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

olympia kitchen cabinets emblemReader 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? 🙂

More information on Olympia Kitchen Kabinets — made by Western Metalcraft / Metalware:

Thanks to the several readers who contributed additional information. It seems that the manufacturer of Olympia Kitchen Kabinets made them in both aluminum and steel:

Wendy said:

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

Then, Karen added:

Western Metalcraft did indeed own and occupy the original (1896) Olympia Brewing site, beginning right after WWII. After several years of manufacturing various metal items, including cabinets, Western changed ownership and changed name 1951-52 to General Metalcraft/Metalware. The Schmidt family, the family who established Olympia Beer, was financially involved in both companies. We have some of the aluminum and some steel cabinets in the historic Schmidt family home, now an event venue and archives. (We also have some old brochures from Western in our collection.)

Western made steel cabinets after WWII, when the metal shortage eased up, and later switched to aluminum. I believe aluminum was later in short supply, due to its demand for military use during the Korean War.

The General plant in Tumwater WA went out of business in 1962.

And Mark noted:

I live in WA and there were a couple of huge aluminum smelting plants in Washington state, one in Tacoma, just North of Olympia and one in Spokane.

Link love:

  1. 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.

  2. 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

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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…

  4. 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

  5. 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

    1. Scott says:

      Hi Vikki, I also have an emblem/badge. Reads Olympia aluminum kitchen kabinets. Not sure what if anything it is worth.
      Scott

  6. 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!

  7. 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

  8. 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

    1. 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 — https://retrorenovation.com/renovate-safe/

  9. Richard says:

    I haven’t read the entire thread but thought I’d post my experiences. I’m a mechanical design engineer so I am familiar with aluminum part design. Aluminum does corrode but quickly forms it’s own self-limiting aluminum oxide “skin” when exposed to air. You can’t see it but it’s there.

    I have a set of the Olympia cabinets that came with our 1959 home in Palo Alto, CA. The cabinets were PINK and infuriating in that the slides were falling apart and galling. Meaning the metal was smearing and leaving flecks on our dinner ware. Aluminum is considered a soft metal.

    If yours haven’t degraded yet that’s great. Keep the roller drawer slides lubricated and they should be fine. Anyways, once we saved up some cash we remodeled the entire house and the wall cabinets went to the garage for reuse 🙂 The base cabinets ended in landfill/recycling.

    If anyone has the clips to support the shelves inside the cabinet, I’d be interested in purchasing. I misplaced them when I moved the cabinets 🙁

    1. Susie Chapin says:

      Any idea where I can find these cabinets? I have a van which I’m converting into a camper van and would love a vintage kitchen. thanks.

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