Crusty tool box.

I bought this last weekend at a yard sale I passed on Friday. It was a tool sale, but you never know what you’re going to find, so I stopped.

Yeah. So here’s how I ended up with this. First of all, I’m a little obsessed with flat files, and this looked like a set of flat files. Only it was under a ton of things and weighs about thirty pounds, so by the time they dug it out, I was kind of honor-bound to buy it. And it would be super-awesome in a craft room, IF I can figure out how to clean it up.  (BTW, I love how suspicious people get when you show interest in an item that they don’t see the value in AT ALL. The guy running the sale said, “Is there something I’m missing here? Why do you want this?” and I was tempted to tell him that the style of metalworks used to put the box together dates it back to 30 B.C.) I have this second set of flat files that I’m trying to figure out what to do with:

I’ve had these since last summer. I just don’t know what to do with them — the rust is a big problem and I’ve never re-finished anything metal before. I sent some e-mails to a few powder coating places in the area to see if that would be at all cost effective. I’ve seen a ton of people in the web who say that they take metal furniture in to their local body shop, but I have no idea if there’s any place in Chicago that does something like that. I can picture both of these painted a really bright, glossy color — I love the idea of using all vintage items in your home office or craft room for storage and both of these items would be perfect for that.

April 9, 2010 - 12:53 pm

Ord-Red Hey Lara,

I’m regularly picking up metal items and my husband and I sand the rust away as best we can. Then we use spray paint primer to handle any remaining rust; follow up with spray paint in the desired shade. The primer really makes a big difference, so don’t skip it. Also, if you haven’t used it before, practice spray painting. Drips on vintage items, particularly metal really kill the piece in my opinion.

For vintage items, I recommend a hammered finish, since it is most similar to the original “vintage” look that attracted you in the first place.

April 10, 2010 - 10:22 pm

Lara Jo Hey, thanks for the tips! I have questions, if you don’t mind me taking advantage of your expertise: does sanding the metal item scratch it? Like, if I DIDN’T want to spray paint it, would I want to avoid sanding the rust away? I guess the bottom line question is: is there anything I can do with those flat files to get rid of the rust but avoid spray painting them? I totally agree with you about drips in spray paint projects…and I am SO BAD at spray painting. I guess I need to take your advice and just practice on a few metal items I don’t care that much about. I read so many blogs about people spray painting everything and I just can’t figure out how people do that and make it look so nice!

Thanks again for both reading and writing! I really appreciate it!

April 13, 2010 - 8:35 pm

Ord-Red Hey Lara,

Here is a easy little tutorial for working with metal pieces.

I personally think it’s usually best to sand away rust. Otherwise it’s like the slow drip drip drip of destruction. And who would want to see a cool vintage piece destroyed?! I’m an awful painter — but so is everyone else. You just get better with practice. The real secret to spray painting for beginners is to work outside if possible (more room and fresh air) and to stand back from the piece and make sweeping passes with the paint. Standing back means less paint makes it onto the piece, but then you get to slowly build up the color without creating a goopy mess. It’s a slower process, but less chance for error. If you do get drips or goop, then let it dry, sand it off and retouch.

Post pictures if you do work on the pieces. I’ll be excited to see your efforts.

p.s.: what’s your ebay seller ID? I’d be interested in bidding on some of your finds.