New Life for an Old File Cabinet


Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

A few months ago I asked my daughter-in-law if there was any furniture they needed for their house. I’m always on the lookout for a project and since her birthday was coming up at the end of April, I thought I would get the gears going.

She mentioned that a file cabinet would be nice.  Not too big, because their office was rather small.

Being a good mom, I asked my son if he also thought they needed a file cabinet.  His answer…No.

So, I’m in their house taking pictures of their dump desk and I happen to look over at their current file cabinet and what do I see? It doesn’t have a top. OK, that is the last time I take advice from my son, I’ll just have to go through the boss.

The hunt was on.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

A few weeks later I spot my victim. This plain old file cabinet waiting for me in a thrift store. Great size, could easily hold a printer and tons of paper only problem was…that sucker was heavy. 

Here it is sitting in my kitchen waiting for a makeover and here it has sat for the last 2 months. It’s too heavy to carry downstairs to the workshop and if I carried it down then I would have to bring it back up.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

With both my son and his wife being architects, I wanted their file cabinet to be reminiscent of an old architectural flat filing cabinet with the wood slats, small knobs and name plates.

At Home Depot I found oak strips in a couple of different widths, 3 and 4 inch. To help me decide which of the two I should use, I laid out 3 inch and 4 inch pieces of paper on my drawer.

It was just personal preference, but for this project, I liked the skinnier,  3 inch widths.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

The oak strips were cut, sanded…

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

…then stained a dark walnut.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

Attached the oak strips to the file cabinet with builders adhesive.

****Warning, warning, do not use builders adhesive with the oak strips. The moisture in the adhesive warps the oak terribly.  This is a case of do as I say, not as I do.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

After I got the oak strips unwarped, I didn’t really trust the builders adhesive to hold the oak strips securely for the long haul. I used a metal drill bit to drill all the way through the metal so the knobs are not only decorative but they also help hold the slats in place. You can find the knobs here. Since these knobs ship from overseas, allow a few weeks for delivery.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

For the top, I used the 4 inch wide oak strips. Not wanting to use the builders adhesive again, a better choice was contact cement…it has low moisture, dries almost immediately and most importantly, it didn’t warp my boards.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

A sheet of rusty metal was cut to fit inside the oak strips on the top. This was piece of the same rusty metal I previously used on my railroad spike wine rack.

The metal was part of of my birthday scavenging trip from last year.  To see what else we picked up, check out my haunted mirror.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

More contact cement attached the metal to the file cabinet.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

While the rust had a really cool texture, it would be absolutely terrible for dusting.

Since I had some resin leftover from a railroad tie lamp from a couple of months ago, I mixed a cup and smoothed it over my rust.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

The metal was showing signs of warping, to make sure that it stayed put, both the metal and the oak strips were screwed into the corners to the top of the file cabinet.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

The oak was finished with two coats of varnish.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

Finished up the file cabinet by painting all the exposed metal with black chalk paint followed by clear wax. The card holders with pulls in the center of the cabinet can be found here.

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

Steel File Cabinet Makeover - Faux Architectural flat file cabinet

A lot has happened since the first file cabinet request. The happy couple no longer live in their house with the super small office.  They decided to sell their house and buy a fixer upper.  Their house sold the first weekend it was put up for sale.  A week later they put in an offer on a 50’s era home and this past weekend we got to take down some walls.  I’m so excited, I’ll be sure to share some pictures.

Need another file cabinet transformation? Check out my mismatched file cabinets. These 2 now form the base of my youngest son’s desk.

Mismatched Metal File Cabinets

Have a great week.

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