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Create a Wall Hanging With Antique Ceiling Tin

A long-time crafter, Dolores has created sewing projects for private clients, including pillow covers, linen pillowcases, and sink skirts.

This is how the wall hanging looks when complete.

This is how the wall hanging looks when complete.

Repurposing Old Tin Ceiling as Home Décor

Salvaged material can be made into attractive décor for the home, giving a vintage look or adding a unique touch to your home design. It's fun to create art projects with recycled items. I'll show you how to make an attractive wall hanging out of salvaged ceiling tin with step-by-step instructions.

I picked up a piece of antique ceiling tin at an architectural salvage yard, not sure of what to do with it. I thought maybe I'd mount it behind the stove, but I could not get it to fit.

Then, I saw several wall hangings made out of old tin ceiling panels for sale at a local art festival and decided to give it a try. It was really quite easy to do and a lot of fun.

The first order of the day was to strip off the old paint, which was peeling off anyway. Since it was probably lead-based paint, I tried to be careful. I used a stripping liquid, steel wool, and a metal brush. This was done outdoors in winter. I spread a large piece of heavy plastic on the ground and wore gloves, a mask, and safety glasses.

Equipment Needed for the Wall Hanging

Here are some of the things that I used to complete the project after I finished stripping off the old paint:

  • Tin snips
  • Wood for framing (1" x 2")
  • A vise
  • C Clamps
  • Rubber mallet
  • Electric drill and titanium drill bit (to go through metal)
  • Screws
  • Heavy-duty staple gun and staples
  • Metal primer spray paint (white)
  • Acrylic paint ( a good quality paint will give richer colors)
  • Acrylic clear coat paint spray
  • Rags for painting

Make the Frame

  • Cut the ceiling tin to the size you want with tin snips—it's quite easy! Cut the piece a bit larger than the frame so that you can fold it under and secure it to the frame. Be careful, that cut tin is sharp!
  • Measure the edges of the tin.
  • Cut two pieces of wood for the long edges and two for the short if you are making a rectangle, or four even pieces if you are making a square. Cut the frame pieces a bit smaller than you cut the metal. You will want to fold the metal over the frame.
  • Secure the frame with screws.
  • Clamp the edge of the tin between two pieces of wood with the C Clamps, with one piece of wood turned on its side—the side that will be the outer edge of the frame.
  • Then clamp the whole thing in a vise.
Clamp tin between 2 boards, then between C clamps, then clamp in vise.

Clamp tin between 2 boards, then between C clamps, then clamp in vise.

  • Bend the tin forward over the wood frame.
  • Hammer the folded edges flat with a rubber mallet.
  • After you've bent the tin, repeat with all four sides, checking to make sure that the tin fits over the frame.
Bend the tin forward.

Bend the tin forward.

  • Put the tin in the vise and press the edges real tight as shown in the picture below. Make sure you press the corners down tightly so that it will look neat.
Squash the edges.

Squash the edges.

  • Press the frame pieces into the shallow box that you have made with the tin.

The frame does not have to support the tin, per se, so it does not have to be cut at an angle. This is a frame even a dummy can make. Of course, if you are good at this sort of thing, you can do it the right way. But that's not me!

Staple the wood pieces together. You can use a bit of wood glue first.

Press frame into box you made with the tin.

Press frame into box you made with the tin.

  • Set the framed ceiling tin in a vise.
  • With the electric drill, predrill screw holes in the tin but do not go all the way into the wood (the screw holes should be a tad smaller than the screws).
  • Screw the screws through the holes and into the wood with the electric drill.
  • Squash all along the edges with the vise, it really neatens it up!
Screw the tin onto the frame.

Screw the tin onto the frame.

Painting the Tin Ceiling Wall Hanging

Paint with a metal primer. I used white Krylon metal outdoor spray paint.

After you have decided on the colors you want to use, just let the creative juices flow. Of course, you can make the wall hanging one color, but I wanted to use three—brown, teal, and copper.

In order to achieve a muted look, paint over the primer with rags.

I am sorry that I can't tell you exactly how to do this properly, but if you look at the pictures, you can see how I did it. This is where the creativity comes in.

For a multicolored tin ceiling wall hanging, you should build up the layers. Go over each layer several times, but not exactly. I was going for a smeary look that I thought would add some character.

It may be a good idea to use a piece of scrap tin for practice to help you get a good idea of what you want it to look like. Or, just let it happen! Wheee!

Paint the First Layer

Paint over each layer for a richer color.

First I ragged on some brown paint unevenly on top of the white primer.

I used a rag to apply the paint for a smudgy look.

The white that's showing is the primer

The white that's showing is the primer

Next Add Some Blue

After allowing the brown to dry, I applied some of the blue in the areas that were still white.

Remember that acrylic paint dries very quickly. If you opt for an oil paint, you will have to wait longer for the paint to dry.

Different section

Different section

The Brown and the Blue

Here is another section of the tin with the blue and brown. I did not want all the sections to look the same.

This picture shows the ceiling tin after several layers of blue and brown paint were applied.

Some of the paint was overlapped and some was ragged off while still wet to get a real funky look.

Closer up

Closer up

Highlight With Copper

After I was satisfied with the brown and blue, I added some metallic copper paint.

Layer the copper paint for a richer look.

Of course, there is no right or wrong way of doing this—just have fun.

I wanted to make sure that I got it the way that I liked it. I sure didn't want to sand it down again.

Of course, if you don't like the result, you can always just keep going over it until you do.

Tin ceiling with copper

Tin ceiling with copper


Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on January 03, 2011:

morgang -oh thank you, I am so glad that I am of help! Dealing with rust can be a pain but if you are into this sort of thing, it can be a lot of fun. Hope you enjoy creating your ceiling tile piece!

CollB - not quite as complicated as it looks. So many things look difficult if you've never done it before. I kept putting off making the wall hanging because I could not find enough information on how to do it. Think of a recipe for, say, soup. It looks complicated if you've never done it, but once you learn, it goes pretty well. Thanks!

CollB on January 01, 2011:

An amazing idea, thanks for sharing this post - the wall hanging looks complicated and decorative.

morgang48 on December 31, 2010:

This is exactly what I was hoping to find. I got a bunch of large odd sized pieces of ceiling tile from an old store in northern Nebraska and want to make hanging pieces. Your directions are wonderful. So far I have sprayed the back of one with a Rustoleum product, Rust Reformer, which says it changes rust into a paintable surface. There is severe rust damage on the backs in several areas so I'll see how this works.