Updating a Metal Filing Cabinet

I was on the hunt for a cheap, but sturdy, metal filing cabinet for a couple of months.  I didn’t want to pay more than $10 for it.  After months of passing up a couple, I found exactly what I was looking for in my parents’ garage.  (Seriously, you could find anything in my parents’ garages.  Yes, that’s right, they have three, all filled with a lot of stuff.)  I don’t know why I didn’t think to look there first.  Anyway, they claimed it was mine from college (it wasn’t), but I told them I would take it off their hands.

I mixed up a batch of homemade chalk paint with a few colors of flat paint I had leftover from other projects (a turquoise, gray, and white).  It covered the black quite well, but there was one little rusty spot that I didn’t notice, and this bled through the paint a bit.  If I had noticed it, I would have put some shellac-based primer on it (more on this type of primer in an upcoming post).

After two coats, I sealed it with a wipe-on poly.  I cut some fabric slightly larger than the face of each drawer, rolled some Mod-Podge on the face, and laid the fabric on top.  I folded the edges over and secured them all by super-gluing the excess fabric to the back of the drawer.

After cutting out the handle holes, I gave the fabric a final coat of Mod-Podge to secure it to the face of the drawers.

Right now, it’s serving perfectly as one of the bases for my craft table!

Before and after:

You can find all of my furniture refinishing projects here, along with all my tips and tricks for painting furniture.

5 thoughts on “Updating a Metal Filing Cabinet

  1. Wow, love the color and LOVE the stripes! I think we have an old metal file cabinet just like that in the basement. Just have to dig through my “stash” to find it… 🙂

  2. This is fantastic! So glad I popped in. I’m looking at a 4 drawer old tan filing cabinet here in my studio that is in desperate need of a facelift and I think you’ve given me JUST the idea. I’ve never used chalk paint before, so thanks for the recipe.
    I do have a question though…..you say that after two coats you sealed it with a wipe-on poly. Exactly what is that? Polyeurethane? Sorry, I’m painting/refinishing challenged. LOL But I’d LOVE to try this on this old cabinet of mine.

    1. Yep, you’ve got it. It’s a wipe-on polyurethane (which I find so much easier than brushing it on), but you could really use any sort of finish – furniture wax, hemp oil, tung oil, or polycrylic. Polyurethane does yellow over time, but since this was just going to be used as the base of a craft station in my basement, it didn’t bother me. Good luck on your project!

  3. can you tell me how you were able to paint the drawer handles? did you remove them – if you did remove them, can you tell me how you did it?

    1. Hi Wendy! Yes, I was able to remove them, and these just popped out. There was a little tab on the inside of the drawer on the handle that I pushed in and the handle came out. I will say this filing cabinet wasn’t the best of the best, so it’s probably totally different for every one. I would check inside the drawer to see if there is a way? Sorry I’m not much of a help on this one!

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