How to seal and preserve / enhance the patina of this metal unit?

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Established Member
17 May 2012
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South West Wales
Hi all

A little while back I bought an industrial bank of drawers, but life has got in the way and I've not done anything with it yet. It's quite rusty, and has possibly got a little more so since I've had it. That's all good with me; I like the way it looks now. I'd be equally happy to get it to where it was before, but I don't want to pimp it up too much as I like the old worn look.

I've no idea where to start really as I've not done anything like this before. Tell a lie - years ago I was given some old cobbler's tools that were worse for wear and restored them to what I think looked lovely. But I can't remember what I did or how! I particularity like the patina of the hammer head (see below), and if I could get the unit looking like that I'd be very pleased.

Some other things I'd like to achieve:

1. To do whatever is needed to prevent it getting worse / rustier.

2. To make it more "usable". It feels horrible and rough to the touch, and makes your hands dirty.

3. The metal drawers run on metal ledges and so aren't the nicest or smoothest things in the world! So it would be nice to do something about that.

Any tips and pointers would be most appreciated. The pro photos below are from when I bought it. The [email protected] photos I took (taken just now in very poor lighting). And the last photo is of the cobbler's tools including the aforementioned hammer.

Many thanks for reading

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Established Member
21 Feb 2020
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South West
whenever they are cleaning up bits like this on shows like 'find it fix it flog it' they just clean it up with wd40 and a bit of elbow grease with a soft rag. I think beeswax offers a little bit more protection


just can't decide
24 Jul 2020
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Vamos, Crete, GREECE.......
so guessing u want to keep it the same but with a better feel....
I'd be rubbing it down with medium wire wool untillu like the feel of it but it's a huge amount of work....
and very messy......
then a couple of coats of a satin varnish would keep it looking good....
if u try to clean it with a machine it will ruin the surface, it'll get shiney and dull places....

so either by hand to keep it the same or sand blast and powder coat.....

the drawer runners is an easy fix just a rub with acandle on the rubbing surfaces...


Established Member
23 Jan 2014
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West Sussex
I stripped this old filing cabinet to use as a desk. To protect the metal a applied a few coats of clear paste wax and buffed using a car buffer. I highly recommend a car buffer for this sort of thing.

I like to use abrasive pads like the Mirka Mirlon for abrading the metal before applying the wax. 320 then 1000 seems to work well.
Try it on the back of the unit if you are unsure.

If I were to do that unit I would soak in wd40 and use one of those mirlon pads to remove the rust etc. Or even a soft wire wheel.
I would use the Mirlon with a car buffer for large areas.
Then paper towel the whole unit and clean with white spirt. Then apply paste wax to small areas at a time and buff.

I also have two old style lockers which I stripped for our house. One in the bathroom so high humidity and the second in a conservatory that always has condensation in.

The bathroom locker I used three coats of paste wax and the conservatory one I used rattle can lacquer. The lacquer is far easier to apply but harder to repair if scratched. Gives a slightly texture finish. The wax I feel gives a nicer shine. Both lockers have stood up to a year in these conditions. The bathroom one there is some minor and very light patches of rust coming through on the door where it is pulled open.
Just about see it in one of these pictures:

If you have Instagram here is a video of me working on the filing cabinet.