Making Tin Can Toys

by Edward Thatcher 1919


Scribe Inside Edge Figure 23

Various round trays may be made from tin cans. These are very simple to make and are very attractive and convenient for ash trays, bottle casters and the like. A match box holder may be soldered to the center of the tray and any smoker will appreciate this. These simple trays have proved to be one of the most popular problems for certain wounded soldiers in an American base hospital in France.

Turning Over Edges on Round Trays

Select a rather large can to cut down for a tray. A can from 4 to 6 inches in diameter is best with which to start tray making. This can should be round, as the square cans are very difficult, if not impossible, to handle when turning over an edge. Set the dividers to 1 1/4 inches and scribe a line parallel to the bottom of the can. Cut the can down and be careful to cut it off as straight as possible at the scribed line. Place a square maple block in the vise; the same maple block you have used for turning the edges of the handle for the biscuit cutter. Be sure that the edges of the block are square and sharp. Set the dividers to 1/4 inch, rest one leg of the dividers on the rim of the tray and scribe a line around the inside, 1/4 inch down from the edge, as indicated in Fig. 23. Rest the edge of the tray on the edge of wooden block so that the line scribed 1/4 inch do from the edge rests directly over the edge of the block as indicated in Fig. 24 a. Tilt the tray back on the block until the edge raised about 1/16 inch up from the surface of the block, the line still resting directly over the edge of the block.

Using a Forming Mallet Figure 24

Using the Forming Mallet

Take up the special forming mallet and use the rounded end to start hammering the tin down to the block, still keeping the tray tilted as indicated in Fig. 24 b. Turn the tray around as you hammer so that the tray is slightly flanged out by the mallet blows as you turn it around on the block. Be sure to hammer the tin very gently and evenly, taking care not to stretch it down more in one place than another. Tin will stand considerable stretching if handled gently and evenly, but heavy mallet blows will stretch and crack it, and it will tear if unevenly stretched. Never raise the edge of the tray away from the block more than 1/16 of an inch, but always tilt the tray back a little more each time you hammer entirely around it. The tin will quickly flange out and after having hammered entirely around the tray three or four times, the rim should flange out to about the angle indicated in Fig. 25, No. III.

Forming Mallet on Vise and Block Figure 25-26

Try to hammer in such a way as to flange the tin over evenly from the scribed line. The mallet blows should be directed in toward the line which always rests at the edge of the block, rather than toward the edge of the tin. When the edge has been turned over as far indicated in Fig. 25, No. III, change the position of the tray and rest the bottom of it on the top of the block and hammer gently on the edge as indicated in Fig. 25 until the edge or flange stands out at right angles to the side of the tray. Continue hammering until the edge of the tray stands at about the angle indicated in Fig. 25, No. v. Remove the maple block from the vise and secure a round wooden mallet in it, the mallet being about 2 1/2 or 3 inches in diameter, or a piece of iron pipe, if held in the vise, may be used for an anvil instead of the mallet. Hang the tray over the end of the mallet or pipe and hold it firmly in position, turning it slowly around the anvil as the edge is hammered down to the side of the tray, Fig. 26. Do not try to hammer the edge down all at once, but go entirely around the turned flange or edge several times with the mallet, hammering very lightly and bending the edge down more each time the tray is hammered around. The flanges or turned part will wrinkle slightly during the turning, but if the edge has been turned evenly and slowly from the start, this wrinkling will not matter, as the wrinkles will gradually hammer out. Try to hammer in such a way that the edge or top of the tray will remain rounded and not get hammered together (Fig. 27).

Rounded Edge Figure 27

When the edge is turned completely in and touches the sides, reverse the forming mallet and use the wedge-shaped end to hammer the wrinkles out taking care to hammer inside the edge so as not to flatten the edge of the tray, Fig. 28. The edge should look like Fig. 27, and then your tray is finished and ready to be boiled up in the lye solution and painted. The edge of the tray may be made of any height that suits the maker, but never try to turn over less than 1/4 inch at the edge nor any more than 3/8 inch, as either operation is very difficult, if not impossible. The tin is taken up considerably in the turning and the 1/4 inch marked off for the turned edge of the tray described above will be about 3/16 of an inch when turned. This turning operation is used a great deal for finishing the edges of different cylindrical an curved surfaces used in the tin can work, as a sharp thin edge should never be left about the work.

Figure 30

Making an Ash Tray and Match Box Holder

Make a tray about 6 inches in diameter and 3/4 of an inch in height when the edge is turned over, and then find a smaller can about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, such as a soup or baking powder can. Scribe a line around this can 1 inch from the base. Cut the can down to this line and place the can bottom up in the center of the bottom of the first tray, holding it in position with a stick of wood and soldering it to the tray. Open a box of safety matches and measure the diameter of the end of the box part that holds the matches. The usual measurement of the end of the inside box is 5/8 by 1 3/8 inches. Cut a strip of tin 5/8 of an inch wide and 2 1/8 inches long. Make a mark 1/2 inch from each end of the strip and bend the tin at right angles at each end, using each mark for the bend. The strip should then appear as shown in Fig. 29, A. Solder this strip in the center of the small can as shown in Fig. 29. B, but make sure that the cover of the match box will slide over it before soldering it fast.

Forming Figure 28

Cut two pieces of tin 1 1/2 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches in length. See that they are cut perfectly square. Mark off a line 1/4 inch in from one end of each piece and turn the tin at right angles from this mark to the edge. The corners at opposite of each piece should be rounded off by cutting with the shears, shown in Fig. 29, C Round over the edge with some fine emery cloth. Place the cover of the match box in position over the strip of tin soldered to the can in the center of the tray. Place the two pieces of tin against the two opposite sides of match box as shown in Fig. 29. Then move them slightly away from the box and mark the position the flanged ends where they rest on the can, remove the box cover and solder these pieces of tin in place. Be sure to solder these pieces in such a way that the match box cover will slip between them easily and fit over the bent strip of tin at the bottom. The ash tray and match box holder will then be completed and ready for the lye bath and painting. An extra coat of some high-grade spar varnish should be given the ash trays to prevent the hot ashes from burning the paint. This varnish should only be applied after the first coat or coats of paint are thoroughly dry. The height of the trays at the edge may be altered to suit and also the height and shape of the can soldered to the center of the tray. The measurements are merely given for convenience in working out these first problems. Every effort should be made to think out problems of your own, taking the suggestions from the shapes of the cans themselves. Thus a square can may be soldered in the center of the tray, and small semi-cylindrical troughs of tin may be soldered to the rim of the tray to hold lighted cigars and cigarettes.