The art of punching designs in metal dates back to 14th Century Europe. Lanterns made of brass or copper were punched with decorative designs that were illuminated by the candle inside.
Tinsmithing was common in England in the 1630’s, but didn’t really take off until the 1800’s when tin was more accessible.
Decorative lanterns were also popular in Colonial America where designs on metal panels were used in cupboards and other furniture.
Pie safes were a home staple in the late 17oo’s and 1800’s and featured punched tin panels for air circulation. Today, antique pie safes are highly sought after pieces, and construction of new pie safes are a popular DIY project.
Punched tin lamp shades are one of the newer punched tin projects that I’ve seen for sale at craft fairs. Artists are creating detailed landscapes, portraits, and other art pieces done with punched tin. There is no end to the many uses of these simple metal sheets.
I am always amazed at the creativity on display at art and crafts shows. They are a great place to get project ideas and inspiration.
For those wanting to build their own pie safe and other punched tin projects, blank tin panels and pre-punched panels are available at Van Dyke’s Restorers. Follow this link for more information. https://www.vandykes.com/pie-safe-hardware/c/1648/
The art of tin punching is fairly simple and doesn’t require special skills.
Cutting the tin sheet:
Use a pair of well-sharpened, heavy-duty metal shears or a metal cutting blade on a jig saw or other metal cutting saw.
1 – Trace your design on a sheet of paper the size you want on your project. (Hundreds of patterns are available online.)
2 – Back the tin with cardboard or plywood for durability, and tack the paper and tin to a secure surface to begin punching.
3 – Punch with special round tip punching tool (available at most hardware stores) or nails.
4 – For punching lines, use a chisel the desired width.
5 – Turn the finished tin over, and use a rawhide or rubber mallet to flatten the sharp edges you just punched.
6 – For an antique look, finish by scrubbing the surface with a scrubber or steel wool.
7 – Finish with a clear lacquer to prevent rusting.
Note: The edges on the backside of the punched holes are very sharp. Be careful when handling the punched tin plates. I recommend using leather or canvas clothes when handling the plates.