How to Make Punched "Tin" Light Shields


Punched "tin" light shields catch, reflect and amplify the lights on trees and garlands.

Design possibilities are endless and making them is a very simple process. If you need inspiration for designs, check out these Mexican tin ornaments offered through La Fuente; but basic star, or flower cookie cutters about 3" diameter work great as patterns.

Inspiration for this project came from punched tin light shields made in Mexico that have been on our family tree since the early 50's. They were made using flattened tin cans - the product name is still on the backs!!

The shields were designed to be used with the bulbs used on Christmas trees at that time. We would unscrew the bulb, insert the base of the bulb through the opening in the center of the shield, and screw the bulb back into the socket. There may be fire safety issues to consider when using them with this size bulb nowadays - I don't suggest you try it.

I use mine on twinkle lights. You will love how beautiful they are on your tree!


You will need: -Tin in thin sheets, which is available here, or aluminum roof flashing (silver on both sides) which can be found at Home Depot or Lowes. Your local store may not have exactly the brand shown, but the picture gives you an idea of what you are looking for. The aluminum is a good stand-in for the tin although i prefer the appearance of the tin.

-Standard framing nail about 2" long

-Lightweight hammer

-Tin snips and embroidery or heavy duty nail scissors

-Sharpie with a fine point

-Acetone & cotton balls (or rubbing alcohol can also be used instead of acetone)

Also have on hand for safety in handling: gloves, goggles, metal file, and 12"x12"x1" piece of wood

You are ready to begin

1. Cut a square from the metal a little larger than the item you plan to make. Most of my light shields are about 3" in diameter. Wear those gloves for this step. Both tin and aluminum are sharp and MUST be handled carefully both while you are making the shields and later when you are decorating with them. This is not a craft for young children.

2. Draw your design on the metal with the Sharpie. You can draw freehand, trace around an object or pattern as I am doing in the photograph (cookie cutters work well), or place carbon paper on the metal square and then trace a pattern that has been placed over the carbon paper. Marks left from the carbon will be light - you may wish to go over them with the Sharpie so they are easier to see as you work.

3. Once the outline is completed, draw freehand a few simple designs within the outline as shown. Nothing needs to be perfect. Once the shield is completed, the imperfections disappear. It's magic!

4. Place the foil square on the wood to protect your work surface. Hold the nail on any point of the outline and gently tap with the hammer once or twice. Try not to go through the tin if you can help it - but expect that sometimes you will do so. Not a problem.

5. Continue tapping nail indentations along the lines you have drawn until the design is completed. Hint: At times the tin will tend to curve, which can be very annoying as you are working. To flatten it back out, flip the tin square over and gently tap all over the surface with your hammer. Flip it back over and continue working.

6. Wearing gloves and safety glasses, cut out the shape using the tin snips. Cut just outside the line of nail holes that mark the outline. The small sissors are very useful for tight areas of the design. Tiny pieces of metal can go flying, so please do wear the safety goggles. I mean it - wear the goggles.

7. Using the small scissors, cut a small hole in the center - not more than 1/2" diameter so that it just fits over your twinkle lights. Start the hole by punching right through the metal with a nail. Place the tip of the sissors into the hole and begin cutting along the line you drew for the center opening. You may also use a heavy-duty hole punch if you prefer. I have yet to get a perfectly clean cut here. If you know of a way to get one, please let me know.

8. Using the file, smooth any rough or jagged edges, either in the hole or along the outside edges. A file won't completely make the edges smooth, but it is useful to smooth out jagged spots which can really deliver a nasty cut. Again, always handle with care and attention to the fact that the edges and points can be very sharp. I am not trying to scare you off! I have made many, many of these over the years without incident. I just want you to be aware.

9. Using an acetone (or rubbing alcohol)-soaked cotton square, rub over the surface area to remove the guide lines.

10. Place your finished shield over your light bulb so that the metal rests on the base, not the bulb or wires.

11. If you prefer to use your shield as an ornament, eliminate step 7 and after cleaning off the guidelines, punch a small hole near the top with the nail and insert an ornament hook. You can even embellish with tiny gems, mirrors, buttons......let your crafty nature go wild!

And for beautiful light shields crafted from tea light holders, visit Sister Diane's tutorial on to learn just how to make her version. Because they are made from tea light holders, they are a little smaller than mine, but work perfectly on twinkle lights. I am saving up tea light holders as I write this! I am thinking my seasonal tree needs these right away... well, maybe after Christmas. I have my hands full with this blog!

8 years old and still has in

8 years old and still has in cyberspace awed! This is such a terrific tutorial and is really pushing my creative energies! My question is: what kind of file are you using? Really just love these and even though we just took the tree down, I am already getting a head start on next year's craft gifts! Thanks for your page!

Jacqueline, I am sorry to be

Jacqueline, I am sorry to be so late with my answer.  Just finding this now.  I wish I knew enough about files to answer your question with some useable information!  But the file is something my husband handed me from his tool box and suggested I try it!  The reality is, that I just did not find that it made that much difference, ad as long as children aren't handling and adults are cautioned, they are fine without filing.   I hope that helps.

Also, for children, you could use that silver finish card weight paper available at paper stores.  Punch with a push pin.  Much easier to cut the center hole and they will have a similar effect when placed over lights.  I would suggest led lights however, as they don't get hot!!

I just found your site, I

I just found your site, I love,Love it!!! I can't wait to try this. That is super neat!

Thank you Julie!  Your note

Thank you Julie!  Your note brought a big smile.  I love playing with "tin" and really love how the light shields capture and reflect back the light.  If you have any questions, I am here!

I'm new at punching tin, our

I'm new at punching tin, our daughter found you & sent us the information. Looking forward to more ideas & help ahead. Thanks

How much do I love this? SO

How much do I love this? SO much!! I've been wanting to make some tiny tin stars to hang from the ceilings in our house year round. I just love punched metal.Your post is so very helpful, especially the idea of putting a little mirror in the middle. Never would have thought of such a simple (but beautiful) little touch! -Thanks!

My life just got easier

My life just got easier because of this blog. :) Thank you so much for this post. I had been searching online for awhile trying to find the details of the thickness of the tin to use, steps, etc. Thanks for linking to the company who sells the tin too. The small, yet critical details you include on your blog make all the difference! Your ornaments are beautiful.

You could probably also use

You could probably also use aluminum soda cans as your metal source. It cuts well with scissors.

It also will be sharp. I would paint the edges with clear nail polish...or maybe a color would be pretty.

You would have to spray the back side with spray paint to cover up the brand of the soda.

These are great ideas....I'm

These are great ideas....I'm going to go and try them...It looks very pretty but cheap and inexpensive to do!!!

Hi there! I know how to

Hi there! I know how to create your circles in the middle to have that perfect circle shape - they still will need to be sanded, though. Do you have a power drill? I use my husbands for crafts and you can buy a drill bit that is a perfect circle for a couple of bucks that will whip out your shape in no time. :) Hugs!

A version of these can also

A version of these can also be made using the metal tops off frozen juices. They can be punched, painted, etc. and make lovely ornaments.

Those are gorgeous! I'm

Those are gorgeous! I'm wondering if it can be done with pie tins. If so I could make with my classes at school.

Just found your's

Just found your's wonderful! I look forward to seeing more.