Update an old file cabinet with this inexpensive trick! Create an industrial brushed steel look.
Earlier this week, I shared how to give metal a rich, vintage patina. Today, I want to share a variation of that technique that uses the same materials but achieves a very different look.
For all my sweet friends who worry about me biting off my than I can chew, let me show you the room full of cabinets I recently redid.
Yikes! No really, it was a joy to restore and create and do it for my church’s new building, along with the help of several friends. So… on to the tutorial.
Note: These cabinets started a gunmetal gray. If your cabinet is black, consider this tutorial instead…
Upcycle an old file cabinet:
Here are the necessary supplies:
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to view my full disclosure policy.
- 220 grit sandpaper
- palm sander
- damp rag
- Annie Sloan chalk paint in Graphite
- paste wax
- Briwax dark wax
- silver craft paint
- 400 grit sandpaper (optional)
- buffing rag (like an old t-shirt)
How to create a brushed steel look on metal:
Here is how to achieve a brushed-steel look:
We used palm sanders (7 going at one time – that was LOUD!) and were very pleased with the result. Remember, you’re just removing the sheen, not the paint.
Step 2: Lightly wash with ASCP graphite with clear, straight brush strokes.
Step 3: Mix paste wax with Briwax dark wax (1:1 ratio) and add a squirt of silver craft paint.
Because we had 20 cabinets to redo for church and saving money was a major goal, we decided to cut cost by mixing paste wax (a much cheaper wax than AS or other boutique brands of soft wax) with Briwax. Briwax runs $15-20/can and is a VERY soft wax (liquid above 65 degrees), so the combination of Briwax and paste wax create a nice, soft, paintable dark wax. The squirt of silver craft paint is to give it that slight sparkle. I probably only used a dime size of craft paint for every 1/2 cup of wax – just a little touch.
Step 4: Wax the entire piece using a traditional latex brush and smooth, straight brush strokes.
This step darkens the color, protects the piece, and further enhances your “brushed” look. Be sure to smooth on a very light coat; don’t glob it on or it will never dry. A latex brush (though not normally my choice for wax) worked beautifully with our very soft wax mixture and increased the look of the brush strokes. Here you can see a piece merely washed with paint (foreground) and waxed (background).
Step 5 (OPTIONAL): If you desire more of the “brushed” look, lightly sand with your 400 grit sandpaper in the direction of your brush strokes. Then repeat wax.
Step 6: Buff in direction of brush strokes to desired sheen.
Even this step contributes to the brushed steel look, so be sure to continue in the same direction.
In the end, we were able to refinish 20 solid metal filing cabinets for around $150. The cabinets were free, so the cost was limited to the paint and waxes. I’m not totally pleased with the pictures (no natural light, etc.), but trust me, the cabinets look really cool! And now the cabinets are ready for the industrial-chic offices they will fill.
And remember, depending on your base color, you can achieve a variety of different finishes.
What do you think?
Don’t forget to pin it!
Did you enjoy that?
Have my best tips on home decor, DIY, and life delivered directly to your inbox.