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Butterfly Mobile Made from Aluminum Pop Cans
Submitted by Pam on Thu, 04/08/2010 - 22:31
Super simple way to recycle those ubiquitous aluminum pop cans! Turn them into a mobile of fluttering butterflies!
Making the mobile is fairly easy and quick, but figuring out how to get the butterflies to remain horizontal while suspended from the support string was a big pain. The reason I wanted the butterflies to remain horizontal while suspended is that I wanted them to gently flutter or tip from side to side in the breeze.
I'm not putting you through the messy details of all my failures, but I am sharing the two most successful suspension methods that seem to accomplish what I wanted - fluttery butterflies!.
Since I plan to hang my butterfly mobile in the garden under my snowball tree and want it to be able to stand up to a little rain now and then, I chose to leave my butterflies completely unadorned.
All you need to get started: aluminum tin cans, hammer, nail, fat oval beads about 1/2" long, nylon fishing line, scissors, tin snips and Aileen's Jewel-it Embellishing glue and hanger of your choice.
Note: Top side of butterfly is the aluminum finish side. The bottom is the printed side.
Cut the aluminum can apart, removing the top and bottom sections. For this project, I prefer not to flatten the aluminum but rather to retain the natural curve.
Step by step photos showing how I deconstruct an aluminum pop can are provided at the end of this post.
Caution: Always wear protective gloves and protective eye wear when cutting apart a can.
Make a very simple butterfly pattern. Use a Sharpie to trace your butterfly, or do as I do and simply hold the butterfly in place with one hand while cutting around the pattern with scissors. No real need for perfection here!
My butterfly measures 3 1/2" across the wing span when flattened and 2 1/2" from top to bottom. I am able to cut two butterflies from one can.
Begin to attach the bead by cutting a piece of fishing line between 18" and 36" long. I used embroidery floss in these shots as it is easier to see than the nylon line.
Be sure to vary the lengths of your line so your butterflies will be suspended at different heights.
Punch two holes through the butterfly as shown using the nail and hammer. Thread the fishing line through the bead so that the bead sits in the very center of the line.
Thread the ends of the line through the two holes as shown.
Pulling the bead snugly against the top side of the butterfly, tie a surgeons knot (see instructions at the end of this post) to hold it in place.
Now bring the ends of the fishing line back to the top side again through the holes. Then pull each end of the fishing line through the bead.
Tie another surgeons knot tightly against the top of the bead. Some beads can be a little slippery, but with care this can be done.
To hold the knot in place, place a drop of Aileen's Jewel-it right on top of the knot.
Place a dot of glue at each end of the bead where the fishing line is threaded through the holes.
I am using Aileen's Jewel-it because it is designed to withstand many trips through the washing machine so I am thinking it will stand up to a little rain. The glue holds the knot at the top of the bead in place (which is important if the butterfly is to remain horizontal) and it also prevents the fishing line from being cut by the sharp edges of the little holes.
Let the glue dry. Jewel-it turns clear once it dries so it barely shows - especially when dangling in the mobile! I just love the natural little curve the shape of the can gives these butterfly wings.
Method #2 (no gluing!)
The only difference in this method and Method #1 is in the kind of bead used and the attachment procedure. I kind of messed this little guy up during cutting, but I am using him anyway!
You will need, in place of the fat oval bead mentioned in method #1, a small round bead (3/8" diameter) and a button or washer about the same size. We happen to have very few buttons in our household but a million washers! (I am blessed with a sweetheart who owns bunches and bunches of those little "guy drawers" filled with all kinds of cool guy stuff!)
Begin by placing the two ends of your fishing line through the two holes punched in the butterfly as shown. Pull the line snugly against the surface.
Turn the butterfly over.
Pull the line through the center of the washer.
Bring each end of the line around an end of the washer and back through the holes to the front side pulling tightly to hold the washer snugly against the surface, adjusting your line so it looks like the photo.
Thread the line through the bead.
Tie a surgeons knot to hold the bead snugly against the wing surface. Some beads have larger holes than others. You may need to add a seed bead to the top of the bead before tying the knot so the bead can't slip off. You can see how that looks in the first photo under method #2.
Once all your butterflies are completed, select a hanger and attach with a secure knot. If you wish, add a drop of glue to help secure the knot and hold the support line in place so it doesn't slide around in the wind.
For reference, my mobile is about 20" long. There are 17 little butterflies attached to the hanger. We are not talking about what happened to little butterfly number 18 but it wasn't pretty!
For your hanger, you could use a metal or plastic ring, or a couple dowels tied together. I happen to have a bunch of can rims cut from cans I have used to make the tin can frame. As I cut them from the can, they formed into cool curved shapes. I trimmed the ragged edges and used galvanized wire to tie two of them together to make a hanger.
I cut a larger butterfly from another pop can, punched a couple holes in the center and ran the ends of the wire up through the butterfly and twisted the ends into a hanging loop.
Hint: do not hang your butterflies too close together! I learned the hard way that they like to twist up into each other's lines on windy days.
Leftover tops may not be useable, but check out this tutorial for using pop can bottoms to make a pretty Punched Tin Sun Moblie to celebrate Summer Solstice!
And if you would prefer to make "punched tin" butterflies for your mobile, here is a complete how-to tutorial. For the garden, be sure to only use aluminum cans or aluminum pie tins so your butterflies won't rust!
If you love to garden and plant things - aluminum pop cans make cheerful plant markers! Here are some tips!
Deconstruction of an aluminum pop can!