Friday, April 18, 2014

industrial file cabinet makeover (part two)

Whee! I'm back with the follow up to my recent entry about the modern industrial makeover I gave this 1980s black + fake wood steel filing cabinet.

As you might recall, 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 it over . . .

. . . into this bare steel industrial-style cabinet.  I don't mind having it 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. I decided to keep the paint that remained after hours of palm sanding (aka: clanging and waking the neighbors) and I'm pretty happy about it. The black paint in the rivets, dents, and folds makes me happy.

Then I attached the casters, bought new from Harbor Freight on super sale. I had first searched the big bin o' casters at Bring and came up a couple short of a matching set, sadly. I like to check there first then follow up elsewhere. I don't always find what I need on the first try, but when I do, it's always worth the search.

I flipped the cabinet, exposing its rusty underside . . .

. . . 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 and the easy part was done.

I say that because this next bit was kind of a trial.

I really wanted bare steel fronts until I started sanding the first drawer with the palm sander. It was slow, noisy work that reminded me (negatively) of sanding the cabinet (clangity clang clang!). I thought I might prime + chalkboard the drawer faces instead. And it was a bad idea.

I'd just finished removing all of that black paint from the rest of the cabinet and I didn't at all like it on the drawer fronts. The paintbrush marks didn't appeal to me, either, so I switched courses (after everything was painted, unfortunately) and decided to try sandblasting.

After a few days of waiting and gathering supplies, here's one attempt with the sandblaster + walnut shell media + 30 minutes. Look at how it's not even breaking through the original wood patterned paint. Awesome.

I switched to using sand as media 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 reflective (darker) 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.

It took a bit of work to get the finish even, but only on this one drawer. The others hadn't been sandblasted yet when I moved on to paint stripper.

Handles were next! I shared a photo of seemingly random bits of metal hardware in the previous post; they weren't random after all, at it turns out. I used some of those pieces to make four new handles with the character I wanted.

I made the handles from some blank metal outlet plates and what I think were probably sliding screen door handles in a former life. This was my favorite part of this makeover, and the thing I think added the most to the piece. (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 so I wasn't concerned about over-purchasing.)

I drilled holes through the old handles, using the blank outlet plates as templates. Little bolts and nuts joined them together to make a nice flat surface for the final piece.

After drilling one more hole and applying one more bolt per drawer, the handles are complete. When well-tightened, these don't shift or wiggle (possibly because the bolts underneath encourage them to stay in place).

Here it is, back in one piece, exuding 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

Ultimately the sandblasting kit and media weren't necessary or useful for this project, so I'm leaving them off the materials list. In lieu of a powerful air compressor/sandblaster combination, what you really need to finish something like this is a whole mess of elbow grease.

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.

Linking up to:

My Repurposed Life
The Cottage Market 
Funky Junk Interiors


Corn in my Coffee-Pot said...

I just saw this file drawer featured @ MRL from last weeks party...
I must say-- I love this! I have an old file drawer with only two drawers--currently covered in contact paper. I've been wanting to 'make-over' these drawers but was stuck on what to do with those handles!
You managed to give this file drawer a very clever and vintage vibe!
Great job.

Sujomi said...

Your metal file cabinet looks awesome! The drawer pulls are very clever. Thanks for not joining the masses and covering it with paint.