Our 74th brand of vintage metal cabinets: Olympia Aluminum Kitchen Kabinets

olympia kitchen cabinets emblemOver on the Forum, reader JoAnn Wiltrakis has discovered our 74th known brand of vintage metal kitchen cabinets: Even more wonderful — this is our first brand of vintage aluminum kitchen cabinets: “Olympia Kitchen Kabinets.” She writes:

I put a deposit on these yesterday. They need painting. There is no rust, but very worn paint around the pulls. I put a magnet on them, and it does not stick.

Hopefully, I can combine them with other brands, because I doubt I will find more of the same. The good thing is they are local, so no shipping.

— JoAnn

JoAnne, congratulations and many thanks — this is a terrific find! I have some questions, though:

  • I don’t know about things like the properties of metals, so can someone tell me: Does aluminum even rust?
  • Car guys (said in gender neutral way, I am part Californian): Would these aluminum cabinets have been even More Expensive than steel back in the day?
  • Washington staters: Was there a big aluminum manufacturing complex in Olympia? Perhaps associated with the aerospace industry?
  • 52 PostnBeam, will JoAnn be able to combine them with other brands?
  • And JoAnn, where will you put your magnets? 🙂

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Comments

  1. BlueJay says

    I am almost positive that aluminum doesn’t rust. It’s perfect for exterior light fixtures and mailboxes. I believe it may oxidize over time though.

  2. Chad in Plano says

    Great find! You can always put a magnet behind the other, sandwiching them with the aluminum in-between. I did that with my 1971 aluminum camper.

  3. Bill says

    Those cabinets are fantastic. I love the pulls.

    Aluminum will not rust. The industry was big in the pacific northwest because of the immense supply of hydroelectric power available for the smelters. (Aluminum smelting is energy intensive.) Presumably, the Olympia company was redirecting the excess capacity of the aluminum industry following the war.

    My dad is a metallurgical engineer and while he was in college during the late 50s/early 60s aluminum was all the rage. It’s lightweight, doesn’t rust and you can make just about anything from it. Think about all the anodyzed aluminum everything being produced in the post-war era. How many people reading this site have aluminum windows? Aluminum lawn chairs? Aluminum is about as mid-century as it gets.

  4. Mark says

    Aluminum doesn’t rust.
    I live in WA and there was a couple of huge aluminum smelting plants in Washington state, one in Tacoma, just North of Olympia and one in Spokane.

  5. says

    Aluminum doesn’t rust, but it has a different process of decay, it corrodes in the right (wrong) environment, though the corrosion isn’t as severe or common a process of decay as rust… Aluminum can be a little softer than steel, so they may be a little more prone to dings or dents.

    But the fact that they don’t rust, with kitchens being pretty wet, is a plus!

    • pam kueber says

      What a wonderful website you have, Steven. I added it to the Cities/Associations blogroll. I need to make time to do more research and update my blogroll….

      • says

        Thanks, Pam! In the near future, I plan to do some posts on the original designed features of our kitchens and baths, and how some of us have successfully restored them… so those may be of particular interest to your viewers/readers/fans…

  6. Jay says

    Ok, just chalk it up to you having a senior moment – aluminum rusting! What about all those mid century folding picnic tables and webbed aluminum chairs that everyone schlepped to the beaches and campgrounds! I still have some that were my parent’s from the 60’s. I even remember when you could buy rewebbing kits.

  7. vintigchik says

    You need to be careful when putting 2 different metals near each other as the polarities can cause paint to chip and steel to rust. Learned that in Autobody class 🙂

  8. Modspell says

    Aluminum needs to be anodized to resist its own version of corrosion. These old cabinets may or may not have been anodized, but keep in mind the bare metal can powderize a slight amount over the years, sloughing off the paint. It’s still better than rusting by far. If the metal is thick enough it is resistant to dings, but otherwise it can show bending and wear relatively easily.

    Anodizing will protect aluminum parts by making the surface much harder than natural aluminum. Aluminum oxide is grown out of the surface during anodizing and then becomes aluminum hydrate that is extremely hard.

  9. wendy says

    i live in olympa, so i HAD to see what the deal was with the manufacturer, so i blew up the pic showing the tag in the drawer to see the name of the cabinet maker (Western Metalcraft, Inc.), then found out they were in the old Olympia brewery for just a short time after WWII. And as Mark said, there were smelters just north of us in Tacoma.

    here’s the site with the info: http://www.brewerygems.com/olympia.htm

  10. greg winger says

    Aluminum DOES RUST when exposed to air, and it does so rather quickly. It forms aluminum oxide (think of how tough sandpaper is, also, factory finished laminate wood floors are coated in the stuff) -just like steel forms iron oxide.
    Generally speaking-
    When steel rusts, the oxide molecule is has different properties than the steel, so it swells and flakes, exposing fresh steel.
    This is not so with aluminum. The ‘rust’ is clear, incredibly hard, and does not flake off. Different welding and painting processes are required because of this.
    Anodizing is a process where an extra thick layer of alum. oxide is formed, and chemicals are added during its formation to add pretty colors.

  11. jim says

    Hello I am looking to purchase cabinets for my kitchen aluminum or stainless steel any ideas where i can get brand new ones
    thanks

    • pam kueber says

      See all my stories on Steel Kitchen Cabinets under Kitchens/Steel Kitchen Cabinets … you can all get them new from St. Charles — see story in Kitchens/Cabinets.

  12. Peggy Moore says

    I have this set of Olympia kitchen cabinets in my condo in Bellingham, WA. There are 48 units in the complex and most of them have these aluminum cabinets. I recently had mine powder-coated and in the process one hinge has become lost. I have looked all over the place and am not finding anything like it. Do you have any idea where I can find a replacement hinge for the right lower side of one door? How did your cabinets turn out? In the process of powder-coating, mine bowed and the doors have a really tight fit now. It’s difficult to open and close them. There are still dents, but they look pretty nice. Any help/ideas you can give on the replacement hinge will be appreciated.

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Peggy, there are so many brands it’s hard to diagnose all hinge replacements. Sorry to hear about the warping — we have heard reports of this happen upon occasion with powder coating…

  13. Peggyn Moore says

    Thanks Pam
    These are the 74th brand of metal cabinets. Olympia Kitchen Kabinets
    See post of June 14, 2011. I need a hinge for one of the doors. Do you have any ideas where replacement parts can be purchased?
    Thanks

    Peggy

  14. Vikki says

    I have an antique shop in Olympia, and recently came across the Olympia emblem off an old metal cabinet, do you know a resale value for the emblem? Thanks. Vikki

  15. Gary Howland says

    I have some Olympia cabinets, circa 1959 (the year the house was built) and they are steel. I love it because my refrigerator magnets work on all of the cabinets! HA!

  16. Kay Yarns says

    I am currently stripping to repaint my steel Olympia Kitchen Kabinets.I thought for a long time that I wanted new cabinets but have become fond of these after 42 years in this house.I have 14 units and all but one has original doors & hardware…I am trying to decide whether to reuse the original handles or find something different…What would you do?…kay yarns

  17. Linda says

    I have just moved back into my childhood home after my mom’s passing. (Was in the process of moving in to help care for her).

    Anyway….We remodeled the whole house, which is a small ranch. However I opted to keep the metal kitchen cabinets which are “Olympia Kitchen Kabinetts” .
    The are in great shape considering the of the house and cabinets, which I believe is 1955ish…. We moved here when I was 3… BD I was born in 1953.
    Anyway the cabinets are yellow about the color of this background…… And there is some minor worn spots (rusty looking) by the handles that I would love to touch up.
    Any idea where I might be able to find the matching paint? I live in Denver, CO????
    Thanks In Advance….
    Linda

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Linda, so sorry about your mom’s passing.

      It sounds like you have some rare cabinets on your hands. I am not an expert on how you would match the paint especially in a way that would make a touch up not noticeable. I advise: Consult with a paint expert. Also be aware that old materials and products can contain hazards such as lead, asbestos, etc. Be sure to work with experts so you know what you are dealing with. More info and links on our Be Safe / Renovate Safe page — http://retrorenovation.com/renovate-safe/

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