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Steelcase Tanker Desk – Before & After


To expand on the previous desk showcase post, I thought I would show you what we started with. As a background, I had found this desk listed on Craigslist and excitedly called the owner and inquired about coming to get it. Mind you the pictures on Craigslist were small and did not show just how much rust the thing had – and then the seller told me that many folks had called about it but no one had picked it up, and it was sitting on his driveway – so I could come and grab it anytime. (It was free BTW) So after work, I drove the wife about 50 miles into the boondocks – at night to get this thing. Because of the lack of light, we couldn’t see just how bad off it was – so just imagine my frustrations the next morning when I finally got to look at the bucket of rust.

The Beast - Before
The Before (upside down) - and our dog "Tank"


Look at all that rust!

Rust, rust and more rust! I used everything in my arsenal to get it off – but it mostly came down to elbow grease and my trusty grinder. 2 days later, I had it ready to prime and then paint. In order to prevent any future rust, it was completely treated with 3 coats of rust resistant paint and then a final coat of hammered steel paint.

Stamped 1948

I decided to paint the desk in 2 tones in order to not have a gigantic black desk – this awesome piece of history now sits in my office at the center piece, or the “deathstar” as my wife refers to it. Thank goodness we did not have to try and get it into the office – the movers did that for us!

Final Product
The inside




  1. I just finished restoring my tanker desk for my home office remodel. However I did paint it in black and it does look like a giant black desk. It did not have hardly any rust at all except for a little around the pontoon legs on the bottom. I was able to take it apart in 3 main sections, each cabinet was a unit and the top was one whole piece with only a middle metal sheet toward the back. Mine is the full rounded corner type that has the top that looks integrated with the cabinet units. I may take your idea and do the drawers a different color so it is not so black. I like the way yours turned out.

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