Repainting Furniture from the Thrift Store | Flat File Cabinet Makeover

Repainting furniture that is already painted doesn’t have to be a big project. Check out how we repainted this flat file cabinet workbench into a stunning storage cabinet.

Get more black painted furniture ideas here.

Homemade flat file cabinet with an old beat up grey paint job before makeover

Looky at what we found at the thrift store! A homemade little flat file cabinet… that was looking outdated and… plain blah. And it was only $30!

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Supplies Used for this flat file cabinet makeover

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Before I bought it, I checked to make sure that all of the drawers worked well, and I scratched at it to make sure the paint was sticking well… because I didn’t want to strip it all off.

Reshape the Cabinet

I hated how far out the top stuck out on the front, and then how there was another overhang on the very bottom. It just looked too much like a built-in workbench to me.

Cut off the overhanging top of the cabinet Using a circular saw

So I cut the top off with a circular saw and clamped a piece of wood on as a guide to help me cut straight.

Then I cut wood to cover up the overhang on the bottom. It all fit almost perfectly, which is so amazing for me with these miter cuts.

Attaching supports and wood trim to the bottom of the cabinet using a brad nailer

I also cut some 2×4” supports to support the front trim and give me something to attach it to, and then I nailed the trim on with my brad nailer.

Prep Cabinet for Paint

On one side of the bottom of the cabinet, the corner didn’t go all the way down past the trim, so I filled that in with some KwikWood. Learn how to use KwikWood here!

I shaped it the best I could so then I wouldn’t need to sand it much after it dried.

Repairing a chipped corner on a drawer front with KwikWood.

And then I filled in those middle holes, as well as a corner on one of the drawers that was chipped a little bit.

Clean Cabinet

Then, I realized that I didn’t clean everything yet, so I cleaned it all off with an old damp rag and some Krud Kutter… you know this stuff is my favorite. Haha

Then, I filled in some other holes and cracks with wood filler.. and I waited for everything to dry.

Learn more about how I prepare furniture for painting here, and how to clean furniture before painting here!

Sand Wood Fillers and New Wood

About an hour later, I lightly sanded everything with 220-grit sandpaper. Mostly focusing on the wood filler and the Kwikwood. But also lightly scuff sanding to help the paint stick.

Learn more about sandpaper for furniture painting here.

I usually always at least do a scuff sand to make sure the paint has the best chance to stick, but if you really, really hate sanding, then you can use Heirloom Traditions Paint, this all-in-one paint we used on this black painted cedar chest in this post on painting furniture black.

Here’s my Heirloom Traditions All In One Paint review so you can learn more about this paint. Check out more best all-in-one paints for furniture here.

I also sanded the edges of the new wood to make it not look brand new. Haha, then I cleaned up all of the dust with my shop vac.

Learn more about the importance of sanding before painting furniture here.

TIP: Test the paint before going all in. A couple of hours before, I painted a sample of some of the Fusion Mineral Paint on the back, so I scratched at it before going any further.

It didn’t scratch off at all! And this back wasn’t scuff sanded.

Testing a sample of the paint on the back of cabinet with fingernail scratch test

So, I could move forward with the project knowing that the paint should all stick well.

(Fusion Mineral Paint doesn’t stick to everything, I had to prime before using Fusion on this painting IKEA furniture makeover.)

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Prime New Wood

And then I rolled on some tinted BIN shellac primer, with a Sherwin Williams Mohair roller that has a really thin nap. Check out the best rollers for painting furniture here.

(I primed the wood to prevent bleedthrough stains.) I mostly primed the brand new wood.

TIP: Roll it on THIN. (Don’t get much primer on the roller and then roll it all out.) Rolling it on thin leaves less texture behind!

Applying grey tinted BIN shellac primer onto the wood trim using a mohair roller

But then I got carried away and started priming some of the rest of the piece. Haha, I don’t know why…

But hey, it actually worked really well, and I didn’t even feel the need to sand down the texture before I painted! Read this post to learn more about the best primers for painting furniture.

Paint Cabinet Black

Alright, time for the paint. I used Fusion Mineral Paint in the color Coal black and I put it in what’s becoming my very favorite budget friendly paint sprayer.

Adding Paint to Paint Sprayer

I put it through a fine mesh filter to make sure there wasn’t any dried paint or random debris in the paint that could clog the sprayer.

And then I added a little bit of water like I always do to thin the paint out so it would leave a better-looking finish behind. Learn more about how to thin paint for Wagner FLEXiO sprayer here!

Thinning Fusion Mineral Paint with a little bit of water

I tested the spray before I started spraying my little cabinet, and then I sprayed everything. It sprayed on SO well.

I’ve honestly had some issues in the past with spraying Fusion, but this was a dream! Check out this Fusion Mineral Paint VS Heirloom Traditions Paint comparison to learn more.

Spraying the first coat of Fusion Mineral Black paint onto the cabinet.

Since the insides of the drawers were painted before, I set them all out, so I could spray the insides with this black paint.

Or you can also line the insides to give them a personal touch. Check out the best material to line dresser drawers here. We also have a guide on how to remove contact paper from wood if you need to update or replace your liner.

Oh, also, I chose this paint this time because I wanted an almost matte finish. I didn’t want it to have much of a sheen because I think the matte finish looks better on these old homemade pieces.

And Fusion dries to a very durable matte finish. Check out this Fusion Mineral Paint review and see my personal experience with this paint.

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I let the paint dry for a couple of hours, and then I sanded it with a fine-grit foam pad to make it feel smoother to the touch. Then I cleaned off all of the dust and sprayed a second coat of paint.

A pint of paint was barely enough to paint this cabinet with 2 coats of paint… most of the drawers only got one coat inside, and then some touch-ups with a brush where it needed some more paint.

Read this post to learn about the best paint brushes for painting furniture here.

Topcoat Painted Cabinet (Optional)

So after that second coat of paint dried, I brushed a coat of Fusion’s Beeswax all over, just to give the matte finish a tiny bit of sheen, so it won’t get dirty looking when you touch it. Haha

Brushing Fusion Beeswax onto the flat file cabinet for the top coat

TIP: While that wax was soaking in, I rubbed some paper all over it to smooth out the nubs and just make the paint finish feel smoother. It feels SO smooth and soft now!

Wiping off the excess wax with a lint-free rag

An hour or so later, I wiped off the excess wax with a lint-free rag. Learn more about the best topcoats for painting furniture here.

Add Cabinet Hardware

To finish it off, I put new hardware on all 7 drawers. I used this Kreg cabinet hardware jig to help me put the card catalog labels on… without wanting to pull my hair out. Haha

How to Use Kreg Cabinet Hardware Jig

Basically, I marked where the center was on the drawer by making a mark on a piece of frog tape. And I adjusted the holes so they were the right distance for these label holder’s holes.

Marking new hardware holes on the drawers with a Kreg cabinet hardware jig

Then I measured how far down the center was, so I could put the back rest thing on the jig to that measurement. On this drawer, the center of the drawers was 1 ¾” down from the top.

Then I lined the jig up with the center of the drawer and used my Kreg clamp to clamp the jig in place.

Clamping the Kreg jig into place and drilling new hardware holes into the drawers

And then I drilled the holes and screwed the label holder in place. And I put more boring black knobs on because I’m boring and like black on black. Haha

Oh, and yeah, the frog tape pulled off the wax, so I went back with the wax rag and just put more wax on those areas. And then I let the wax dry for a couple of days so it wouldn’t leave marks every time I touched it.

Watch how we repainted this flat file cabinet here:

And here’s what it looks like now! For more repainting makeovers for your dresser, here’s our list of repainting dresser ideas.

Top view of black painted flat file cabinet with Fusion Mineral Paint
Flat file cabinet makeover with coal black Fusion Mineral Paint and black drawer pulls.

More Before And After Makeovers

Click any of these “before” photos below to view the “after” of that makeover.

Side view of flat file cabinet with black paint and black knobs and label holders

The way it was before… it looked like it belonged in a garage workshop. Now, I wish I had a space for it in my home as an accent table, or some storage in my office.

Here are 30 amazing faux card catalog makeovers you should check out.

Check out more tips and tricks for repainting furniture here.

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Repainting Furniture from the Thrift Store | Flat File Cabinet Makeover

Repainted black flat file cabinet with black hardware

Here are the steps for repainting furniture and giving your old piece a new look!


  1. Reshape the cabinet to your liking.
  2. Prep the cabinet for paint by fixing any damages and filling in holes with wood filler. Clean it with a degreaser then sand the dried wood filler flush to the wood. Scuff sand the entire cabinet as well.
  3. Prime cabinet with clear shellac. Roll it on thin so there's less texture.
  4. Filter paint and add a little bit of water to thin it. Spray paint onto the cabinet and let the paint dry for a couple of hours. then I sanded it with a fine-grit foam pad to make it feel smoother to the touch. Then clean off all of the dust and spray a second coat of paint.
  5. After the second coat of paint dries, topcoat by brushing a coat of Fusion’s Beeswax all over the cabinet. An hour or so later, wipe off the excess wax with a lint-free rag.
  6. Add new hardware to your repainted furniture!

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Homemade flat file cabinet with an old beat up grey paint job.

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