Crafting With Recycled Aluminum Cans

Windflower Collection

Windflower Collection

This is a continuation of an earlier post: Repurposing aluminum drink can to the max! I want to explain in more detail a few of the crafts I’ve made along with some tips for repurposing aluminum drink cans. Some crafts need specific equipment, others may be created with everyday household items. There are many YouTube videos, Instructables, and Internet crafting tutorials about how to deconstruct an aluminum drink can, so I won’t reinvent the wheel here. However, I do have a few suggestions that might make the chore a little easier.

Break Down

First: Save the tabs!! You can make all kinds of things from them after you accumulate a bunch, from faux chain mail, lamp shades, to jewelry.

Can opener used on the side of the rim.

Can opener used on the side of the rim.

Second: I would suggest using a manual can opener on the side of the can rim instead of the top as usual. There’s a special opener on the market for just this sort of side cut (Safe-Cut), but a regular opener will work with some help from the kitchen sink.

Use the sink to keep the can properly aligned

Use the sink to keep the can properly aligned

Hold the can against the inside corner of a sink to keep it aligned perpendicular to the opener. The opener may want to stray off a bit if you don’t. With this method, you will get rid of the center top and free the rim/ring in one step with most can styles.

Cleanly cut can top

Cleanly cut can top

Cutting off the top shoulder of the can will be much easier so the top edge of the can will be less jagged and dented. Third: When cutting down the side of the can to the bottom edge, use the product information printing as a guide for straight lines. Fourth: Gently flatten the curled sheet of aluminum on the edge of a rounded table edge and don’t over do it or the sheet will start curling in the opposite direction. Once flatten, the metal sheets can be easily stored in a file folder without taking up too much space.

Can parts

Can parts

I have found uses for nearly all parts of the aluminum cans and have very little scrap to take to the recycle center. The top center is about the only thing I throw away.

  • The shoulder sections can be rolled into flower shapes.
  • The bottoms can be used for miniature ponds, or with slight changes, paired together to create fitted round gift boxes.
  • I have yet to find a use for the top rim rings, but I’m saving them until inspiration hits.

Punched

After you have flat aluminum sheets to play with, your creations are limited by your imagination and tools. I bought a die-cutting/embossing machine just to punch out little gates and windows. It was a failed idea, but I learned more about the properties of aluminum, the limitations of the machine, dies, and embossing templates. On the bright side, the machine paid for itself in a month with the things I could successfully punch and emboss! I found a few paddle punches with tiny designs that I am really liking, too! Most of the designs can be cut with scissors or a craft knife, but take longer and sometimes produce minor finger cuts. TIPS:

  • Use the bigger dies with the deeper cutting blades. The intricately gorgeous, but shallow, dies don’t last long and you will dull them cutting metals to the point they won’t even cut paper. Plus, they seem to trash the plastic cutting plates quicker than the big dies.
  • You can cut through at least two sheets of drink can aluminum, and more if the material is very thin. Check to see if the drink cans are made of thin steel! The dies may not be able to cleanly cut through the steel without several passes, and certainly not more than one sheet at a time.
  • Keep a few extra cutting plates handy!
Windflower Collection

Windflower Collection

Windflowers: The wind-powered flowers have been the most fun (see them in action), but jewelry and hair barrettes are really cool, too.  Gates & Windows: These are made from those intricate shallow dies I mentioned. I used the few gates and windows, that I managed to cleanly punch, as grilles for fairy doors. I was able to use the scrap punched pieces for tiny embellishments on miniature fairy houses, too. Beautiful Bugs: Some of the smaller dies with a deep cutting blade come in bug designs (dragonflies, butterflies, etc). They are cute enough in flat form, display motion when bent into shape, and more beautiful embellished with paint, ink stains, glue-on gems, etc.

Poked

I’m sure you’ve seen the old punched tin cans. You can do the same with the aluminum drink cans or the flattened sheets with less effort. Just create a design, then use a punch, nail, or screwdriver with a small hammer to knock holes along the design. You could use the paddle punches to cut designs as well. Think of all the candle holders, lampshades, little fairy signs, window decorations, and gizmos that could be made!

Prodded

Hand embossing with a ballpoint pen is pretty easy to do with the aluminum sheets, too. Lay a sheet over a textured surface and rub with a burnishing tool or the back of a spoon. Have you seen the unique boxes and ornaments that people have made from aluminum cans? They can be fragile if you bend too much, but once you master the construction, they’re very sturdy. Check out YouTube for the various techniques and ideas, and start with Atomic Shrimp’s “Drink Can Tinwork” (my aluminum can obsession is all his fault). I hope I have provided some help and inspiration in using aluminum drink cans for your craft projects. They’re free versatile materials and you’ll save them from the landfills! Recycle, upcycle, repurposed, and reuse!

*.:。✿*’゚’*✿。.:* *.:。✿*’゚’*✿。.:*

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