How to restore that rusted old toolbox

No matter what it's been through, an old metal toolbox is worth salvaging. 

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Shawn GearhartGetty Images

I bought my dad a new toolbox for his birthday and swapped him for the metal one that he's had since I was a kid. I want to restore the old box to its former glory. Any advice?

The process is actually pretty simple. 

  • Paint won't stick to a dirty surface, so wipe the box with a clean cloth and mineral spirits, or, if it's really nasty, something powerful like Castrol Super Clean. 
  • Follow that with a damp cloth and wipe the box dry. 
  • Next, remove any rust with a drill and a 60- to 80-grit sanding disc. If that leaves swirl marks, hand-sand them away. 
  • Your primer should be a high-build type, like what they use for auto repair. It's thicker and will do a better job of hiding scratches and filling small pits. 
  • After one to three coats, remove any imperfections with 1,000-grit sandpaper, then add a couple coats of hammer-finish spray paint on the outside of the box. 
  • For the lift-out tray, stick with red. That's just how it's always been.

    If either of the latches is shot, you can find a replacement (called a draw bolt) at Rockler, a supplier of woodworking tools and materials, or at websites that sell leather-craft supplies. 

    Use steel blind rivets to attach the new latches and your dad's old toolbox will be ready for the next generation.

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