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How to Make Punched "Tin" Light Shields
Submitted by Pam on Sat, 11/15/2008 - 02:59
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!
HERE IS HOW TO MAKE THEM
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
-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 diyalert.com 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!