Then last week I stumbled on the art of Paul Villinski, who turns old Beer cans into beautiful works of art by making them into butterflies and birds. I had to try it and whilst my efforts aren't a shade on Villinski's, I found it to be a surprisingly simple process and one that can be done with household materials, and with no specialist knowledge. Although there are some great Instructables on here for making butterfly charms and ornaments or reusing drink cans, none that I can see are similar to this one.
As with all my Instuctables I have probably over done it with the photos and descriptions, and have made a few mistakes during the process, nothing serious and I will point them out as we go.
I find the process quite addictive which is handy as I intend to make a lot of these and use them to create wall art in a way similar to Villinski's, you could also turn them into fridge magnets or perhaps stick them to hair clips.
I hope you both enjoy, and find this Instructable useful.
Edit: Only after publishing did I see bauble's Drink Can Craft instructable http://www.instructables.com/id/Aluminium-Drink-Can-Craft it also features making butterflies and has some other great ideas for things to do with cans, do check it out.
Update: Following a suggestion by scraptopower, I went back and investigated the use of a can opener to remove the top of the can, I had tried this before but obviously with the wrong type of opener. It actually works quite well although it does pose some issues, I have added this alternative method to the cutting the can step, so you can choose which you prefer.
Update 2: Again I have made some changes to the cutting the can step to include weibbed's method of dismantling the can, weibbed has a lot more experience working with cans than I do and consequently their method is by far the best. Also added a new photo of the butterflies in situ.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Empty Can: Obviously! Rinsed and allowed to dry. Coke or Pepsi? More accurately Aluminum or Steel? Coke cans are aluminum, Pepsi cans are steel, of cause other brands are available. I have found some differences in the two types of can:
Aluminium is often a thinner gauge metal, making it easier to cut but also more flimsy and susceptible to tearing and breaking. Steel cans are often a darker colour on the inside, this affects the final colour of your markers, Steel cans are attracted to magnets. At the end of the day the differences are not that important but you may have a preference. Your can should say what type it is, alternatively you can use a magnet to quickly sort them. The average 330ml can should give you a sheet of metal 8” long by 3 to 3.5” wide, enough to make 3 to 4 medium sized butterflies. If you wish to do your own decoration on both sides you could remove the can's original design with wire wool, or cover it with aluminium tape.
Update: As can composition seems to be such a talking point I did some research "Most metal beverage cans manufactured in the United States are made of aluminium, whereas in some parts of Europe and Asia approximately 55 percent are made of steel and 45 percent are aluminium alloy. Steel cans often have a top made of aluminium." - Wikipedia, hope this helps.
Scissors: I am using “5 Star General Purpose Scissors” they are very sturdy and have no problem cutting the metal. I have found my scissors have become slightly magnetic, I dont know if it is from cutting the metal or just the number of magnets I have around, either way it is handy for catching the small bits of steel. I'm sure most scissors of any quality will work well but they may become blunt with time. 5 Star General Purpose Scissors can be bought online for a few pounds. Tin snips may also be useful but I find my ones to be a bit ungainly and less useful for doing the details, perhaps a better quality tin snip would be more effective.
Iso-Propyl Alcohol (aka Rubbing Alcohol): This is used to remove the permanent marker from the metal if required, it could be considered optional but I find it very useful as you will see. It evaporates quickly off the metal so there is no need to dry after using.
Tissue: or Cotton Wool Balls/Buds, basically anything that can soak up the ios-propyl so it can be used.
"Blunt" Pointed tool: I say "blunt" as anything with too sharp a point risks tearing or puncturing the metal. Two of the tools shown here are metal embossing tools I picked up at an art shop sometime ago, they were very cheap, about £1.50 for both. Alternatively a pencil will work just as well, I would recommend a harder lead though (HB at least).
Butterfly Patterns: Whilst you could draw the shape of the butterfly directly onto the metal or cut it out “blind” I find the best results come from using a pattern, to this end I have created and included a set of 4 Butterfly shapes in various sizes for you to print out and use. I know that the physiology of butterflies is endlessly diverse, but I feel these four patterns can be adapted to produce most shapes and sizes.
Hole Punch: These may be considered optional but I find it very useful for doing some of the wing detail. Whilst most any hole punch will work, I prefer the single hole punch as it allows for more accuracy, I bought this one up at a stationers for £1.50.
Foam Sheet, Cork board or Folded Towel: You want something with a bit of give to as a surface when doing the embossing step, trying to emboss on a hard surface will not work. I got up a pack of 9 different coloured foam sheets from Poundland, I chose to use the pink as I cant see myself using it for anything else.
Tape: Any will do, though clear is better, only a small amount is needed.
Markers: Any permanent marker will do, I prefer Sharpies for their range of colours, but will use cheaper marker pens if possible as the sharp sides of the butterflies can damage the tips. I also use “Uni Posca” markers, they are paint pens, great for adding lighter colours like White, you could of cause also use Tipex if you prefer. Posca Markers are available in art shops and cost a few pounds.
Note: Sharpie Professional markers are more permanent than regular ones, this is great, unless you make a mistake, you will have to allow the Iso-Propyl to soak for a while.
A picture of a Butterfly: (not shown) Very useful for inspiration and as a guide, there are many available online, you can of cause do any design you like, or if you prefer try to recreate a particular type, I often use one species shape with the colouring of another. For this instructable I am using the the Blue Mountain Swallowtail as inspiration with an image form http://www.whatsthatbug.com/
Can Opener (optional): Pliars type with a tuning handel. £1 Poundland (weibbed has some tips on can opener choice in the comments section)
Dangers! While I have never cut myself on any of the edges of the butterflies and they are quite safe to handle taking only the slightest of care, the sharp points and barbs of the offcuts do pose a small danger of giving you small prick or even a cut if you run a finger over them, so take care with these. You may also wish to wear eye protection as pieces may fly off when cutting.