Picture of Drink Can Butterflies
For some time and for reasons I'm not entirely sure of, I have been trying to find a good use for used soda cans. I have tried making a mini chest of draws, gift boxes (there is a very good Instructable by Mangetout for that) and cookie cutters, the latter worked very well and went down a treat when I used it to make Peppa Pig cake decorations for my Goddaughters 2nd Birthday.
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.
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Spookiefish9 months ago
Thank you. My daughter will love doing this

Hmmm...to be continued. I like the idea wondering if it could work as a mobile for the solar system too...

Vampyra651 year ago

These are really nice and thank you for the patterns.

juanitam2 years ago
Thank you so much for this. I'm into recycling and sometimes gather stuff and don't know what to do with it at the time. I managed to stay away from tins, but now I have a reason to collect them.
Smalfrii2 years ago
Absolutely love this instructable. I've been working on my IB middle years program personal project (pain in the butt, but it's a lot of fun if you do something you like), and chose to make a sculptural piece. I wanted to make butterflies out of common materials ( my theme is 'raising awareness for the declining habitat of the monarch butterfly'). When I saw your 'ible I knew exactly how I was going to do it. Thank you so much for posting this! Here's an example of one that I made, the rest will have their logos instead of being colored like monarchs (trying to make a statement :P)
clintonmc (author)  Smalfrii2 years ago
Thanks for your kind comments Smalfrii, I am very glad the 'ible is proving useful for you and your project sounds like a great one and I hope you get a top grade (though I must admit I don't know what the IB middle years program is). It would be cool to see the final result.
Clintonmc, I finally finished last month and had my exhibition, thank you so much for letting me use your instructable!
Sorry the pic is a bit blurry, but unfortunately I'm not the best photographer XD
clintonmc (author)  Smalfrii2 years ago
Your exhibit looks great Smalfrii, I hope it was well received and I'm glad my 'ible could be put to such good use. Thank you for posting the photo and dont worry about it being blurry, if it wasn't for photoshop most of my pics would be too.
Thanks, it was recieved very well, 10s across the board!
Smalfrii, your butterfly is beautiful! What kind of markers do you use? That orange looks incredible! Great job! :)
Thanks! I used plain ol' sharpies!
gcastrejon2 years ago
OMG! I love your butterflies! THANK YOU-THANK YOU for posting this tutorial! I'm gonna have so much creating some for my apartment! Your step by step instructions are wonderful! Can't wait to see your next project, I can tell you that I downloaded this app so I can follow all the way from Austin, Texas! :D
clintonmc (author)  gcastrejon2 years ago
Hi gcastrejon, Thank you for the lovely comments, I'm glad you liked the 'ible and that you will be putting it to good use, it would be great to see a pic of what you create.
olga333k3 years ago
Thanx for the great idea! Here are my Butterflies...
Beautiful!!! Love them! :)
Here is Autumn Leaf...
clintonmc (author)  olga333k3 years ago
Olga, your butterflies are lovely, it's clear you have put a lot of effort into the detail and it really pays off, thank you so much for posting them, it's great to see someone putting my ideas into practice.
achei show!
pudtiny2 years ago
Isopropyl alcohol / IPA / Rubbing alcohol / Propan-2-ol all the same thing and is normally available in art and model shops used to thin paint for air brushing. Good instructable I was then working on a similar project to be documented soon
ClareSelina3 years ago
The butterflies are lovely. I recycle a lot of metal packaging and find a dried up ballpoint pen makes a very good blunt tool for marking grooves in the metal/ embossing etc. ... and it's free
clintonmc (author)  ClareSelina3 years ago
Great Tip! thanks Clare.
This method would make lovely autumnal leaves to make a mobile from. Or even some from each season on one of four sticks!

Insects mixed in?

I'm quite inspired!
clintonmc (author)  The Dalai Farmer3 years ago
I'm glad to have inspired you, I've considered making some leaves and flowers myself but not got round to it, your idea for a mobile sounds lovely though, do please let me know if you do I would love to see it.

P.S. sorry for taking so long to reply :)
DJsArt3 years ago
I thoroughly enjoyed the how-to-instructions for your beautiful butterflies. They are so lovely. I can't wait to try them. I just had an idea about how you could display them. Try painting a dead branch from a bush or tree and place it in a flower pot and wire the butterflies to the branches. Or mount a branch on a wall and wire the butterflies to it. Instant wall art. Thanks again for sharing the incredible butterflies you created.
clintonmc (author)  DJsArt3 years ago
Thanks you I'm glad you liked it, I think your branch idea is great! I'm going to give it a try, I might see if i can find a nice drift wood brach next time I head to the sea side I recon that could be very cool.
I have seen handbags made with the tabs from the cans In Cuba. Also why not dry the inside after cutting it open It would be a lot easier. if you work on a towel it won't hurt if there are some drips as long as the can had been rinsed clean.
I did try cutting cans a while back to make 'crown shaped ' candle holders for Christmas display but I forget the easiest way I did them. If I remember I will post back.
great work and love the butterflies.
clintonmc (author)  ScattyCrafter3 years ago
Thanks. Yeah I've seen some very cool things made with tabs, I intend to do something with them myself once I have collected enough. Of cause you could dry it after opening, I just find the drips annoying and distracting when concentrating on the cutting.
Please do let me know if you remember how you opened them.
I have cut open literally thousands of aluminum cans---I use them for my artwork and jewelry---and the easiest way is:
Remove the pop tab and save for later.
Use a side cutting can opener and cut off the lid.
Wash and dry the can once the lid is off.
Slice down the height of the can with a pair of kitchen scissors. DO NOT CLOSE THE SCISSORS ALL THE WAY to the point when you cut! (this is how you prevent those sharp burrs that cause injuries).
Turn the can on its side, and cut all the way around just below the neck of the can . I am right handed, so I gently put my left hand in the opening of the can, and cut with my right hand, starting at the slit I made when I cut the height of the can).
Cutting off the neck effectively removes the structural support and makes it much easier to then cut around the bottom of the can, in parallel with your neck cut.
clintonmc (author)  weibbed3 years ago
Hi weibbed

I've had a chance to try your method now and agree it is by far the best, would you mind if I updated the 'ible to include your process, full accrediting it to you obviously.


That would be great! I keep meaning to make a video and post it, but I never quite get around to it. Will let you know if I do.
clintonmc (author)  weibbed3 years ago
Thanks I've now updated it to include your advice pretty much word for word.

Let me know if there is anything you think needs changing.
I've cut a lot of coke cans up for my stirling engines, and I agree with everything you've said.
clintonmc (author)  weibbed3 years ago
Cool, Thanks for the advise, always good to hear from someone with more experience, I'll point people to your comments in the 'ible.
vanimm3 years ago
I forgot to ask - how do you "install" the butterflies in your artwork? I see Villinsky uses long wire pieces to create exaggerated shadow effects.
clintonmc (author)  vanimm3 years ago
I've not come to that yet, I'm concentrating on cutting out the all butterflies at the moment.

I have been giving it some thought though. I've bought a role of iron wire which I'm planning to stiffen and hot clue to the undersides, its the attaching to the wall part that I'm still insure of, obviously drilling lots of holes in the walls isn't going to fly. I do have some foam board so i might try setting the butterflies in that and attaching it the wall, when doing text Vallinski seems to use a frame of the word an stick the wire into that, and the attaching it frame and all to the wall.

I have also considered magnetic paint o the walls with magnets stuck to the underside of the butterflies.

Let me know how you get on and any ideas you have, I would be very interested in seeing them.
vanimm3 years ago
I have been dying to DIY Paul Villinski's work ever since I laid eyes on his magnificent butterfly wall art. I have been saving every can of soda for over a year now. Thank you ever so much for this brilliant instructable!
clintonmc (author)  vanimm3 years ago
You are very welcome, I've only been collecting cans for about 2 weeks so it'll be a while until I have enough to do a big piece but with the help of my friends collecting cans for me I hope to have a small piece of wall art soon, hopefully in time for a friend's house warming.

BTW if you haven't started disassembling the cans yet I would definitely recommend weibbed's method in the comments. I hope to update the 'ible to include it soon.
I tried disassembling one and it didn't work it out very well LOL. Appreciate the pointer!
Wow that was NEAT!!
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