see if they have any sources for reclaimed timber or know of any good suppliers.
  7. Look for large wooden items on marketplaces as these can normally be dismantled for the timber.

The pros and cons of working with reclaimed materials

Working with reclaimed materials can offer several benefits, but there are also some drawbacks to consider. Here are some pros and cons of working with reclaimed materials:


  1. Environmentally friendly: One of the most significant benefits of working with reclaimed materials is that it’s an environmentally friendly option. By using materials that have already been harvested or manufactured, you’re reducing the demand for new materials, which helps to conserve natural resources.
  2. Unique character: Reclaimed materials often have a unique character and aesthetic that can’t be replicated with new materials. The patina, weathering, and natural imperfections in the wood or metal can add depth and interest to your project.
  3. Historical significance: Reclaimed materials can have a sense of history and cultural significance. Using reclaimed timber from an old barn, for example, can add a sense of authenticity and character to a new construction project.
  4. Cost-effective: Depending on the source and availability of the materials, working with reclaimed materials can be a cost-effective option compared to buying new materials.


  1. Limited availability: Reclaimed materials can be more difficult to source than new materials, especially if you’re looking for a specific type or size of material. This can make it challenging to find enough material to complete a project.
  2. Inconsistent quality: Reclaimed materials can vary in quality, depending on their age, condition, and how they were stored or preserved over time. It’s important to carefully inspect each piece of material to ensure it’s suitable for your project.
  3. Additional preparation: Reclaimed materials may require additional preparation, such as cleaning, sanding, or refinishing, to make them suitable for use in your project. This can add time and labor costs to your project.
  4. Potential for hidden damage: Because reclaimed materials have been used before, there may be hidden damage or defects that aren’t immediately visible. This can lead to unexpected problems and additional costs down the road.

Working with reclaimed materials can offer several benefits, but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding to use them in your project. If you’re willing to put in the extra effort to find and prepare reclaimed materials, you can create a unique, environmentally friendly project that has character and historical significance.

Thanks for reading and happy building

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