spray painting a rusty metal card file
It was a dark and stormy night…literally. We were on our way back from dinner and John was telling me about some curbside goodies he’d seen on his daily running route. Apparently one of the big houses up the hill had decided to get an early jump on the monthly bulk trash pickup, and had set out quite the display. “Oh, let’s just go up and look,” I said, and off we went to check it out. I spotted 3 full size metal file cabinets, a wood coffee table (with no glass on top, and a badly damaged upholstered bottom shelf) and some cheap office furniture and other random stuff. I briefly considered the coffee table, but it had been sitting out in the rain and seemed beyond repair. Plus, we had nowhere to put it. Then I spotted 2 metal card files…and before I knew it, I was darting out of the car like a weasel in the night!
In a split second I was back in the car with one of the card files, laughing maniacally and urging John to “Go, go, go!” Like a thief in a getaway car! I had officially made my first curbside “pick,” and I’ve gotta tell you, it was oddly thrilling.
Not that the card file was a real prize or anything. It was quite old, VERY rusty, and the hardware was just about disintegrating:
The piece was also oddly heavy. Like, WAY heavy. I opened one of the drawers and discovered that it had belonged to an insurance broker or underwriter (you can really see the rust on the top here, too):
And it was completely filled with insurance policy records from the 60s and 70s!
Ya think they would have thought to shred these before throwing them out? (I blurred out all the important details in the photo.) And speaking of throwing stuff out, it drove me absolutely nuts that the occupants of the house thought nothing of tossing all this stuff in the TRASH. The card file was in pretty bad shape, but the large file cabinets were in great condition and could easily have been donated to Salvation Army or Goodwill. We’ve even had Big Brothers Big Sisters calling every week about free pickups for donations! Come on…if you can haul it outside you can just as easily pick up the phone and arrange for pickup. It’s not like too many people were “picking” at it either, since the house is on a side-street cul de sac in a residential area and doesn’t get much traffic. As far as I could tell I was the only one who spirited something away…the rest went straight to the trash.
But anyhow, back to the good stuff. I was set on turning this old card file into cool, retro-looking office storage. I loved the hardware but it was in sad shape, and attached with rivets. Once John pried it off it was all bent up and obviously never going back on.
So we headed out to Home Depot and came home with a stiff wire brush, Rustoleum Rusty Metal Primer, 2 cans of Rustoleum Universal in Silver Hammered, and some brand spankin’ new Martha Stewart hardware. I got to work with the wire brush and some sandpaper, but after several passes it was clear that not all the rust was going to come off — so the Rusty Metal Primer turned out to be a good call. Apparently it bonds to existing rust and keeps it from spreading (I think). After John drilled holes for the new hardware (we picked something large and substantial to cover the old holes), I sprayed on 2 coats of the primer:
So funny that it’s rust-colored! I’d never worked with this primer before, but it went on super-even and dried very quickly. As for its rust-containing properties, I guess we’ll find out over time! When it was dry, I sprayed on 2-3 coats of the Silver Hammered spray paint. I’d never used one of the hammered finish paints and was really curious – plus, I thought the finish would cover up any imperfections and add to the retro look I was going for. Here it is all done with the new hardware attached:
Love it! The hammered finish was a little difficult to work with at first, but I found that moving the can with a consistent speed helped get the best results. Too fast and you won’t get the hammered effect; too slow and the paint will pool and look splattery. For me, the ideal speed was just a touch slower than I’d use with normal spray paint. At first, I was definitely going too fast and not getting the hammered look I wanted. By the second coat I had it down.
Since I wanted to use this piece as storage for office odds-and-ends, I needed to do something with the drawers — they had a track at the bottom, like you’d see in most file cabinets. So I collected a couple of pieces of sturdy corrugated cardboard from an old box that I’d been using for spray painting, cut them to fit, and covered them with pretty wrapping paper. I popped them in and presto! Flat bottomed drawers.
I’m loving the way this piece turned out! It’s great for stowing our office essentials, we can stack things on top if we need to, and it was FREE.« in the kitchen: cavatappi with creamy braised leeks in the kitchen: steak salad with blue cheese & walnuts »