Repurposing Tin Cans Again! Make a Shimmering Candle Wall Sconce.

Another project using tin and aluminum cans from my trash stash!

I again turned to mid-1800's New Mexican tin work for my inspiration for this wall sconce. 

In keeping with the necessity of using only what was at hand at that time, which included repurposed tin brought over the Santa Fe Trail, I repurposed a large tin can, a tuna can, and an aluminum pop can bottom.  I kept my tools very simple - what almost any household would have on hand -  a hammer, nail, tin snips, screw driver.  In place of solder, I used E-6000 glue.  And of course, most importantly heavy gloves and protective eye ware.

Before I share how I made the sconce, I am going to share the inspiration for the sconce and my tin frame by way of introducing you to an incredible Santa Fe tin artist, Jason Younis y Delgado,  who is working hard to preserve the art and traditions of early New Mexican tin work.

In my "Tin Frame" post, I provided links to help share the history of tin work in New Mexico. I hope, if you haven't already done so, you will take the time to visit some of them today.

Now, be prepared to be blown away by the images of some of Mr. Delgado's amazing art which he has so graciously sent to me in response to my request for pictures of tin work that I could share with my readers.

It takes a lot of - well, courage - to show my little sconce next to these amazing and beautiful works of art!  But how else can I share my inspiration?

Notice his precise punching technique.  He designs and makes his own stamps which you can actually order here!  And just look at those perfect rosettes at the top of the sconces.  Let me tell you, laying out a rosette is not as easy as it might appear!

Mirrors and picture frames for religious images were very popular objects made by early New Mexican tinsmiths.  Mirrors are definitely my favorites - especially the round ones. 

No doubt you have noticed the similarities to Mexican mirrors and tin objects.  That is because, the early tinsmiths in New Mexico actually were  Spaniards who traveled north to what is today the state of New Mexico, but at the time was the northern most territory of Mexico. The Spanish silversmith influences are found in both Mexican and in New Mexican tin work. Read a little more about the history here.

Just so you know - you can order tin sheets from Mr. Delgado!  I wish I had known that ten years ago when I was searching far and wide for tin!   He also offers a great selection of tools and has even assembled kits which include tin, center punch, nail set, tinsnips, stamp patterns and in some kits he even includes some of his custom punches.

Here is a great close-up of his work showing his beautiful artistry.  This is WAY beyond anywhere I have been with my hammer and nail!!!

As I mentioned, most of the tin work produced in the New Mexican territory was used for religious purposes,  and in addition to nichos and frames, crosses were an important part of that tradition.  Tin crosses are still very popular today both in Mexico and New Mexico.  I am so pleased Mr. Delgado sent me this stunning example to share.

Here is a direct link to Jason Younis y Delgado.  In addition to a bit of history and his shop, you will be treated to his gallery, which you must not miss seeing!

Back to my humble little repurposed tin can project!

Here is how to make it!

Start by removing the top and bottom of the large tin can..  (Refer to my previous post). And wear gloves and goggles!

Sorry about the tuna can - I got a ahead of myself in my excitement and completely forgot to take pictures!  Cut off the back leaving a lip on the bottom section.   (Gloves and goggles!)

I have lots of soda can bottoms left from the butterfly mobile.  And I totally love the shape so it was a natural choice for the top piece of the sconce!

In order to get your punched design  as close to perfect as possible,  carefully mark the placement for each half circle using a sharpie.

Then my favorite part of working with tin - punch the design into the metal using a hammer and nail.

The craziest idea I ever had in my life was to attempt to punch a rosette into a concave surface! 

It is very important to lay out the design with a sharpie before beginning to punch.  And then make absolutely certain that you hold your nail very firmly in place when you are ready to punch.  Nails just get the biggest thrill out of sliding down that slick, curved surface just before you tap it with the hammer!

Marking is helpful when cutting the petals as well.  Once the divisions are marded, cut the edge into slits as I did for the little candle holders.  Then, using very sturdy toe nail scissors, cut first one side of each petal all the way around the disk and then cut the other side of each petal.  This works out to be much easier than cutting them individually.

A closer look at the tuna can.

Make a candle holder by wrapping a piece of either soda pop aluminum, aluminum pie plate or tooling foil around a candle base.  Glue with E-6000 and hold in place with a rubber band until dry.  Remove the candle and glue the holder in place again using E-6000. (Not exactly my finest hour with glue - fortunately it won't show!

The lip on the bottom is designed to slip through a slit in the sconce back to help support the weight of the candle.

A bit of soda pop metal left over from cutting butterflies works well as a little hanger.

You are looking at the back side.  The ends have been pushed through a little hole and bent up toward the tip on the other side.  When you attach the top disk with glue, the ends will be secured as well.

Funny thing, I designed the disk to be placed on the sconce this way!

But I ended up liking it better "backwards"!

The disk is glued with E-6000.

Now we come to the part that reveals my absolute lack of engineering skills!  Using the tools at hand, I chopped - no other word for it - my way through the back of the sconce with a sturdy screw driver and a hammer.

Remember - this is all about improvising and using what is at hand. I am sure there are ten better ways to do this.

Be sure the slit is placed high enough on the sconce back so that the lip on the tuna can will not show.

Wearing gloves, place the lip of the tuna can through the slit.

Tilt the tuna can in place so that the lip is flush against the back of the sconce and the edges of the tuna can are flush against the front of the sconce.

Once you are satisfied with the placement, apply E-6000 glue to the underside of the lip and a little to the edges at the front and tip into place securing with a couple clothes pins as shown.

(Photo quality on some of these last images is pretty bad - don't know what happened but unfortunately it's too late to go back and redo them!)

During this whole process, I was not too happy with the appearance of the dull gray tuna can and I gave a lot of thought to how I could make it prettier. 

As you see above in Mr. Delgado's sconces, mirrors were often added to help amplify the candle light. (Remember - no electricity in those days!) 

Rather than place mirrors on the sconce backing, I decided to use them to cover the tuna can!  Although the mirrors are not repurposed, they are left over stash from making Espejitos.

Once the glue is dry, remove the clothes pins. I loved how the mirrors sparkle and reflect the surroundings!!


The sconce is rather small - 10" high and 3 1/2" wide.  It was designed to be just the right size to hold all the 4" to 6" candle stubs left from burning long tapers during dinner. Now tbey can be reused in my sconce instead of hanging out in the "emergency candle bag".


I am having a devil of a time

I am having a devil of a time cutting the tuna can to make the candle holder. Do you have any advice or a video?

Fran. It is not easy, but I

Fran. It is not easy, but I can tell you a good pair of tin snips are essential. Also, tuna cans seem to be made of different weight materials.  Try cans that seem thinner.

Hmm. Any ideas how I might

Hmm. Any ideas how I might adapt this for use with my (14 yr. old) daughter and her friends? I am trying to think of a way to use tooling foil so it can be more easily cut and tooled. It would be a perfect project to go with a book we are reading.

This is just great--I love

This is just great--I love this idea!
You are so talented. I have a stack of cans- waiting for a different project. But I might give this a try. Love the punched tin detail on your sconce- so I may incorporates some of that on my project.

I love your blog, am looking around your archives...and will continue to read your blog!

Simply stunning! I am beyond

Simply stunning! I am beyond impressed. These are amazing.

I was totally blown away when

I was totally blown away when I saw your art! These are great! Off to search the trash for tuna cans.

Gorgeous! what do you use to

Gorgeous! what do you use to cut the cans? I'd just love if you'd stop by my crafty blog linking party and share this Sun thru Wed. Hope to see you there!

wow! thanks for sharing

wow! thanks for sharing this. I just love how they look.

I just featured this on my

I just featured this on my blog you amazing gal!

Absolutely SPECTACULAR! I am

Absolutely SPECTACULAR! I am going to give this one a try!

Wow! You're doing some great

Wow! You're doing some great projects with cans.

Gosh these tin ornaments are

Gosh these tin ornaments are just AMAZING! I can't believe you make them yourself!!!