If you have an antique writing desk that has all the potential in the world, but it's in a bad state of disrepair, then you'll want some help to learn how to take care of, if not completely restore, your antique desk. When taken care of properly, restoring an antique desk bring back that old beauty and luster, not to mention bring in a very pretty penny. But only when it's done the right way. A lot of great antique furniture loses most of its value when someone uses the wrong tools to restore it and thus damages the piece.
The first thing you want to do is learn the exact type of desk you have and where it's from. Take down all the relevant details from wood used, to any markings, carvings, designs, anything. All this information can be used to help identify what exactly the furniture's origins are. Take a lot of pictures of the antique writing desk from every angle, and this will help give you the information that you need in order to figure out what type of a desk it is. Once you know this, it changes your options for how to go about restoring the writing desk. If you simply can not figure out the origins, then take all the photographs and the information you gather to a furniture restoration expert.
Now if it's a truly rare antique, get a professional to restore it. That's the type of thing you don't want to mess up. But if the desk is antique but relatively common (read: not worth thousands and thousands of dollars) then the next best approach is to try a minimally invasive restoration technique. Give the desk a thorough cleaning, re-tighten any loose screws, dab some wood glue in the joints, and very gently clean the desk without using any wax or polish.
If fully restoring the antique desk is in order, evaluate the finish and keep the existing one if that's at all possible. Once you know what type of finish or wood is appropriate, a detailed cleaning and a fresh coat of wax can often be enough to rejuvenate the look. If the finish is a complete mess, you might have to consider stripping the finish, but this is always a last resort as long as you can avoid it.
If you have to clean the antique writing desk yourself, start out by cleaning with a mix of soap and water, using a cotton cloth to lightly clean down the desk. Use a very mild motion, rotating the cloth to avoid smudging grime into the finish. Pat it all dry with another clean cotton cloth. Make sure to dry it all completely to help avoid damaging the antique wood.