Todd 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. 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:
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.
I’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.
The sink is original and correct, heavy porcelain enamel over very heavy cast iron, large single with full size double drain. No chips or cracks, and the the most minimal scratching near the drain that I would have scrubbed out myself before the photo shoot with a bottle of Bar Keepers Friend if our bottle hadn’t turned to bizzarro goop after being stored in an all weather space for 5 years!
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 whenthey 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. Renovate Safe.