Punched tin, which is sometimes called pierced tin, is a craft involving punching holes in tin to create designs. Often, punched tin sheets are used as covers for lights, which emphasizes the holes in the tin. Sometimes, sheets of tin that have been decorated in this manner are used for other purposes, such as in furniture or as pieces of art themselves. This craft is highly associated with Mexico, but similar crafting strategies have been used all over the world.
Making punched tin artwork usually involves flat sheets of tin, an awl or nail, and a hammer. The tin is placed against a hard, flat surface, and the nail is hammered partially through the tin to create a hole. This technique does not remove a circle of tin from the sheet, but rather pushes a hole through in order to make space for light. There are special tools for this craft that do remove a slug of tin, creating an even and smooth hole on both sides. Shaped chisels and punches are also popular.
The designs used with sheets of tin must leave the sheet itself intact. This means that cutting out large shapes is usually not an option. Patterns made by many small dots are typically the most effective, particularly for lampshades and other sheets through which light will shine. Caution must be used when forming the finished sheets into curved patterns as well, as the process of bending the tin can deform the pattern if the artist is not careful.
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One of the most interesting features of punched tin designs is the way in which these sheets of tin can be incorporated into other objects. When set in wood, punched tin can form box tops or panels of cabinets. As lampshades, they can incorporate other features. It is important to use caution when designing punched tin items that will be used with elements that get hot, because the tin can cause burns.
Upcycled tin is very popular for making pierced tin artwork, although this type of material often requires some advanced preparations. Historically, tin sheets from cans, and other items were used to make this type of art in areas where tin was rare. Cans are usually cut and hammered flat, although any ridges in the can may be left in place to add interest to the piece. It is very important to use special safety precautions when working with tin of this type, because edges can be sharp and can cause serious cuts.