Making Tin Can Toys

by Edward Thatcher 1919

Making Tin Can Toys Introduction Part 2

The steam roller, shown in Plate XI, was made by a boy of ten after a model which I made for it. This same boy developed quite a trade of his own by soldering up various pieces of tin ware for his mother and the neighbors. But, better still, working with the tin cans has developed the inventive faculties of my class to a surprising degree. The pupils have thought out and made many models of their own-not only toys but useful things as well. Various members of the class investigated the large trucks, automobiles, hoisting engines, locomotives, boats and such things seen in any water-front community, to see how they were made and how they worked, and why. These pupils then returned to the school shops and made models of their own, many of which showed considerable invention and ingenuity.

I decided to teach the Occupational Aides in my classes at Columbia University how to make these toys, so that they in turn could teach the wounded soldiers in the hospitals. It is a great pleasure to know that as this book goes to press many a wounded soldier has been and is still being amused and benefited by making the tin can toys here. But the making of tin can toys is by no means limited to hospitals and schools. Anyone who cares to tinker, to handle tools, to use up waste materials, may find pleasure and profit from assembling tin cans and parts of them. Many useful and attractive things may be made for the home, shop, or camp.

I have found it quite possible to make many decorative things from tin cans, and for some years I have made lanterns, candlesticks, sconces and trays of all kinds. The shape of the cans themselves lends them to decoration when assembled by a person having a sense of design and proportion. There is nothing weak or flimsy about a well made tin can toy. A strip of flat tin is very easily bent; if that same strip of tin is bent at right angles through its whole length, like the angle iron encountered in structural iron work, it will be found to be remarkably stiff.