Introduction: Refurbish Old Lockers
Here's the final product at our hackerspace. I love how the art on the sides turned out and it has a great laquered steal and painted aesthetic on the front.
But we started with these army green lockers that we bought off craigslist. We found them face down in field behind some guys house. We got two banks of lockers- the other we kept as is but this bank had damage to the door mechanisms and latches so I decided to do a full refurbish.
Step 1: Remove Doors and Old Hardware
The first step was to remove the old hardware. These solutions are applicable to many projects.
1. Bad welds that have to be removed. For this we used a dremel- I don't have pictures of the welds before removal but there was significant slag mixed in with the weld and it was very uneven. The latch is was holding in place was bent and had to be removed.
2. Locks and screws that had to be drilled out. In the last picture you can see where I drilled out a screw to remove an old latch. To keep people from removing the doors the previous craftsman bent the ends of the screws- in some cases I could break or angle grind off the screws but in this case I used a metal bit with the same diameter as the screw head and drilled it out.
3. We ended up removing all the hooks inside the lockers and well as the doors- luckily the lockers have a very simple construction and if you wanted you could split the bank into smaller units easily if you wanted to place the lockers in seperate places.
Step 2: Straighten Metal and Remove Rust
1. Straightening the metal was pretty straight forward- hit it with something and brace the impact on the backside and maybe the frontside to distribute force if you're not using a mallet.
2. Removing a combo of paint, rust, and patina was tricky. The first thing was Jasco's Epoxy Remover. I've used it a lot and it does an incredible job on the paint but you need to have gloves and good ventilation because its wicked stuff.
3. Removing the rust took brute force- the doors that I wanted to lacquer were the only parts that required this much work to remove every blemish possible and expose a gorgeous surface to lacquer. I used an angle grinder with a flap disc for a bit but it tended to remove quite a bit of steel. What worked best was a belt sander on the large areas, a drill with a long bristled wire wheel for the details, and a little bit of hand sanding on the vents for stubborn spots. I tried to take images of the tools next to areas where I had just used them so you can see each part.
Step 3: Prime and Paint
1. Before you paint plan what you want it to look like. In the first picture of the bank with masking tape I took some time moving around strips of take deciding how I wanted different painted segments to interact on the locker face.
2. For metal there are great primers like the Rustoleum that helps resist rust. In areas where there is old paint it is not essential that you remove it before using primer but you want to make a good surface to prime- so go over it with some low grit (large sand granuals) sand paper, take off any rust/paint nodules, clean of dust and debris, and scratch the surface to help the primer adhere.
3. Paint. In the case of the locker sides I used masking tape to create a stripe/geometric pattern- I didn't really plan it and it was a lot of fun to not be able to see it until the end when the tape was pulled away.
4. For the lacquered metal you want to remove everything from the bare metal surface (dirt, dust, everything) by using some alcohol to wipe the door down. Then spray with lacquer, it tends to dry in the air quickly so you can't spray from too far away. It will dry in about 15 minutes and then you'll want to add another layer- with somewhere between 5-10 layers at the end.
Step 4: Add New Hardware and Doors
1. Add latches. Use threading oil on the drill bit when drilling holes into metal to extend the life of the drill bit. I used fairly cheap master latches that conveniently cover their screw heads- when attaching the doors to the bank its also important to use bolts or to fill the screw heads with epoxy so that someone can't just take the door off. I originally tried to use one-way screws but they are only for attaching things together and you can't put a nut on their other end.
Step 5: Enjoy Beautiful Lockers
1. I'm super happy with how they turned out- the design on the side looks great. The lacquered steel was a lot of work but is amazing and on a smaller project I would have loved to do just that.