Jewelry Making with Alternative Metals: Upcycled Cookie-Tin Earrings, Part Two

Continued from part one of "Making Artistic Jewelry from Recycled Resources: Cookie-Tin Earrings" by Katherine Wadsworth of Natalia Designs.

Kate's earrings

3. Select, mark, and cut out the tin shapes. After just a little fun destruction, you now have a decorative metal sheet that you can make into useful jewelry components. You can freehand cut some shapes with your snips or plan out your design more carefully. I decided I wanted layers of metal in one shape but in graduated sizes for my earrings to give them some depth and movement.

cutting around the traced design

I made templates using plastic sheet protectors to mark the shapes I wanted to cut. Clear plastic makes it easy to see exactly what part of the design will show in your cutout shape. I used a wet-erase marker to draw my lines; these lines will rinse off the metal when you're done. You can also use standard templates for basic shapes.

Start cutting! Straight lines are most easily accomplished with your snips, and are also the easiest to finish afterwards. It's always a bit of a challenge to cut a smooth curve, so you'll probably have more sanding and filing to do to finish those shapes.

using a disc cutter to cut tin circle pieces

For circles, a fabulously useful item is a jeweler's disc cutter or disc-cutting punch. It's much easier to get perfect circles this way than to try to cut them by hand. They are generally made to cut soft metals up to 16 gauge, so they will work well on old tins.

Note: With all the snipping, filing, and sanding, it's very easy to accidentally scratch or mar the design on your enameled tin with your tools, especially when you're just starting out. If you want to protect the enameled images, you can cover the parts you want to use with clear tape before you begin your detailed cutouts. Scotch Magic Tape is great for this because it's clear and easy to remove.

using a hole punch to create functional holes in tin pieces

4. Prepare the metal for jewelry construction. You will probably want to make some small holes in your metal pieces to attach findings or to link the metal pieces together. If you don't have a disc cutter or hole punch, small drill bits work just fine. I used a jeweler's hole punch for these small holes.

5. Finish the edges. Once you have your shapes cut out, you will need some basic tools to finish the edges of your metal cookie tin pieces. Finishing the edges makes them look better but also removes sharp edges or burs that pose a hazard. Small jeweler's files and wet/dry sandpaper for metal will do the trick. Even an emery board will do in a pinch.

filing (top) and sanding (below) to finish tin edges

Finish your edges by first filing from each side. This removes any burs of metal that may have folded over the edge as you cut the tin. You can test the smoothness of the edge gently against your finger, but remember–sharp burs and edges of metal are very sharp!

Filing the edges could be all the finishing you need, depending on your style. For a smoother finish, use sandpaper. I start with 400 grit and then finish with 600 for a nice smooth, matte finish that pretty well matches the finish on the nonenameled side of my tins.

You will also want to finish the edges where you've punched holes for attaching findings, because there can be sharp burs left there too. A quick pass with a small round file works well.

6. Assemble your recycled metal pieces into jewelry. I used 18-gauge sterling silver jump rings to connect the parts in a pair of earrings I made with dangling graduated circle shapes, and I made my own ear wires using 20-gauge sterling silver wire. I like my ear wires to balance the size of the earrings, so I made larger wires for my larger, bolder earrings and smaller ones for the more delicate earrings.

alternative metals and recycled can/tin ring from 10 Easy Metal Jewelry Projects

7. Share the joy! By the time I had finished three pairs of earrings for three wonderful friends, I felt satisfied with my experiments, but I also knew how much work must go into each of Kari Stringer's expertly executed pieces (as well as these recycled food-tin artisan jewelry designs by Evelyn Pelati Dombkowski). As with any flexible and colorful material, the design possibilities are almost endless here, and I feel I've barely begun. So, how will you use this readily available, inexpensive, and easy-to-use metal to expand your jewelry-making world? –Kate

Ready for more inspiring easy metal jewelry designs using copper, brass, recycled cans/tins, and other alternative metals? Grab a copy of our newest eBook, 10 Easy Metal Jewelry Projects!

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