Friday, May 26, 2017

Creating Signs from Old Tin

Hey Y'all! I've been having fun creating these rustic tin signs recently and I thought I would share some tips on how I cut out the tin shapes and attach them together! I've made tin mason jar signs, rustic Shasta style campers and old trucks, hearts with wings, and bird yard stakes. This week, I had a custom request for a fifth wheel camper and truck combo from a lady on etsy. She loved what I made and ask for a second set! As I made the second set today, I took lots of pictures and thought I would share about the process to make the signs / wall decor. (I may even do a live Facebook video this weekend, if the weather and time cooperates.)

First, you need a pile of scrap tin. In our case the five ribbed tin has been salvaged from my Granddaddy's old hay barn. So sad to see it coming down, but I'm glad I can repurpose some of the short pieces into scrap art for someone else to enjoy.  

Next, a little motivation from my pencil "Get it Done!"
Tools required to do the task:

  • electric cutter
  • wizard tool with grinding wheel
  • drill and drill bit
  • rivets
  • pop riveter tool
  • additional hand tools such as pliers, wire cutters, and occasionally a hammer to flatten tin
  • sand paper to clean surface of tin
  • pencil
  • oil for cutter

Confession: I have no idea why that paint brush is included in the picture!

2nd Step - have husband use his calibration tool, thingamajig (not pictured) to get the spacing right on the blades for the thickness of the tin. May also require google and a calculator  to do the mathematical conversions to get right spacing. This electric cutter is pretty nifty! It doesn't make tight turns, but its does a smooth job of cutting the tin compared to tin snips. 

Here's the first truck and camper I made before the last market. 
And here's the flock of bird yard stakes, with bottle cap eyes and keys for wings!

This is the fifth wheel camper and vintage truck that I made for a lady this week. Mason jar lids form the tires and Altoid tins are rusted out and form the truck window. 
Since she wanted another set, I traced around the outline of the original ones. (I usually free hand my patterns. Only the birds have a paper pattern.)
Can you see a truck and camper here? I find it is much easier to cut the blob out from the bigger sheet of tin and then go back and give them shape. Like I said, tight turns don't happen.
Now they've got shape and then I dig through the scraps to find pieces to make the doors, windows, and awning. Rustier and striped pieces work great for different shapes. 
Now, its time to grind the edges (front and back) for a much smoother finish.
I use Jeff's Wizard tool with a grinding wheel. See how the edges are now a shiny silver, where I used the wizard?
Now, we've got to attach the pieces of tin together. I used pop rivets (thanks to Jeff for lending me yet another of his tools and showing me how to operate it.) I predrill a hole through both pieces of tin, then rivet them together. I use a smaller size rivet (1/8 inch, I think) and it takes 2-3 times squeezing the tool to get it done. A little advice - predrill and rivet one hole at a time! I promise, it just works better and you don't have to worry about the holes getting off.
Now it's time for a baling wire hanger - drill two holes for the wire to run through. If you've been raised on a farm, you know baling wire (and duct tape) are holding many things together! I'm sure there's a fancy tool for curling the wire, but I use an old Sharpie marker! 
Hangers are on and now its time to add a little raffia or ribbon to finish them off.
As a little bonus, I cut this little mini Mason jar out from the tin above the bed of the truck and now I'm wondering what I should paint on it? Any ideas? 

So there you have it. They look pretty simple, but there are several steps and tools involved to get them completed. Which ones are your favorites?

(P.S. - if you don't want to DIY, the mason jars, small heart with wings, and vintage camper are available in my shop. There are 2 more mason jars, several birds, and a large set of tin wings at our Uniques and Antiques booth in Minola, Texas.) 


  1. Very cool artwork. Love the setting with the trees etc. The mason jars are swoon worthy.

  2. Your tin signs are adorable! The rustic trucks and mason jars are my favorite. Pinned

  3. Can't choose a favorite, they're all nice!
    Wow - these take a lot of time and your talent.


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