Friday, November 20, 2009

Punched Aluminum Lantern

I checked a book out of the library this week called eco craft: recycle, recraft, restyle by Susan Wasinger. It includes some clever ideas for using common throw-away items to create decorative household items. One project that caught my eye was a mock punched tin Christmas ornament made with flattened pop cans. I have always loved the look of punched tin and thought this would be a great way to use up some of the many cans we have in our kitchen (a definite downside of moving to a state with no can deposit). I think that punched tin is most beautiful, however, when it is illuminated by a candle. So rather than crafting Christmas ornaments, I made a lantern.

First, using household scissors, I cut the tops and bottoms from 10 soda cans. I started by cutting around the top edge of the can, then straight down the side, then around the bottom. I evened out the edges once the tops and bottoms were removed. I flattened the metal sheets by gripping the short ends and running them against the edge of a doorframe (you could also curve it over the edge of a table or workbench). The actual lantern only requires 8 cans, but I made an extra "side" to practice on. I wore heavy work gloves when handling the cut cans because the edges are VERY sharp. Once the cans were flattened, I sprayed adhesive on the printed side of every can, let them dry for a moment, then put them together. I ended up with five sheets of metal, shiny on both sides.

For a pattern, I looked at a lot of pictures using Google Images. I was thinking about Celtic knots, but I wasn't sure how that would translate into punched dots. I looked at art nouveau designs, basic shapes like stars and circles, cirlicues, and on and on . . . I eventually saw a picture of a beautiful Moroccan lantern, and it inspired the pattern I drew. I used the metal sheets as a guide for size, then drew the pattern. I traced it three more times. My husband and brother-in-law made a frame for me using an eight foot length of corner molding, cut to the appropriate size with mitered ends.

I affixed a piece of cardboard and a piece of styrofoam to a board. Then I taped down my first sheet of aluminum with the pattern on top. Using a hammer and nail, I punched holes through the cans. I learned quickly that it does not take much pressure to go through both pieces of aluminum and tapping too hard will put a tear in the sheet. Also, as I said above, I made an extra sheet to test out my pattern and I ended up making a few small changes to my design. I eliminated a small circle from the center of my original drawing because that many punches so close together created a problem. Once all of my surfaces were punched, I glued the frame together using wood glue, then hotglued the metal sides in. I used lengths of square dowel hotglued into the four vertical corners to secure the edges of the metal (see picture). I will probably use wood filler to fill in the mitered corners that had small gaps, then sand and maybe stain the frame. Until then, however, the lantern will look great glowing in my window (especially now that it is dark by 5:00 pm here)!

This concept could be used to make holiday-themed lanterns to put on outdoor steps or along your walkway. If you didn't want to go to the trouble of making a frame, I think these punched sheets would even look great matted and framed as art. Maybe punch several cans, then wrap them into cylinders, secure the ends, then wire them along a strand of Christmas lights. Be creative and enjoy!

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