Making Tin Can Toys
by Edward Thatcher 1919
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Small strips of tin may be marked off entirely by the dividers by setting the dividers to the required dimension, placing the dividers so that one point rests against one edge of the strip to be marked off and then drawing the dividers along in such a manner that the point of the dividers that rests on the tin will scratch a line parallel to the edge. The edge of the tin that the point of the dividers rests against must, of course, be cut straight before beginning the marking operations. The strip thus marked off may be cut away and another one marked off in the same manner until the required number of strips is cut.
Suppose that four strips are to be cut, each strip to measure one by ten inches. Square up a piece of tin to measure four by ten inches. Open the divider so that the points are exactly one inch apart. Rest one point of the dividers against one edge of the tin as shown in Fig. 2 and draw it along the entire length of the tin so as to scratch a line parallel to the edge. Cut off this strip, taking care to make a straight cut and then mark off another strip and cut it off, and so on until all four strips are cut. This method of using the dividers for marking is more accurate and much easier than that of using a ruler to measure off each strip, and certainly more rapid.
Finding Wheel Centers with the Dividers. - When making wheels of tin cans, some easy method must be used to find the center of the wheel in order to punch or bore a hole for the axle so that the axle may be placed as near the center of the wheel as possible, and so that the wheel will run true once it is placed on the axle. The dividers may be used for this operation which is very simple. The can is first made up into wheel form as described in Chapter X, page 108. When the wheel is soldered together lay it flat on the bench. Open the dividers so that one point rests against the rim of the wheel or against the rolled edge of the can forming the rim of the wheel. If the wheel is made of a can that has a cap soldered on each end and this cap forms the end of the can (such as the small cans that are used for evaporated milk), then the one leg of the dividers may be rested in the slight line or depression just inside the rim that is invariably found in this can. Open the dividers so that the other point rests as near the center as you can guess it. When the dividers are set to dimension and are in position on the wheel as shown in Fig. 3,
Homemade Substitutes for Expensive Tools. - The tool of first importance in any metal working shop is a good vise. There is no substitute for this tool and a good one that measures three or three and a half inches across the jaws should be purchased from a reliable tool dealer. The next tool of importance is some form of anvil or anvils for flattening or rounding the tin. A small bench anvil may be purchased from the tool dealer. These are much like a blacksmith's anvil with a flat face and a conical horn and are made of iron and steel. The large mail order houses offer various small anvils of cast iron for farm use and these are excellent for the tin shop.
Excellent substitutes for these anvils are easily made from old flat irons and pieces of gas or water pipe. Short lengths of iron and steel bars may bell picked up about any junk pile, and these are very useful to form the tin over. The Flat Iron Anvil. - An old flat iron, the kind with the handle attached, may be found about almost any household. The handle should be broken off as close to the top of the iron as possible. Use a hammer and cold chisel for this and cut the handle ends deeply all around where they join the iron. When they are deeply nicked, several sharp blows from a large hammer should break the handle away. File away all roughness until the iron will set level with the smooth or ironing face uppermost. Then you have an excellent flat hard surface for straightening out tin or wire.
Pipe and Bar Anvils.-Short lengths of iron pipe, round and square iron and steel bars of various diameters may be held in the vise jaws and used to form the work over. Large wire nails may also be used for this purpose. The smaller sizes, such as 1/4, 3/8 or 1/2 inch in diameter, should be solid iron or steel bars 8 or 10 inches in length, as small pipe crushes and bends rather easily in the vise. Larger sizes, such as 3/4, 1/2, 1 or 2 inches in diameter, are better made of pipe as they are lighter and easier to handle and also easier to obtain. Get all the sizes suggested if possible and as many short pieces of square or flat bars as you find convenient to store away about the shop. They will come in very usefully for bending or forming operations. The method of holding them in the vise is plainly shown on page 89, Fig. 26.
If you have plenty of bench room and are handy with tools, several of the most used sizes of pipe and bars may be clamped or bolted directly to the bench with wooden or metal holding strips. The larger sizes, such as 3/4, 1, 1 ½, 2 and 3 inches in diameter, will be found very convenient if fastened to the bench in this manner. The Bench . - The shop bench should be about 31 inches in height. The top of the bench should be about 20 by 6 feet or larger if possible, and may easily be built by anyone familiar with tools. The top should be made of maple about 10 inches thick. If one cannot afford this bench a common kitchen table makes an excellent substitute. A good strong table of this sort may be purchased at any house furnishing store. These tables are furnished with a large drawer in which small tools may be kept. If much of the tin work is done, it will prove advantageous to have some light wooden shelves or racks built about the walls of the shop to store the various sized cans where they may be easily seen and reached.