Mismatched Metal File Cabinets get a Makeover

Mismatched Metal file cabinets get a makeover

A couple of months before Christmas, my youngest son tells me that he really needs a bigger desk.  The old, “This end up” desk he’s been using since he was about 5, is no longer cutting it.  If you have any “This end up” furniture, you know that it lasts forever.  So if you’re waiting for it to wear out, that is just not going to happen.

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

I put the new desk idea on the back burner  thinking that I wouldn’t tackle his room until after the holidays. Junior got the monitor for his computer, above, as a birthday present (also in December) replacing a much smaller monitor,  but that only made his desk look that much smaller. It was probably at that point that I had the great idea that a new desk would make a great Christmas present.

Of course, I had to make one. I couldn’t repeat my sawhorse desk

Pallet wood desk with pallet wood sawhorse legs, upcycled, recycled, repurposed

He needed at least as much drawer space as his old desk provided, if not more.  For some reason, he has stacks of  school papers in his closet and on the floor of his bedroom, the new desk would have to fit them all.

The sawhorse desk also has a pallet wood top, he wanted a smoother finish for his schoolwork.

Salvaged from a dump!

It would also have to have more file drawers that the desk I made from legs salvaged from a dump.

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

Eventually I decided on metal file cabinets.  They not only give great support, but they are full of usable storage.

I was on the hunt.  After my first thrift store, I came up with the file cabinet on the left for $15.  This wasn’t going to be as hard as I expected.

Four more thrift stores later, I finally stumbled across the one on the right. Using my crude measuring stick, the length of my arm, I figured out that they were pretty darn close to the same size.  Unfortunately, the second one was $10 more,$25…SOLD.  I was not in the mood to go to 5 more thrift stores.

It was only after I got them home and set them side by side that their differences really became apparent.  Obviously, the one on the right is a bit taller and the handles are not quite the same.

My hubby was not convinced I could pull it off.  “You did notice that one has a bar between the drawers?”   “Of course I noticed, I got this.”  (No, I hadn’t noticed that little detail, thanks for pointing that out.)

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

The easiest part to begin to tackle these mismatched file cabinets was the sides.  After a bit of measuring, I figured out I would need at least 36 feet of molding just for the sides.

After a quick trip to Home Depot I found  2×4 sheets of 1/4″ mdf. I bought 2….I would cut my own trim.

Clamped the two sheets together to get the cutting done in half the time.

Two and a half inch and three and a half inch strips were cut from the mdf.  I have found that even though mdf cuts very nicely with no splintering, it leaves a fine coat of sawdust on everything! I’m just warning you, if you can cut your wood outside, it might not be such a bad idea.

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

With molding cut, started to lay out my sides.  The 3 1/2 inch pieces were used for the top and bottom and the 2 1/2 inch strips were the longer strips.

Note:  Even though the file cabinets were 2 different heights, the side molding was cut as if they were exactly the same.  The lighter file cabinet on the right will have molding that extends past the top of the cabinet.

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

Sand the sides of the trim completely before adhering with builders adhesive.  Let the first side dry before repeating the same process on the other side.

Cut, sand, glue, cut, sand, glue…

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

Now on to the fronts.  Anything that stuck out, was removed from the file drawers.

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

The trim for the drawers was cut from about 16 feet of 1×3 lumber. I originally cut the trim to cover only the drawers (like the right cabinet) but I liked it better going all the way to the side edges (cabinet on the left) so that the trim covered the rough edges of the side pieces.

Note: Leave a slight gap between the drawer moldings so that the drawers slide smoothly. Mine fit snug so I had to do a bit of sanding.

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

On the file cabinet that has a middle piece, (the brown cabinet) the trim extends over top of that piece.

Smaller pieces of mdf, part of the same wood that the side trim was cut from, were used to fill in the fronts, hiding all of the previous holes.

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

More sanding and more gluing.  When using the builders adhesive for the drawers, put the glue on just the drawer or you’ll end up gluing your drawer shut.

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

I don’t have a good picture, but I used one more piece of 1×3 for the space above the drawers. One was a bit wider than the other, but it should be cut to the same height as the side trim pieces.

Use a paintable caulk to fill in any cracks and crevices.

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

The last step to matching up these two mismatched cabinets. was to add a piece of wood to the top of the shorter cabinet.  This was a piece of old particle board shelving.

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

After more sanding the cabinets were painted with a semi gloss black paint.

Made a template for the drawer pulls.

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

Drilled the wood with a regular drill bit then finished off the hole with a nail hammered through the metal

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

Sanded the edges of the drawers for that lightly scuffed look followed by a little dark stain. 

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

Metal file cabinets get a makeover

Stay tuned, later in the week, I’ll show you the top of the desk, which came together really quickly, and the space transformation.

Update…Finally finished the  desktop, that can be found here and the shelves above the desk.  Check out the complete transformation here.

9/12/16- after 9 months of my son continually hitting his chair against the right cabinet, top drawer, vertical piece on the left ( did I describe it OK) it finally popped off.  No worries, I got industrial strength builders adhesive and used 3 screws to secure the piece from the inside.

Still can’t decide?  I have two more file cabinet transformations that just might inspire you.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

Painted File Cabinet

Painted File Cabinet

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