Martha Stewart Living, July/August 1999
Cover your work surface with newspaper. Remove paint with nontoxic paint stripper, following the manufacturer's instructions.
Use a razor blade to peel remaining paint from the boxes without damaging the underlying surface.
With medium steel wool, remove rust spots, and smooth away pits in the metal; sand any resulting scratches with fine-grain sandpaper. Polish the boxes' surfaces with metal or tin polish for a rich, mellow shine.
Nontoxic paint stripper
Medium steel wool
Metal or tin polish
Stacked on a desktop, this tower of tin boxes looks like a matched set, but the boxes actually started out as mismatched painted tins. Boxes like this were used at the turn of the century to package everything from typewriter ribbon to spices to money, and today they turn up at very reasonable prices when the paint is in poor condition. Look for attractive shapes -- beneath the worn exterior is a bright surface. Work in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors; if you work indoors, wear a protective mask.