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Old 12-27-2009, 03:24 PM   #1
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


I have a ferrous metal medicine cabinet (accepts a magnet) that is three quarters of a century old that I stripped with intent to prime and paint. I want to change course now and preserve the vintage beauty of the metal instead of painting it*.

I want to clear coat it and preserve the actual flaws and character of the metal under a non-glossy, non-plastic looking, practicably invisible clearcoat. I’m seeking recommendations on how to go about doing this and with what product(s).

The stripping was a Herculean effort let me tell you. It’s 80 years old in a rental apartment so was painted thousands of times, so much so that the door hardly closed. Endless coats of evil paint stripper. Then endless more coats. Then some light fine grit sanding.

It’s pretty much completely stripped, there’s a little crust in the corners and details, which will likely be removed with a final fine stripper application and/or brass brush.

What are recommendations for a product to clear coat this with? Or maybe just wax it (I never waxed metal – I doubt wax will protect it). I’m looking for low maintenance. I have access to an HVLP/compressor spray rig so I could spray this in situ. I do not want to embalm this in a layer of clear plastic, just an almost invisible clear coat to seal the metal and protect it from rusting in the bathroom. If a disposable spray can will do the job just as well so much the better.


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*Now as I look at it, I’m very much liking the grey metallic feel: it has a potent raw vintage charm that I think unifies this bathroom, more so than if I were to paint it (which I can always do at a later date). It has only a very slight rust corrosion on the inside bottom (no longer rust, just discoloration from where it was). There’s also other slight variations and discolorations to the metal on the cabinet which in my aesthetic only adds to the character of the piece and is true to it’s journey through time….it even has a cut glass pull knob.
The only other alteration I'd make is to the mirror - which is inset with a bevel on the door. It's a bit hazy...I like a clear image when I shave so I may buy a custom cut piece of beveled glass and glue it over the old one.


Last edited by Lovegasoline; 12-27-2009 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 12-29-2009, 02:58 PM   #2
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


I'd suggest a coat of "Clear/Fixable Matte" available in most "craft" stores/sections
I think Krylon makes a good one (though that's only from word of mouth)
I'm not sure what's up with the stuff, I just know that crafters looking for a protective coating that doesn't make the project look glossy (ie: think of someone visiting me and bringing back a Horseshoe Crab shell that they want to preserve and let look natural rather than glossy (like a polyurethane or Marine Varnish) love the stuff
Hope this helps

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Old 12-29-2009, 04:46 PM   #3
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


slick,
I'm skeptical that that stuff would work.

I'm a fine artist and have lots of fixatives from various companies and I do not think they would provide much protection for a cabinet getting daily use, especially in such a humid location. I use them to keep my drawings from smearing. They also make a matting spray, which is more for temporary use particularly when photographing flat art work to reduce glare.

I'm looking for a film finish. It needs to bond to the metal, seal it totally (to prevent rust), be tough enough to be handled daily and not come off.

I'm thinking along the line of a car paint clear coat, but matte, and nothing to crazy toxic (I know some car paints have some serious toxicity).
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Old 01-04-2010, 11:40 AM   #4
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


NEW YEAR BUMP!


Any suggestions?
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Old 01-05-2010, 05:22 AM   #5
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


In the gallery and museum world we use these preservation products for metal sculpture and so forth. It is a bit pricey but worth it. I have used it on metal sculpture even placed outside with great results but you have to refresh it a few times a year. A good quality automotive wax might be worth a try too?

I too have worries about exposed ferrous metal in such a humid environment though. I think I would think about a clear coat of some kind. You should be able to find something that will look subtle. Anyhow, here is the URL for the restoration wax many use.

http://www.restorationproduct.com/
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Old 01-05-2010, 03:51 PM   #6
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


I considered wax, but what I'm really looking for is a clear top coat.

What about Lacquer (non-catalyzed) sprayed on, would that do the job and protect in this environment?

It's not a 'collectable' medicine cabinet (at least not to me). I'm looking to keep the metal look without hitting it with primer and paint.
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Old 01-05-2010, 11:46 PM   #7
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


Laquer would be thinner and might work. I cannot buy it where I am. I should think you would still have to wax it or something though.

You are talking about a ferrous metal cabinet in a waterborne environment. Water plus such metal is going to rust?

I really think you are expecting a lot not to have this thing rust without a primer. I understand the look you like though. I don't think any sort of clear coat is going to get you where you want and even after it, you are going to have to commit yourself to some sort of wax regimen?

Is this cabinet and the industrial look you have in mind really worth all this? I restore antique homes and other things for a living but sometimes have to ask myself the question I just asked you?
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Old 01-06-2010, 03:39 AM   #8
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


Sure, I could just prime it with Rustoleum and paint it white or light grey, my original plan. Or even replace it with a particle board one from Home Depot…like they did in the bathroom here that they rebuilt, even after I had them keep the 80 year old cast iron tub. And the Home Depot vanity they stuck in there, that matches nothing. And the emergency florescent dome light on the ceiling. Even though I requested they keep the same tile and layout it looks bad, cheap, and put together by 10 different people who didn’t communicate with each other. …nothing really is integrated with anything else…there's no sense of it being a whole. It’s hard to imagine how much effort some people can exert and end up with so little of any quality to show for it. What morons. Don’t get me started.

Yeah, I really dig the way medicine cabinet looks. There is much here that looked(s) shabby - not shabby chic – just run down, badly repaired, neglected. Much here has gotten a makeover and I have put my hand and back and wallet into a fair bit of it to steer it to the quality I want to live with and as a personal challenge. This medicine cabinet is proud. It was a b|tch to strip and looking at it now, raw metal, reminds me of that hard work…a stand in for all the hard work done here. That of course you need special eyes for, my eyes only.

When I was looking at the raw metal cabinet, finally stripped, suddenly the whole bathroom hit me hard in a gestalt…the color, the look, the textures...except for the toilet and window it’s all original 1920's: shower door, light fixture, tilework, sink. The cabinet is like the one thing in this apartment that lives on as an index of the place. It got feeling to it. It emanates and resonates and it sends my imagination to interesting places. It’s like an historical portal. Yeah, it would look nice, maybe even better, with paint. But, I know well enough how terribly easy it is to refine and polish the life out of things in an attempt to improve them and when something has that certain je ne sais quoi it’s enough to have the good sense to recognize it and figure out a way how not to f’ it up. That’s what I have here and I want to get out of it's way and let it do it's thing, just put a transparent coat on it to protect it. The grey metal looks exquisite.

It’s maybe my art background and love of materials...the cabinet looks cool. This little bathroom still has character which was previously obscured. It was a tiny nasty bathroom. It's still tiny, but I have great plans for it.

Anyway, how hard can it be to get a decent clear coat on this thing?

-Lovegasoline

PS: sdsester, where are you you can't buy lacquer? I mention lacquer as I have some on hand here (as well as a catalyst: it's a post catalyzed lacquer but can be used without the hardener, I'd rather avoid the toxicity of the hardener if used in home).

Last edited by Lovegasoline; 01-06-2010 at 03:54 AM.
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Old 01-06-2010, 04:08 AM   #9
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


PS: sdsester, where are you you can't buy lacquer? I mention lacquer as I have some on hand here (as well as a catalyst: it's a post catalyzed lacquer but can be used without the hardener, I'd rather avoid the toxicity of the hardener if used in home).[/quote]


It says under his name, Location: Illinois,
under yours ,it says
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Old 01-06-2010, 04:40 AM   #10
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


Yup. Chicago again as home a few days ago and finally off the prairie.

Look. Two of my degrees are in fine arts so I appreciate what you are going for and many of my clients are interior designers so I understand the look you are trying to accomplish. I just don't know how you are going to get water from a bathroom to stay off a metal cabinet that is not stainless steel or something without committing to some sort of primer and paint situation.

I fear the laws of nature will turn ferrous metal exposed to moisture into a rusty looking piece of crap in short order and destroy the concept you have in mind. Committing to waxing on a regular basis with a product like the restoration and preservation stuff I suggested is one possibility.

Even if you can buy laquer, and maybe I still can at an art store or something. It will flake off on you in seconds. Laquer is nice and hard but will chip in an instant. It is to thin unless you coat it up in layers to do any good for anything.

I don't know, maybe you should visit your local automotive body shop. When it comes to clear coats, I find those folks to be the wizards? And you know and just a thought? Before I would use a catalyst indoors that could be dangerous I would pull your cabinet off the wall and take it to an autobody shop for them to deal with. The folks I used to use loved my little household projects if I bribed them just a bit to clearcoat when working on something else.

You know, even the few people who owned DeLoreans, supposedly stainless steel, ended up having to (or I suppose wanting to) paint them. I understand all the work you put into stripping this medicine cabinet but are you sure you are going to love it forever as a BFF without primer and paint?

By the way, I get paid to put the restoration wax on a piece of outdoor sculpture three times per year for a client of a gallery I work for. Tough work if you can get it. I brush the stuff on and force it into all the rivets. The gardener comes along and buffs the thing. It is steel and has no clear coat. It is outdoors but not in a bathroom used daily. It only gets rained or snowed on a few times per year.

Hey. I don't mean to rag on you and good luck. Let me know what approach you end up taking to this?

Not sure I would replace the mirror, by the way, unless it is really horrid. But do remember, even in its day, this medicine cabinet you're getting great advice about restoring probably cost about $5? Of course you should preserve it if you can. And of course a partical board piece of crap made to look like wood from a box store will not look the same.

Last edited by user1007; 01-06-2010 at 04:56 AM.
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Old 01-12-2010, 02:30 PM   #11
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


I called my go my new go-to guy, he's the tech advisor for my local Ben Moore paint store chain here in NYC. He recommended a product called XIM 900 Clear, which is a hybrid alkyd/acrylic modified with a rust inhibitior:

http://www.ximbonder.com/upload/pdfs...EET%202130.pdf


He claims it will not flash rust upon spraying like many lacquers.
Anyone use this product?


By the way, I was passing by a Renovation Hardware Store (home furnishings) and saw these pharmacy cabinets:

http://www.restorationhardware.com/r...navAction=jump

http://www.restorationhardware.com/r...navAction=jump

I went inside to look...they had the same finish look I am after, clear coat on metal, except the distressing on mine looks better to my eyes. One of them had some slight surface rust in spots under the finish.


PS: I do not own the medicine cabinet (building owner does) it's not about cost but looks. It's got allot going for it: it's already mounted, it's original to the building, I already stripped it. I realize it is not an heirloom but I'm not treating it as one, besides it was most likely painted when original. I just want to get some clear finish on it and move on. I still have a long to do list.
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Old 01-13-2010, 02:24 PM   #12
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


what about Aqua-Net? that was always the go-to in school when we needed a spray fix. i even know a couple professional artists that use it instead of the 3M or other "professional" products.
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Old 01-13-2010, 02:58 PM   #13
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


This calls for something more than hairspray.

It needs to be compatible with steel, inhibit rust like a primer, keep out water, and be durable enough to protect a metal cabinet in use.
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Old 08-18-2010, 05:13 PM   #14
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


We too have steel we are using for projects in our kitchen, including counter top. Did you ever have a resolution? We are testing encaustics as a sealer. Curious as to how your project turned out.

Those pharmacy cabinets are gorgeous.
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Old 08-09-2011, 04:08 PM   #15
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Clearcoating a Stripped Vintage Ferrous Metal Medicine Cabinet?


I am trying to do the same as your project on some metal shelfs but I do not have spray equipment as of now. Just interested it you found a clear that was suitable to your needs.

Thx

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