Stripping Steel Barrister Bookcase?

Good Question

Q: I picked up this cool, very large (19" D X 36" W) steel barrister bookcase at the Brimfield flea market this week. The maker mark is "Shaw Walker." I thought it would be great for display but its got a strange faux-wood finish on the metal. I've seen lots of these pieces on designer sites, sandblasted and covered with a clear protective finish. However, when I Google "refinish steel," a lot of "experts" proclaim that there's no way to do it so that the steel is truly protected by the clear finish. They seem to think that rust is inevitable...

So, whaddya all think? Is there a way to strip this and leave it cool-steel bare without ruining it? Would paint stripper take the original finish off? (I've used PeelAway before without too much fear.) What clear finish would you recommend? Or, should I just give up and sand, prime, and spray-paint it?

If it's best left to the experts, I can accept that - but I don't have much money to spend paying someone to refinish this. Anyone know any reasonable refinishers (powder coat maybe?) in NE Massachusetts?

Thanks! Sent by Mary

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