Powder coating steel kitchen cabinets — Todd’s story … and beautiful results

blue steel kitchen cabinetsTodd bought and restored these vintage steel kitchen cabinets thinking he would use them in a groove pad house o’ the future. Plans changed and now he is looking to sell them. We get a lot of listings for vintage metal kitchen cabinets on our buy/sell Forum, so I can’t show even a small fraction of them. But these make the cut: Not only is cobalt blue is my Retro Renovation 2012 color the year … but Todd also explains the process he used to refinish his vintage metal cabinets — first, bead blasting to strip the old paint… then, spray booth painting the boxes… then, powder coating the doors and drawers… all done professionally. I don’t give advice on how to repaint your vintage steel kitchen cabinets — I am not an expert — but I do occasionally feature readers who have used different methods, for you to consider as part of your research; remember, old materials and products in your house can contain vintage nastiness such as lead, asbestos and more — consult with properly licensed professionals to assess what you are working with so that you can make informed decisions — Be Safe / Renovate Safe. Todd is the first person I’ve heard from with a detailed story — and results — using powder coating. Todd is very enthusiastic about his cabinets and writes:


cobalt blue steel kitchen cabinets

There is not now, nor has there ever been to my knowledge, a restored vintage kitchen like this one. As friendly and embracing, emotionally, as a brand new 1955 two tone Oldsmobile.

Restored as a labor of love by us, I’ve stored them waiting for the right house. We almost bought a ’59 flattop up the street, and I would have used them in a heartbeat there, but that deal fell through, and we bought a magnificent late 19th century stone colossus that is our dream home… Sure, I could dedicate a whole area of the carriage house to this kitchen, and it would be the bomb, but it would as much as anything be the occasionally used showcase … and the right thing is for it to get daily use and daily love somewhere by some folks who are groovin’ enough to get what these are in an instant, so we want to get the word out that we have them available.

blue and white kitchen cabinetsPeople ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ when they see these. They want to touch them and they do. They get full on dreamy eyes. It’s funny that way, but all true.

drainboard kitchen sinkI’d acquired these years ago just a few miles west of where they are now, while buying a particularly handsome 1949 gas range for another house we had. The cabinets were nearly perfect, as was the original sink, like the folks living there just didn’t cook at home. Problem was they’d been handpainted over by some well meaning homeowner. I gave them some respectable dough and a pair of faux Saarinen table bases that they really wanted and left with their whole kitchen.

Off to get all the cabinets bead blasted, NOT sand blasted. I learned that lesson in college when I meant well but destroyed a Pullman Porter’s platform stool by dropping it off at the sand blaster. When I picked it up the whole top looked like Swiss cheese!

Then we spray boothed the cabinets minus the doors and drawers in an amazing but subtle vanilla ice cream color. After that I went shopping for a powder coater.

We have a cobalt blue teapot with a harmonica whistler that we love, so I went for that color. I found a guy that does lots of motorcycle frames and that sort of thing, and he added just the tiniest bit of metal flake for pop. You really can’t see it unless you’re looking for it, and I mention that because it is quietly cool rather than crazy loud. Nothing wrong with crazy loud if that is what you’re going for.

When I got them all back to my studio and unwrapped them, it was a joyous, gasp worthy moment.

The sink is original and correct, heavy porcelain enamel over very heavy cast iron, large single with full size double drain.

By the way, the house we ended up buying has not one but TWO kitchens full of vintage Scheirich Bronzeglow Birch Cabinets. We plan on redoing the first floor kitchen with cabinets from both.

I remembered hearing from another reader, in an email maybe, that when they powder-coated their cabinets, some of the doors warped. Powder coating requires going into a bake oven — heat can warp the doors; I see to also recall hearing that the sound-deadener that is inside the doors of the cabinets (most? all? some?) can be a concern given the heat. Again, I am not an expert — I am just flagging things to be aware of and to consult with properly licensed professionals about. I ask Todd, did the doors warp? Todd said:

Not the least bit of warpage of any kind.  They are as straight and plumb as when they came off the assembly line.

I ask Todd how much he spent to have the cabinets refinished. Alas, he is still unpacking boxes from his move and couldn’t put his hands on the receipts. He did offer up these thoughts on scoping costs:

Bead blasting:  Prices vary obscenely between bead blasters.  Price comparing is a must, even if it means traveling an extra 50 miles.  If you are seriously considering blasting a whole kitchen, cabinets, doors and drawers, shop around now for a blaster, visit them, get a BULK PRICE on doing a big job and tell them you’re not in a hurry, which will help with pricing as well.  That way, when you stumble into a remarkable set for damned near nothing, you can take them right to the blasters and not stage them at home first.

Powder coating: Same as above.  Make it clear it is bulk work and needs a bulk price, but also, that the 30th piece needs to be as professionally done the first.

I asked Todd for information on the suppliers that he used. He doth delivered:

Powder coating:  DGM custom metal. 8301 Torresdale Ave Philadelphia, PA 19136, 215-331-0960. Just spoke to them on the phone, reminded of the job they did for us and how happy we were with the work, and told them might get some further inquiries from Retro Renovation fans.  They are located in a scrappy little industrial area next to the ancient Holmesburg Prison that you pass close by when you go through Philly on I-95.  My experience with them was solid and good, and I recommend them.

Non sand blasting: Plastic Media Blasting.  Just outside Philly.  They were good, and once asked, they offered up a bulk price, but they weren’t necessarily going to offer that up front.

Thanks so much for including this on your groove site.  It is some of the most satisfying work I ever made happen, simply because I just guessed how to do it and leapt in!

And Update, I asked our resident expert — Helen, also featured in the big New York Times story about the blog — what brand they were, because Todd said they weren’t marked, and she said:

They are Sears. Not Homart by Sears … just Sears! Very distinctive 2-tone handle with a textured aluminum inlay.

If you are interested in buying these cabinets from Todd, jump over to his listing on our Buy/Sell Forum, where you can access the information to get in touch with him. I see that he his asking price is $3,880. Good luck, Todd, and thank you for sharing all this great information.

See all my stories about Steel Kitchen Cabinets here. 

And remember, if you are going to undertake renovations of any sort, consult with properly licensed professionals so that you know what you are working with and make informed decisions about how to handle. Vintage nastiness can be found lots of places in the layers of vintage materials. Be Safe / Renovate Safe.

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow! what a color. They look great, I hope Todd finds someone to love them as he does.

    Personally, I want the Wagoneer! oh, be still my heart…

  2. Tracy says

    Denise, I’m with you on the Wagoneer… and the trailer to go with it!

    …and those cabinets are beautiful.

  3. says

    GORGEOUS! Wow. You’d need some kind of sunny kitchen to support amazing cabinets like those–please, someone here buy them so we can see how they look installed!

  4. says

    Please note that this bombastic opening line was written as copy for eBay. “There is not now, nor has there ever been to my knowledge, a restored vintage kitchen like this one.”

    While it is true, this is not eBay and it comes across a little like prideful chest thumping on this site. For the record, I am pretty honored just to be in the company of some of the amazing restorations I’ve seen on Retro Renovation.

    That said, there IS that something about them that rings true in a way I’m more comfortable with in the second line… “As friendly and embracing, emotionally, as a brand new 1955 two tone Oldsmobile.”

    Todd
    The Grand Review
    Ardmore

    • Allou says

      Hi Todd,
      I am researching what it will take to powder coat a large set of St. Charles cabinets for a restoration project. They have plastic wheel like rollers that will melt with the baking. I cannot source the little guys anywhere would you have a lead for me?

      Thanks,

      Allou

      • pam kueber says

        Allou, head to the Kitchens/Steel Kitchens category to read about other readers’ approaches to repainting the cabinets. While this is not a DIY site, we do have readers share their experiences occasionally. Note, high heat powder coating also has the potential to warp the doors, and one reader reported that the sound deadening material inside the doors of his GE cabinets disintegrated due to the high heat – so be forewarned.

  5. Joyce says

    I LOVE the color of these cabinets! I only wish I had the house to put them in! They look amazing.

    I used to work for a metal stripping/paint & powder coating company (American Stripping Company in Manassas Park, VA) while I was in school and they do really great work there. I acquired (traded) a set of metal cabinets that came out of a customer’s apartment in D.C. and was going to have them stripped/powder coated, but we worried about the sound-deadener in the doors, as Pam mentioned above, and the metal warping in the ovens. They could have painted them but we just never got around to it.

    ASCo does glass beading as well as sand blasting, painting and powder coating and they have the capacity to do large items with two huge ovens. They know their stuff and do a fantastic job if anyone is looking for a powder coater in the D.C. area! Talk to Patrick, he’s still in charge of production there, and has been there for years. He knows everything about the process. They have a ton of colors for you to choose from, and you can even custom order powder if you so desire!
    http://www.ascoweb.com/

  6. says

    Great news! The kitchen sold to a groovy gal who has a condo in a beautiful Upper West Side converted brownstone… just a few doors in from Central Park. I went yesterday with my wife and older son with the kitchen loaded in a U-Haul trailer and delivered it to its new happy home!

  7. Scott S says

    I am re-doing mine now from a 1947 kitchen. Has anyone had any luck finding the little metal bolt-like things on the doors that serve as the door catch when closing the doors. The ones on my doors are worn down after 65 years.

  8. says

    Wow! I’m so impressed and excited that I only live 2 hours from Philly! I have a set of Youngstown steel cabinets, a huge set including 2 lazy susan base cabinets, and have been hesitant to pull the trigger and get them painted. I have two questions for Todd.
    1) Did you spray booth the cabinets yourself? If not, where did you get them done. And was this done to save money on the powder coating?
    2) do you know what type of sound dampening/insulation was ued in your doors? I’ve heard that some use cardboard and other doors use a foam. Which maybe is why some warp and some don’t.
    3) ok I lied, I have 3 questions. Did you remove all the hardware yourself? Were you able to leave some things on or did the powder coaters/bead blasters remove it for you?

    Thanks!
    Kristen

  9. Laurie says

    Todd:

    I love the color you used on the cabinets, and also thank you for the links to the shops you used to blast & powder coat.
    As you can see from my link below, when I moved into my home, I painted my cabinets myself, not knowing about powder coating back then (or anything about steel cabinets).
    But I can’t complain, after 13 years, they still are in good shape. I think they are from the early 70’s, but not positive.

    Pam:

    This is my first post after looking at your site for days on end! There’s so much info about my cabinets, I love it!
    My big dilemma is whether to gut my entire kitchen, remodel & sell the cabinets, or remodel around my St. Charles cabinets.
    I’ve heard good & bad on keeping the cabinets & trying to remodel around them, and was referred to your website. I love my cabinets; they have factory installed lights, lazy Susan, etc.
    My biggest issue is finding a designer in my area (Baltimore) that would know enough about these cabinets to help me redesign my entire kitchen around them.

    Any suggestions anyone would have would be helpful, or pointing me to another area of the site where I may find help with designers/contractors that may be able to help.

    Laurie
    {link broken}

  10. Patrick says

    I know this is a very old post at this point, but does anyone know if that is a clearcoat on those cabinets or just a regular powdercoating? Researching prices now, and I like the way these cabinets look, but clearcoating is probably going to cost an extra $1,000 for a set of cabinets just looking at the prices.
    Thanks in Advance.

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