It’s Pedicure Time For This Midcentury Mama — How To Fix Rusted Metal Midcentury Leg Caps

by Katy on June 21, 2013 · 26 comments

A recent post on Apartment Therapy asked readers for their best method to refinish metal leg caps, which reminded me of a project I’d been meaning to tackle.

Remember this midcentury bookshelf that I picked up a few months back? (I think I paid something crazy like $2.99 for it!) It had loads of neeto-jets 45° angles, but the metal cap feet were unforgivably rusted out and were hardly worth highlighting.

However, I still had the gold paint pen from my frame project, so I taped off a leg and got to work. I was unsure how it would look, so I started with one of the back legs.

Rusty Feet

Of course, me being myself, I reused the blue painter’s tape with each leg as I am:

  1. Cheap.
  2. Loathe to be wasteful.
  3. Obsessive about how long I can go before replacing new stuff like stupidly expensive painter’s tape.

Blue Tape

The project was actually quite fun, as I set up up in front of an episode of Alias. (J.J. Abrams being my second favorite producer/director after Joss Whedon.)

Hello, Jennifer Garner Sydney Bristow, why no wacky wig today?

Shelf - before

And here’s how incredible the metal leg caps looked after the caresses of my magical golden pen.

Like the necklaces that adorn the chest of Mr. T, nothing but pure golden goodness is allowed.

“I pity the fool who lets their metal leg caps go rusty!”

Happy Feet

I also went ahead and gave the wood a nourishing rubdown with my trusty Aspercreme Restore-A-Finish, which coaxes finished wood  from dry to glossy, while also minimizing scratches and gouges.

Here’s a gratuitous detail shot of the bookshelf.

Hello, lover . . .

Detail Bookshelf

And here’s the shelf all lovely and refurbished.

Now, if all home improvement projects could be this cheap and easy . . .

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Su Mama June 21, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Snazzy! And this on top of a LOOOOONG work day?


Katy June 21, 2013 at 11:54 pm

What can I say? I’m nuts!



Jan June 22, 2013 at 3:37 am

Love the re-do! I’ll have to try Restore-A-Finish. And I love the book suggestions. 🙂


Aimee June 22, 2013 at 4:09 am

Have you ever used Restore a finish on kitchen cabinets? Do you use the neutral or try to match the color of the wood?


Katy June 22, 2013 at 9:49 am

Our never ending can is “Neutral.”



Aimee July 1, 2013 at 4:30 am

I used this in my cabinets; they look amazing. I was planning on having them painted, but I’m happy with them now, so thank you! Love this product.


Denise June 22, 2013 at 5:10 am

Good choice of books to put in the bookshelf! I found a couple that I have not read and wrote them down to check out at the library! What a cool bookshelf.


Katy June 22, 2013 at 9:10 am

Many of these books I received as review copies, or were written by friends. Also, I like to have them to refer to. 😀



Katy @ Purposely Frugal June 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm

The Complete Tightwad Gazette!!! It doesn’t get much better than that book!


Angela in Denver June 22, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Ditto that on the Tightwad Gazette, but also a big woo-hoo for Total Money Makeover – both are my staple “go-to” book faves. Thanks for sharing that project – super!


Krystal June 23, 2013 at 4:38 pm

The Total Money Makeover is the book that most changed my life. Gotta love that!

Diane C June 24, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Oh, how I love The Tightwad Gazette, especially the Big Blue Book! At the moment mine’s in storage while we’re waiting for our new house to close. I may have to break down and order it from the library to get my annual fix. I read Better Off a couple of years ago and his story has really stuck with me.

Today, the smartest financial guy I know recommended “The Smartest Retirement Book You’ll Ever Read” by Daniel Solin. He said he bought it at an airport and read it cover to cover on his three hour flight. Says he didn’t learn much that he didn’t know, but that Solin has an incredible way of synthesizing a vast amount of information into a very readable format. Just thought I’d pass it along, since our tastes in texts seems quite similar.

Katy June 22, 2013 at 8:48 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more!



Erin S June 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Love her! Her books are practically my bible.

Nicole June 22, 2013 at 7:36 am

It looks lovely but next time you deal with rusted metal, be sure to give it a rub with really fine steel wool (gets the loose rust off, which provides a smoother surface for your nifty pen trick.)


Katy June 22, 2013 at 9:12 am

Yeah, that would have been a good idea. 😉



The Frugal Shrink June 22, 2013 at 10:34 am

That looks amazing!!! I am always bothered by the rusted and crappy leg caps. Will have to pick up a gold pen for future projects.


Allotment adventures with Jean June 22, 2013 at 2:12 pm

A brilliant job. It looks great.


AFS June 22, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Though not something I choose to live with I nonetheless admire mid-century modern. The bookcase was a wonderful find and you did an excellent job making it beautiful again


Beverley June 22, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Oh my word! I recognize that bookshelf! About 40 years ago my parents gave my siblings & I a set of the World Book Encyclopedia. That is the bookshelf where all of the various volumes, dictionaries & atlas went. Thanks for the wonderful memories – very nice job bringing it back to its former self.


Katy June 23, 2013 at 7:26 am

I really like books at a 45 degree angle for some reason. And this bookshelf is the perfect size to store just a few books in my dining room.



Debbie June 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I have the same bookshelf! I picked it up at a church sale two Summer’s ago for 5$. The Mr. has been hinting about getting rid of it; it’s not our style, it just filled a need. I’m too lazy to get up to check, but i think our legs are in better shape.
Nice re-do, as usual!


Katy June 23, 2013 at 4:58 pm

I can’t imagine that the legs could possibly be in better shape!



Emilee June 23, 2013 at 6:26 pm

That’s the bookshelf of my childhood!! Brings back memories! That exact same bookshelf was graced with many volumes of our Children’s World Encyclopedia and stood in my brothers’ room. Not sure how the leg caps looked back then 😉 Thanks for the walk down memory lane 🙂


Sarah June 26, 2013 at 11:36 am

I bought the EXACT same bookshelf for my little girl’s room just this spring. It is darling, and perfect for my little girl to learn to love her books by getting them out and putting them away. I thought I got a great deal at $17 at my local antique mall – for $3 you got a steal. What made me so happy about it was that I was able to fill a need quickly, without months of searching, rescuing my daughter’s room from the sad overflowing plastic bin of books while not resorting to a souless, big box store, pressboard shelf. Win-win-win!

I’ll have to check out the legs after she wakes up from her nap – maybe ours could also benefit from a pedicure!


Katy June 26, 2013 at 12:02 pm

So funny how many people are writing that they either have or have had the same bookshelf!

Such a sturdy little creature.



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