Best Tin Can Recycling Craft
Recycle your tin cans into holders for pens, pencils and more
These four tin cans were plain metal cans in a former life. I've given them a tin can makeover in order to reuse them as "caddies" for all sorts of household and craft items. I can use them here at home or even give some as inexpensive Christmas gifts to friends and family.
These decorated cans are perfect for holding pens and pencils. But you can use them for many more items. We use one can each for scissors, rulers, x-acto knives, dry erase markers, paint brushes and highlighters. It helps me (as a mom and crafter) keep items organized so I can find them easily.
On this page you'll find step-by-step instructions for turning tin cans into works of art. And don't miss the list of other ideas (links provided) for more incredible tin can crafts.
Information on materials
Preparing the Tin Cans
A couple of tips
Clean the cans with warm soapy water (right after you empty them). And rinse and dry them right away. DO NOT put them in the dishwasher. They will rust.
Almost all cans have a thin metal rim around the top and bottom. You need those rims! The paper (or fabric) goes right to the edge of them. Every once in a while a can doesn't have a bottom rim. Check to make sure your cans have top and bottom rims.
NOTE: I use a can opener that does NOT leave any sharp edges on the can. I've included information about it and a video of how to use it near the bottom of this page.
Cover with Paper or Fabric?
With this recycling project, you have 2 options for covering the cans: paper or fabric. There are examples and instructions for both on this page. If you are working with kids, I recommend using paper. Fabric is a little trickier to work with and is more exacting.
There are limitless papers and fabrics available from craft stores. If you are recycling tin cans into gifts, it's easy to match themed papers and fabrics to the interests of the gift recipient. For a boy, there are lots of sports themes and for girls there are lots of princess patterns. You can find almost any theme you can think of.
Covering the cans with paper.
1. Pick out 2 coordinating papers. I'm choosing these bright papers because I know my daughter will like them.
2. Measure the height of your can exactly between the metal rims. You can use a ruler, or just mark the height on a slip of paper like I did here.
3. Mark the height of the can on your paper and cut it out. Then wrap it around the can and measure for the length. Add 1/2 inch for the paper to overlap onto itself.
4. Cut out a piece of paper for the inside too. It should be about 1/4 inch shorter than the outside piece, but measure it to make sure.
5. Carefully roll up the piece for the inside of the can(with the pattern facing in) and put it down into the can. Press the paper firmly against the inside of the can and secure it in place with a piece of tape at the seam.
6. Finally, add the outside piece of paper. You can use a small piece of tape to hold the first end of the paper to the can if needed. Now secure the tag end with a gluestick. If the paper is thick, double-wrap a few rubber bands around it until the glue holds and dries.
Complete tin can makeover!
Some cans look best when the metal rims are painted.
Here's how to do it:
1. "Rough up" the surface of the can around the rims with a scouring pad. This will help the paint to stick. Then wipe with a damp paper towel to remove any debris and let dry.
2. Paint the edges (will take 3 coats of paint). Let paint dry between each coat. You don't need to paint the whole can. Just paint about 1/4 inch down from the top, up from the bottom and on the inside of the top rim.
3. Cut out papers and attach as described above. Here you can see the inside and outside of the can.
Another recycled tin can.
How to cover a can with fabric.
1. Choose your fabric and iron it. I found this scrap of fabric with a baseball pattern in my fabric box.
2. Measure the exact height of your can between the rims and cut out your fabric piece to the correct height. It's best to measure off of the selvage edge (if possible) to keep your fabric good and "squared up" and with the grain of the fabric. Use a rotary cutter for cutting the fabric if at all possible. Cutting with scissors will be tricky since it needs to be very straight.
3. Measure around the can to get the length and add 1/2 inch. Cut the fabric to length with pinking shears. This will help with any possible raveling.
4. Spray a thin layer of spray mount on the back of the fabric. You will want to do this outside. If you aren't familiar with spray mount be sure to read the back of the can. You'll need good ventilation. This product is very sticky so it may take some getting used to.
5. Instead of painting the edges, this time I used a Sharpie marker. Although it was quicker, it did not cover as well as the paint. Measure, cut and attach paper to the inside of the can (not shown).
6. Carefully get the fabric started around the can as straight as possible. You'll probably need to adjust it, unwrapping and rewrapping as you go (since it needs to stay perfectly centered). Wrap the fabric all the way around the can and smooth it down with your hands.
Tin Can covered in baseball fabric
More fabric covered tin cans
And a tip
These larger cans were, at one time, full of baby formula powder. I've had these cans a LONG time! To my knowledge, formula powder no longer comes in cans (but I could be wrong). I actually covered the outside AND inside of the cans with fabric. I don't recommend using fabric on the inside of the can since the spray mount sticks to itself and can be very tricky to handle.
Notice that I added narrow ribbon to the top and bottom edges of some of the cans. This is a good way to "hide" any fabric edges that aren't exactly straight.
Are tin cans really made of tin?
"Tin cans" are no longer made primarily of tinplate steel. Most cans are now made of aluminum with tops made of tinplate. I think the name "tin can" will always be around no matter the material.
More awesome tin can crafts
I've just been out scouring the internet for more of the very best tin can crafts. I've chosen how-to webpages with pictures and good instructions. Enjoy!
- How to make kid stilts from cans
A craft kids will love to make AND play with. This old idea is a kid's favorite.
- Make a bank from a coffee can
Perfect for a kid's project.
- Our Flag Can
Open up a tin can and paint it as a flag. Be careful, it's sharp before you roll the edges back.
- More using cans to organize craft supplies.
This idea shows cans grouped and attached to a display board. Really neat.
- Tin Can Lantern
Ooh oh oh don't miss this one! I forgot about this one til I saw this page.
- Pincushion made from tin can
This crafter gives excellent instructions along with lots of pictures to show you just how it's done.
- More organizing ideas
Here's another idea for using your made-over tin cans. Use them in bathroom or kitchen drawers for organizing.
- Utensil holder for your kitchen
This crafter has used a large tin can covered with fabric to make a nice holder for her kitchen utensils.
- Music Box from a tin can
Yes, you heard me right. Here you'll see how Music Boxes are made from tin cans. Notice how the crafter "hinged" the lid. Great idea.
- Tin can wrapped in natural twine
A bonus with wrapped twine is the nice texture from the directional lines.
- Another Fabric Covered Can
This crafter covered her can with fabric, then sewed it closed. You'll see what I mean.
Here's the can opener I mentioned - it's my favorite kitchen gadget - How to use the Kuhn Rikon Can Opener
This can opener is available from Amazon. I'm going to add a link below in case you want to read more about it. From one of the Amazon reviews I learned I wasn't the only one who couldn't figure it out right away.
Leaves NO sharp edges
This is the can opener I use on all of my tin cans. Click on the link below for more information and availability. At the time this article was published there were 42 customer reviews so check those out if you are interested.