Making Tin Can Toys

by Edward Thatcher 1919


Soft Solder

When two or more pieces of metal are joined together with metallic cement, they are said to be soldered. Sheet tin, of which cans are constructed, is always soldered with soft solder, a mixture of lead and tin, usually 50 percent lead and 50 percent tin. This solder is usually supplied in wire or bar form at any hardware or electrical supply house. Copper, brass, bronze, iron, silver, gold, and practically any metal except aluminum may soldered with soft solder.


Sheet Tin

Sheet tin, so-called, really consists of a thin sheet of iron coated on both sides with tin. This coating of tin serves several purposes. It enables the solder to adhere easily; it prevents the iron from rusting; and when the sheet tin is made into can form, the tin coating protects the contents of the can from chemical action on the iron.

Soldering Process

Soft solder is applied to the metal to be soldered in a molten state and this operation requires considerable heat. When heat is applied to metal it usually oxidizes that metal; that is, dirties it. Solder will not adhere to oxidized metal. The metal must be protected with a coating called a flux while being soldered. Soldering paste, soldering fluid or "killed acid," resin, paraffin, heavy oils, and vaseline all serve as fluxes, some better than others. The soldering paste is by far the best, as will be shown later. Soft solder is applied to the tin, on the point of a hot soldering copper, often wrongly called a soldering iron." A soldering copper consists of a pointed bar of copper suitably fixed to an iron shank which is firmly set in a wooden handle. The point of the copper must be well coated with solder or tinned," so that when it is heated it will pick up the solder and convey it to the joint to be soldered. The hot copper, charged with solder, is passed slowly along the joint and as the tin to be soldered receives enough heat from the copper, the solder leaves the copper and adheres to the tin, firmly uniting it.

Heating Apparatus

Some form of heating apparatus is necessary to heat and maintain the soldering copper at the melting or flowing point of the solder. The copper may be heated in a gas furnace especially made for soldering coppers, or over an ordinary gas stove burner or a common blue flame oil stove, or a charcoal fire, a wood fire burned down to embers, or a plumbers' gasoline torch, but never in a coal fire. Coal contains too much sulphur which oxidizes the copper and renders it useless for soldering purposes.

Blue Flame Oil Stove

For heating the coppers in my country shop, I use a blue flame oil stove, one of the less expensive sort, with the asbestos ring wick and the short removable chimneys. The stove has two burners and will heat from four to six coppers at once. The flames may be regulated nicely so as to give just the required amount of heat and this stove consumes very little kerosene, and, therefore, costs little to operate. I Fig.16, it will be noticed that there is a curved hood over each stove hole. These hoods may be easily made from part of a large can or of a piece of tin or sheet iron bent into shape. These hoods conserve the heat and throw it about the coppers. I also place a piece of heavy wire netting over the grating of the stove holes to support the coppers and to perm, their being laid to one side, out of the intense heat when not immediately needed. The blue flame oil stove forms the most satisfactory arrangement for heating coppers that I have ever used in the country. These stoves are easily taken care of and are understood by almost everyone. The directions should be nailed up alongside the stove and carefully followed, particularly as to cleaning the burners once or twice each season.