List of Tinsmithing Projects for Beginners 2021 [Updated]


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List of Tinsmithing Project Ideas for Beginners 2021 [Updated]

tinsmith at work
There are many ways for beginners to work with tin. From historical reproductions and New Mexican tinsmithing to tin can art, there is something for everyone! Chris Costello CC BY-SA

Tinsmithing is a fun and unique traditional craft that is accessible to beginners. Using only a few tools, materials, and techniques, you can start working with tin today.

There are several styles of tinsmithing that are covered in this list of beginner-friendly tinsmithing project ideas. From historical reproduction pieces to New Mexican stamping, to DIY craft projects made from tin cans, there is a project that will suit every interest and circumstance.

Whether you are ready to try tinsmithing out yourself as a complete beginner or you’ve worked tin before but need some inspiration, we have you covered! Below are 7 easy tinsmithing project ideas that you can finish at home.


What Tools are Needed for Tinsmithing Projects?

Malco M2006 10-3/4 in. Left Offset Snips
  • Nothing out cuts, outmaneuvers or outlasts MAX2000 Aviation Snips
  • Cuts sharp left angles, straight lines and 5" (125 mm) diameter circles
  • Alloy steel blades with serrated lower jaws for solid gripping power in sheet metals

To complete the following beginner tinsmithing projects, you will need sheets of tinplate or other sheet metal. Further details are provided in each video.

Some of the projects can be completed using scrap materials like drink cans and can be adjusted according to the materials you already have on hand.

The individual main tools used in these projects are below:

  • Tin snips
  • Measuring tools
  • Dividers
  • Hammer or rubber mallet
  • Torch or soldering iron
  • Solder and flux

Other tools and equipment may be necessary to complete a few of the projects listed and specifics are discussed below for each project.

Due to the beginner-friendly nature of these tutorials, any tools you do not have can be substituted for the basics you likely own already. Feel free to get creative and make use of what you already have in your workspace.


Beginner Tinsmithing Project Ideas 

The following are a few beginner-friendly tinsmithing projects that will help you get comfortable with basic cutting, shaping, soldering, and assembling techniques. Each of these projects can be modified to fit your skill level and design preferences.

 

1) Small Tin Cup  

 

This small tin cup is a perfect tutorial to master if you are new to making tin drinkware. It can be made as a home decor item or as a functional cup for a child.

Begin this project by measuring and tracing out the three pieces needed to make the cup: the body, the bottom, and the handle. These can be made from any scrap tinplate or sheet metal you have on hand. Cut out the shapes using a torch and tin snips as shown in the video.

Bend the body piece around on itself to form a cup shape and trim off any excess metal. You can use this piece to trace out the bottom of the cup or measure the bottom separately. In the tutorial, the body piece is traced for the bottom of the cup.

Weld the seam of the cup body shut and then attach the bottom of the cup in the same manner. The handle should be welded on last, making sure to secure it from several angles.

If you are going to use this piece as a functional cup, clean up the lip of the cup and fold it over on itself to avoid being cut by the sharp edge. If you plan to use the cup as decor, you can leave the lip as it is and paint the entire piece if desired.


2) Civil War Reproduction Cup   

 

History lovers will enjoy making and drinking from this reproduction tin cup. The artisan in the video tutorial uses many 19th century techniques and tools to complete the project, but feel free to get creative and work with the tools you have in your own workshop.

This cup is made by cutting out body, bottom, and handle pieces from tinplate. To keep the reproduction cup as historically accurate as possible, use hot dipped tinplate as shown in the video. Otherwise, electroplate works just as well.

Trace and cut the pieces using tin snips. Cut off excess pieces of the tinplate and then cut the piece down to size to make the tin more manageable.

Use a turning machine or a swage and hammer to add a decorative bead around the body of the cup as shown in the tutorial. Fold down the edge of the body piece and hammer down the folded over edge so it is flat.

Work the body piece into a curved cup shape. This can be done on any cylindrical work surface, such as an anvil, or can be completed on a conductor stake as shown.

Repeat the same process with the handle of the cup, creating a half heart shape that is large enough to hold comfortably.

Solder the seam of the cup body with a soldering iron, flux, and solder as shown the video. Create a burr around the bottom of the cup to ensure a tight, secure fit to the body of the cup. Attach the cup bottom to the body and solder on the outside and inside.

Attach the handle to the cup using the same techniques as the body and bottom. Double check to ensure all the seams are secure for a functional cup.

Remove any leftover flux with your fingernails and some denatured alcohol, and the cup is finished!

 


3) Reproduction Barn Lantern  

 

This barn lantern tutorial is split into two videos provided above. The lantern is completed using traditional methods and a historically accurate pattern.

Begin your lantern by cutting a piece of tinplate down to size. Use a divider to scratch the pattern of the lantern onto the tinplate. Use punches to add the cut-out details that let the light through.

Roll the sheet in the rolling machine at least twice to form a rounded lantern shape. Cut and bend the braces of the lantern as shown in the tutorial.

Solder the braces onto the lantern using a traditional soldering iron. Put an edge on the lantern and shape the top piece of the lantern around an anvil, leaving a gap at the seam. To close the seam, insert another piece of tinplate into the seam and flip it upwards to close the seam perfectly. This process is shown in the tutorial.

Put an edge on the top of the lantern and attach it to the lantern body, peening the edges of both pieces together for a secure join.

Snap on the bottom of the lantern and peen it to the body.

Make and attach the door of the lantern as shown. Finish the lantern by making a heat shield and a round handle.


4) New Mexican Traditional Home Decor   

 

This beginner tutorial gives basic instructions for creating New Mexican tinsmithing home decor. You can use any pattern you want to create a unique piece, or recreate the items shown in the video. Common items created by New Mexican artisans are mirrors and decorative crosses.

Begin your project by cutting out your design with tin snips. Then use a large nail and a rubber mallet to stamp designs onto the tinplate. You can create any designs you want.

Two techniques that are common in traditional New Mexican tinsmithing are embossing and scoring. Embossing will make features stand out, while scoring will press the metal away from the viewer and create dimension in otherwise flat areas.


5)   New Mexican Tin Ornament 

 

Another great way to practice traditional New Mexican tinsmithing is to try making this Christmas ornament.

Cut out a circle from a sheet of tinplate using tin snips. Then use a punch and hammer to make a border around the ornament. This can be done however you like.

Score where the main design of the ornament will be using a divider. Use a half-round punch with teeth to hammer around the outline you etched in. Take out shaping by hammering as you work to keep the ornament flat.

Use a straight punch to add straight lines to the rosette pattern and flatten again. A rosette punch is then used to add a center to the floral design. Add dots around the rosette with a nail set, and use the same tool to punch a hole through the top of the ornament for hanging.

Attach wire or string to complete the ornament.


6) Scrap Tin Flower Artwork  

 

This scrap tin artwork tutorial is perfect for people who are brand new to tinsmithing and want to work with basic tools they have around the house.

To begin, cut off the top and bottom of a drink can with tin snips or scissors. Cut out petal shapes from the body of the can as shown in the video. These can be as large or small as you want.

Pain the petals with spray paint and chalk paint. Gather any leftover scraps from cutting out the petals and paint these a different color. These pieces will be used for the leaves of the flower. Twigs from your backyard can also be painted and used as a stem for the flower.

Arrange all of your pieces on a small square canvas to create a design that you like best. Once you are happy with how the project looks, you can hot glue all the pieces down.


7) Embossed Wall Art 

 

This embossed wall art project is another perfect beginner project if you do not have many tinsmithing tools yet. Start by cutting off the top and bottom of a drink can and flatten the metal out.

Score the edges of the metal and fold them over to get rid of any sharpness. Attach a paper pattern to the metal as shown and trace the design with a dotting tool or bobby pins.

Emboss the rest of the design by rubbing on both the front and the back of the tin as shown in the video. Add as many details as you like to finish up the project.

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