A few weeks ago, I started cleaning my room, realized we needed a full-sized file cabinet instead of a bunch of file boxes, and got sidetracked from the room cleaning project while I finished making this black-and-wood-pattern 1980s steel file cabinet . . .
. . . into this bare steel industrial-style cabinet I don't mind having in my house, even though it's full of boring papers and responsibility.
It's not just me, right? This is a little like when Eliza Dolittle turns out to be a stunner. The rain in Spain is falling mainly on the plain, am I right? Or like when Rachael Leigh Cook takes off the glasses and Freddie Prinze Jr. realizes she's Superman?
I really like the way this turned out.
When I last wrote about this cabinet, I'd stripped and sanded the main body, and managed to get most of the paint off. What was left after hours of the palm sander's clanging and waking the neighbors, I decided to leave, and I'm pretty happy about it. The black paint in the rivets and folds makes me happy.
Then I attached the casters. (I bought these new after searching the wheel shelves at Bring and coming up a couple short of a matching set. I flipped the cabinet . . .)
. . . and used the casters to mark where to drill the holes.
Once the holes were drilled and the filings swept away, I used three little bolts and three little nuts to attach each caster to the cabinet (the fourth hole won't fit on the frame).
And then, with all of the wheels attached, I flipped it upright.
The easy part was done! Because, see, I really wanted those bare steel fronts, but when I started sanding the first drawer it was slow, noisy going that reminded me (negatively) of sanding the cabinet. I thought I might prime + chalkboard paint them instead, and it was a bad idea.
I'd just finished removing all the black paint from the rest of the cabinet, and I just didn't like it on the drawer fronts. After a few days of waiting and gathering supplies, here's my attempt with the sandblaster + walnut shell + 30 minutes. Look at how it's not even breaking through the original wood patterned paint. Awesome.
I switched to sand and had an easier time of it, but really, our air compressor is just too wimpy for sandblasting. I decided to try the orange paint stripper again and actually had pretty awesome luck with it. You can see here the less-refective areas where, after an hour or so of sandblasting, some of the paint came off. The lighter areas are where the paint stripper did it's thing, and then I did mine with a Scotch Brite pad, a sanding block, and some steel wool.
I worked on it a bit to get the finish even. Happily I hadn't put too much time into sandblasting the other three drawers so after stripping them, I didn't have to put in the same amount of time getting the finish to match.
Handles were next! I gave you a preview in the previous post; I made the handles from some blank metal outlet plates and whatever those other pieces are. Sliding screen door handles, maybe? I bought the light switch plates, too, unsure of which combination would work out. These cost between twenty-five and fifty cents at Bring, and I'll be able to find another use for them.
I used each plate to mark holes for drilling right through the old handles, and then used little bolts and nuts to hold the plates in place on the drawer fronts.
After drilling one more hole and applying one more bolt per drawer, the handles were complete. Well-tightened, these don't shift or wiggle, which I'd initially worried about with only one bolt. No problem, though. I think the screw heads underneath help hold the handles in place, but whatever the reason, they're great. And I think they look good, too.
Here it is, back in one piece, spreading awesomeness and making paperwork look a whole lot less 1980s-style boring.
This was a time-consuming project, but not outrageously expensive:
• filing cabinet: $11.25 on sale at St. Vincent dePaul
• handle parts: $5 or so, total, used from Bring
• casters: $4 total, on super sale at Harbor Freight for $1 each
• bolts + nuts: $5 or so, including bolts from Bring, nuts from the hardware store
• coarse sandpapers and sanding block: $6
• orange stripping gel spray: $9
• Scotch Brite pads had on hand
I'm going to leave the sand blaster kit and sand out of the equation since, ultimately, those things weren't useful or necessary for this project. If you already have sanding and stripping supplies on hand, it'll be even less expensive, but still very time consuming.
Thanks for sticking with me through the many, many words and pictures! I'm really pleased with how it came out, in case you couldn't tell. Now I can start obsessing over something else on Pinterest.