Butterflies in May! Punched Tin Butterflies for Cinco de Mayo!

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May 2014 is butterfly month on Gingerbreadsnowflakes! And in honor of Cinco de Mayo it seems only appropriate that the butterfly series begin with "punched tin" butterflies. After all, my journey into the world of making "punched tin" objects began with a childhood introduction to punched tin mirrors, sconces and ornaments made in Mexico and brought back to Santa Fe homes by friends and neighbors. The love affair began when I was ten years old and has never ended!

As many of you already know, I created a tutorial for making "punched tin" butterflies several years ago - it can be found here. Today's post is just a mini updated refresher designed to hopefully entice you to begin the journey if you have not already!

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I begin with paper butterflies - cut from scrap paper. To ensure that the wings on both sides actually match (and because it is much easier for me to draw from left to right) , I find it easiest to fold my paper in half, draw half a butterfly, cut and then open. Small corrections can be made with scissors. However, larger corrections like shape or size mean another piece of scrap paper and a new "half-butterfly" drawing!

In the beginning, my butterfly shapes came from my imagination. But more recently I began trying to copy shapes of butterflies (and even moths) that I would stumble across in my garden, the forest or on line.

What I have learned the hard way is that I will NOT remember the name of the butterfly nor the source. So placing screen shots in a desk top file with no ID "because I know I will not forget" is not recommended.

Fortunately, I have been able to retrieve most of the information one way or another! So this week I will be making the following butterflies to add to my butterfly tree: Yellow Crested Spangle, Luna Moth, Crimson Lanka; and one I found on Maryline's beautiful blog, Mary and Patch,  but have no idea what it is!

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Once the butterfly shape is just as I want it - I open the little paper pattern, flatten it out onto my metal, and using a sharpie pen, trace around it.

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And then I fill in the wing details, sometimes trying to duplicate the detail found in a specific butterfly wing (as I did with the Yellow Crested Spangle below) or create my own fanciful designs.


Every design I create is recorded in a little note pad, which is especially nice to be able to refer to when I suddenly find my muse has taken a hike!

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When I mess up a line or design - which happens often, I can erase using acetone or nail polish remover or rubbing alcoholÂ…

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,,,OR just flip the metal bit over and re-trace and try again!

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Besides metal, all you really need to make "punched tin" butterflies is a hammer, nail, scissors or tin cutters depending on the weight of the metal you are using, and a piece of wood to use under the butterfly to protect the work table surface.

Punched Tin Butterfly

Metal? Everyone seems to like working with different metals! The butterfly in the image above was made using an aluminum pie plate - ridges smoothed out - mainly just to see if I could do it!

Tooling foil works also and is very easy to cut; however, it is not particularly sturdy and the poor butterfly WILL look the worse for wear quickly!

For my butterflies, I use aluminum roof flashing which is sold in rolls at hardware stores. It is reasonably easy to cut with tin snips, and holds it's shape beautifully. AND it is rust resistant!!

In the time since I wrote my tutorial, many hobby and craft stores have begun carrying packages of sheet tin making it more available. It truly is beautiful and will last a long time, but it is heavier and harder to work with. This is not a reason not to use it - just letting you know!!!

Aluminum pop cans. I don't recommend them because the metal has been manufactured in such a way as to create a pretty much permanent curve in the metal. But some people like the curve!!

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Goggles or some kind of protective eye wear are a MUST. All it takes is one tiny airborne stray piece of metal to cause a serious eye injury. Don't risk it.

And while cutting, wear protective gloves. Working with pie tins and tooling weight foil poses much less risk than working with roof flashing or sheet tin, but it is always a good idea to protect your hands from possible cuts from sharp bits of metal.

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Once the design is transferred to the aluminum, use the hammer and nail to follow your design lines and tap a small indentation into the metal approximately every 1/8". I usually start with the outline first and then fill in the details.

As you work, the metal will begin to curl and over time that curl can be a bit of a pain to work with.

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My brilliant daughter, Diane (Craftypod) actually figured out the solution to this problem! If you are using sheet metal - turn it over and gently tap all over the surface with your hammer. A piece of cardboard will help protect the surface if you prefer to use it.

If you are using roof flashing, it works better to simply roll the metal piece in the opposite direction.

Food container aluminum can usually be straightened the same way - gently rolling the curve in the opposite direction.

I will return later in the week with my completed butterflies! In the meantime, refer to my "punched tin" butterfly tutorial and if you have any questions, leave them in comments or shoot me an e-mail.

These are so pretty, Pam! I

These are so pretty, Pam! I look forward to seeing the end results. Btw, a little butterfly told me it's your birthday today. I hope you're having a wonderful one! Warmest wishes for a happy and healthy year ahead, and thanks very much for all of the expertise you so freely share here!

I am beginning to get a clue

I am beginning to get a clue that there really IS a little butterfly spreading the word!!  Named Diane????

Thank you Ann for your birthday wishes and for dropping by and especially for your continued friendship all these years!! xox

Is it your birthday? Well

Is it your birthday? Well happy birthday!

The butterflies are so cute. I could definitely see some of these flittering around my garden:)

Whenever I say to myself, "oh I won't forget" I know it's time to write it down!

Thank you Bobbi!!!   Ha!  You

Thank you Bobbi!!!  

Ha!  You would think I would know better than to think I would remember where I found them and what they were.  At least I didn't forget why i saved them!!!

If you do make some for the garden, use aluminum food containers or roof flashing.  Tin will rust!!



It amazes me the precision with which you work your craft. And keeping a record of each design? And wearing GOGGLES?!?

the mind BOGGLES.

xoxoxoxxo infinity

Hahahahah Chrissy!  I am in a

Hahahahah Chrissy!  I am in a fit of giggles over here!  Boggles indeed!

Thank you my friend for your birthday wishes and most especially your friendship.

You're opening up a whole new

You're opening up a whole new crafty world now, I've never tried this before, and it looks fun!

It IS fun, Sally!  And lately

It IS fun, Sally!  And lately I don't play in it often enough.  I hope you get the chance to try it!