How-To Refinish a Metal File Box

metal file boxThis metal file box is something you can pick up at flea markets and thrift stores for next to nothing. Usually, as was with this piece, the insides are in really good condition but the outside may have some peeling paint and rust. Buy it anyway and trust me, you can easily turn it into a beautiful, functional piece.

scraping off rustStart by taking a taping knife and scraping off any paint or rust that’s loose. Don’t go crazy, just knock off the loose bits.

sanding off rustNext, take a coarse grit sandpaper (80-100) and sand it smooth. How smooth your paint finish ends up is based on how well you sand your piece. Don’t try to convince yourself that paint covers flaws….it really doesn’t. Do the work, you’ll be glad you did. Give the whole piece a quick sanding with a 200 grit sandpaper just to prep it for painting.

rust removerTreat the rust spots with a basic rust remover like Lime-A-Way.

rust removedThis photo was taken after the piece has been treated with rust remover and then washed down with really diluted soap. You won’t be able to get rid of all the rust. You just want to get it to the point that the rust isn’t rubbing off on the cloth anymore. Make sure all grease and dust is removed before priming or the primer won’t stick.

priming metal drawersA primer with a sealer will prevent new rust from forming and old rust from bleeding through the new finish. I like Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer. I sprayed the bottom of the drawers, where most of the rust was, with three good coats and let it dry for several hours before turning it over to do the top. Spray two coats and let it dry for several hours before painting it with regular paint.

Now that it’s primed, the options are endless. This is how I finished mine:

painted metal drawersI base painted my drawers with Faux Effects Set Coat in Off White; two even coats.

handpainted metal drawersI stenciled the majority of this piece with a design from Royal Design Studio. I used a Martha Stewart stencil on the drawer fronts, which I didn’t end up liking. The design is fine, but the registration marks didn’t match up which pissed me off. That’s what I get for trying to use something other than Royal Design products. Never again, I promise. I antiqued the whole thing after I stenciled it, just to warm it up.

The paints I used are Royal Design Studio Stencil Cremes in Renaissance Red, Smoked Oyster and Copper Kettle. These Stencil Cremes are the bomb and what’s even better is they’ve just introduced a bunch of new colors. I got to play with them last week and they’re so beautiful I was getting a little teary-eyed. (Definitely buy the Peacock and the Pink……and the Lime and the Orange and the Teal and the Lilac and the Royal Blue……….just buy them all and thank me later)

So there you have it, an awesome storage piece for the ultimate craft room. Have fun making your own, or indulge your desires quickly and buy this one from my Etsy shop. Come on, you know you want it.

Inventory used: metallic paints


3 thoughts on “How-To Refinish a Metal File Box

    • I didn’t paint the inside because the paint was in perfect condition. I made sure the color I used coordinated with the insides of the drawers so that it looks natural.

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