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How to make upcycled tin blossoms

Celebrate Earth Day (and Spring!) by repurposing old tin into dimensional floral components

When you work with decorative tins, people tend to give you all sorts of them. I always appreciate the thought, but often the tins I receive aren’t particularly interesting. I was ready to send a selection of the less-exciting and single-colored tins to the recycling bin when inspiration struck — flowers! After years of using circles in my work, it occurred to me that with just a few nips, I could quickly transform a ho-hum circle of tin into a lovely little blossom.

SUPPLIES

  • Circle template
  • Scribe
  • Hand shears
  • Sheet-metal nibbler (optional)
  • Fine-cut flat hand file
  • #0000 steel wool
  • Confirming or chainnose pliers
  • Rawhide mallet
  • Steel bench block
  • 320–400-grit sandpaper
  • Dimple-forming pliers or dapping block
  • Nylon or wooden forming block
  • Wooden dapping punch

INSTRUCTIONS

How to make upcycled tin blossoms 1
Photo 1
How to make upcycled tin blossoms 2
Photo 2
Cut a circle. Choose a piece of flat, single-colored tin. Pick a 1 1⁄2-in. (38 mm) or larger circle on a circle template, and use a scribe to trace the circle onto your tin [PHOTO 1]. Use hand shears to cut out the circle [PHOTO 2].

NOTE: Since a flower is an organic shape, don’t worry about making a precise circle.
How to make upcycled tin blossoms 3
Photo 3
How to make upcycled tin blossoms 4
Photo 4
Create the petals. Use a sheet-metal nibbler or shears to cut small, V-shaped notches around the perimeter of the circle [PHOTO 3]. Your petals can be wide or narrow depending on the sort of look you want.

NOTE: I prefer to use sheet-metal nibblers for this step because it’s quick, but shears work just as well.

Smooth the edge. Use a fine-cut flat hand file to remove burrs from the edge of the flower. Start with the back of the flower facing up, and hold the file at a 30–40° angle to the edge to remove the burrs [PHOTO 4]. Repeat to remove the burrs from the front of the flower.
How to make upcycled tin blossoms 5
Photo 5
How to make upcycled tin blossoms 6
Photo 6
Use the file to round the sharp corners of each petal [PHOTO 5].

NOTE: Filing can be a bit tricky since the tin is so thin: It wants to catch in your file. Use a fine-cut file, apply light pressure, and be patient.

Finish the edge of the flower by rubbing the perimeter with #0000 steel wool [PHOTO 6].
How to make upcycled tin blossoms 7
Photo 7
Scribe a center point. Use a small circle template to scribe a circle in the center of the flower. I like to make mine a bit scribbly, but you can choose how you want yours to look [PHOTO 7].

Create ridges between the petals. Position confirming pliers or chainnose pliers so that the tip is at the edge of your center circle and the edge of the pliers’ jaw is aligned with one of the notches in the edge of the flower. Tightly grip the metal, fold it down against the pliers’ jaw, and then bend it back up to create a ridge.

NOTE: Sometimes I use a rawhide mallet to lightly hammer the tin against the pliers’ jaw to make a crisp line.
How to make upcycled tin blossoms 8
Photo 8
How to make upcycled tin blossoms 9
Photo 9

Repeat to create a ridge from the center of the flower to each notch [PHOTO 8].

Place the flower on a steel bench block, and use a rawhide hammer to flatten it [PHOTO 9].

Sand the ridges. Use a piece of 320–400-grit sandpaper to lightly sand one ridge. Pull the sandpaper from the center of the flower out toward the edge. This should remove most of the painted finish from the ridge and leave light marks on the rest of the flower.

How to make upcycled tin blossoms 10
Photo 10
How to make upcycled tin blossoms 11
Photo 11
Repeat to sand each ridge, and then go back over any areas that need additional sanding. The goal is to create a natural, veined finish that mimics the pattern on real petals [PHOTO 10].

Form the flower. Place the flower face-down over a small depression in a dapping block, and use the matching punch to dome the center of the flower [PHOTO 11]. You can use dimple-forming pliers instead, if you prefer.
How to make upcycled tin blossoms 12
Photo 12
NOTE: Don’t try to dome the tin too much: It’s much more brittle than copper or silver, and it will tear if you push it too far.

Turn the flower face-up in a shallow depression of a nylon or wooden form-ing block, and use a wooden punch to gently form the petals from the center out. The flower will naturally indent along the ridged lines and notches to create a lovely, realistic-looking blossom [PHOTO 12].
Tip!

Is it tin?

Most of the “tin” you’ll find is actually cold-rolled steel with a painted finish. You may not want to expose your good tools to the rigors of steel, so if you work in precious metals, consider purchasing inexpensive shears, files, and cutters to use when working with cold-rolled steel.

FIND MORE: pendants , metal , dapping

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