Papercraft With Aluminium Cans





Introduction: Papercraft With Aluminium Cans

I wanted to see if papercrafting was possible using aluminium cans (ie. Coke cans), I did a bit of a google around and there doesn't seem to be a lot of information on the subject, so I figured I'd do some research and try a few techniques out to see what I could come up with.  I've split this into sections to make it a little easier to read.
If you've never made anything out of papercraft before, I suggest you look elsewhere Papercraft Museum and make something out of paper, it takes a significant amount of more effort (and time) to work with aluminium.

Step 1: Flattening Aluminium Cans

First up, I used a knife to cut the top and bottom off the can (you can use scissors, but you'll need to use a knife to get a start to it) and then using scissors to chop the cans into a piece I can flatten. After you've cut them into sheets like that, neaten the edges by using a pair of scissors to cut them straight and make sure there's no little sharp bits.
The method for flattening the cans that I've found works best is to use a sandwich maker (an old one, don't ruin your good sandwich maker!!). Before turning it on, lay down a piece of baking paper on the bottom, put about 4 cans in, then add another layer of baking paper on the top (this should help prevent at least a little bit of damage to the sandwich maker).
Hold the cans down flat as you close the lid, once you've done that, turn the sandwich maker on.
I haven't fully experimented with getting the best efficiency here, but I left it on for 10 minutes with 4 cans in there, then turned it off and let it cool before I opened it.
Taadaa! Flat cans!
Other methods I have tried are:
* Ironing (Does nothing)
* Ironing and bending at the same time. This method works, but you end up with your piece looking a little bit bent as it's hard to get it as flat as you would in a sandwich maker.
* Clamping it between 2 pieces of wood. This does absolutely nothing, if you leave it for a day or a week, they bend right back to their natural shape.
It seems like heat is very important in getting these things to stay flat.

Step 2: Cutting the Sheets

I printed my design out on paper first, cut the paper version out then used it to trace onto the sheet. You may end up with pieces that're bigger than the can, so you'll have to deal with this by splitting it into 2 pieces.
Also, because the cans are way thicker than paper, you'll end up with parts that will fall short because the thickness of the paper messes it up. I just dealt with it as I went and it may have resulted in a less than perfect final product, the design would probably have to be altered to give a bit of room in some corners to account for the extra thickness.
Using a knife is practically useless, you just can't drag a knife through aluminium like you can through paper.
Scissors on the other hand are brilliant, it's just like cutting through paper. The only issue is the end of the scissors can cause the aluminium to bend a bit. To counter this, I use a knife to piece the corners, then use the scissors to cut up to them. It's not perfect but does the trick nicely.
You should also score the pieces using whatever you normally use to score, I use a thing that's a bit like a needle on the end of a knife handle.
Folding is pretty simple, just do as you normally do. Be careful about bending too much though, as the metal will weaken the more you bend it!

Step 3: Gluing

This part is rather difficult, I tried a whole bunch of glues to work out how to get it to stick properly, I ended up settling on Contact Cement. (Contact Cement is the sort that you apply to both surfaces, let sit for ~20minutes then push them together).
This part is going to take the majority of your time, I suggest you glue 1-2 pieces at a time, put the contact cement on them, let them sit the full 20 minutes, then push together (hold for ~10 seconds or so to make sure it's solid) before moving onto gluing 2 more pieces. Get a movie out, play some games... It'll take a while.
The contact cement wasn't the greatest however, as if the metal is trying to flex against the glue, it'll pull itself apart unless you sit there holding it for at least 30 seconds, even then it doesn't feel as strong as one would hope.
I didn't end up trying Epoxy however, so that would be a good thing to experiment with.
Other glues I tried:
* Aleene's Original Tacky Glue (the metal surface was too shiny for the glue to stick once it dried). This is the glue of Papercrafting gods that I had to import from the US to Australia. It's very similar to PVA/Wood Glue, just slightly tackier making it awesome for papercraft. Just not for... Aluminiumcraft :P
* "Hobby Cement" - Same deal as the Tacky Glue above
* Bostik Multi Bond - Same deal as above, it just can't stick to the metal as well as it should.

Step 4: Finished!

And here's my end result! Would I do it again? Nope, it took me about 3 days to get the whole thing done when the paper version took closer to a couple hours....
The design I got from: Tenpepakura Translated
And thanks to: Build Totodile  for showing me where to get it :D



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    You need heat to flatten the sheets because they're covered with a plastic film, that's why they will always get back to their round shape unless you heat them or grind them thoroughly (the inner side which is in contact with the drink).

    The good thing with the heating method is your sheets will tend to come back to their flat form if bent moderately (i.e. as long as the plastic film is stronger than the aluminum lack of elasticity), while they will remain bent with grinding (no counterforce).

    If you want to give your sheets a specific shape, e.g. to sheet a wing or a hull, pin them (liquid side outwards) and use a (cooking) blowtorch to set them to shape. When unpinning, they will keep their form.

    Epoxy (or most plastic glues) will work on the liquid side if you sand it lightly first (100 grit or lower), don't go to the metal. Nothing will work on the outside (the layer of plastic is too thin).

    1 reply

    Oh wow, that's awesome :D

    For those of you thinking to try Epoxy glue, this is what happened:

    1. Mixed the Epoxy resin stuff with the hardener
    2. Stuck the pieces together and held them for 5 minutes.
    3. Let go of the pieces.
    4. Observed as the aluminium flexed itself back to how it was before being glued (apart!)
    5. Stuck it back together and used a weight to hold them together
    6. Let it sit overnight
    7. Tested the glue strength, seems to be holding well...
    8. Flexed the metal
    9. Glue breaks off, metal falls away. Sadness ensues.

    Basically: Epoxy works if your metal isn't going to bend at all.

    You can also reach me at

    If anyone else if reading this and wants to make a little extra money by selling me a sandwich maker with flat surfaces (no ridges to cut thru bread) please let me know by contacting me at the above email address. I would pay the cost of the sandwich maker, shipping, and $20 above that for helping me out with this.


    Over the years we've gained 4 sandwich makers, I was glad to put one of the old ones to use :P

    Hi duk242, I hope I'm not being a pain in the ass but I'm leaving this message b/c the email I rec'd from instrtuctables (to leave messages here) made me think I'd put them in the wrong place and perhaps you hadn't rec'd either of the 2 messages I'd already sent to you.

    Long story short: I'd like to purchase one of the sandwich makers you mention in the comment shown above. I expect you to make some money for your time and effort as well so let me know how much you want and of course add in the cost of shipping.

    Hope you get this message.

    I'm trying to find a flat-surfaced sandwich maker (without a ridged pattern). I would be happy to take one off your hands if you'll tell me how much you want for it. I'd pick up the shipping cost as well. Thanks, Norma

    Forgot to mention: I live in Texas, USA, so let me know if you don't want US dollars and I'll find out where to get Australian currency. Pounds?

    Hey Norma, shipping from Australia to the US would be insane cost wise (that and our appliances run on 240volts instead of 110).

    However, I think I found the right one for you on Amazon, check it out here:

    If that link doesn't work, just do a search on Amazon for Sandwich Maker and there's quite a few flat ones on there :)



    Forgot to mention: I live in Texas, USA, so let me know if you don't want US dollars and I'll find out where to get Australian currency. Pounds?

    Thanks for sharing your findings! I'm working with aluminum right now too and found this information very valuable.
    For another adhesive option, try Glue can find them in the scrapbooking section of a craft store. They're super sticky for an instant bond. You can also find Mini Glue Dots for smaller work.
    For others on this thread...I finally found a flat sandwich maker - it's a Cuisinart panini press/griddle with removable plates...the plates you remove have grooves, but once you remove them, you're left with two flat surfaces :)

    what is the template called?

    You could try soldering the aluminium pieces together. then you only have to wait 10 sec for it to cool.

    2 replies

    I considered trying that.. then my 3D Printer arrived so I put it on the backburner for a while... I might give it a shot some time though (I'll post here if I do)

    If by solder you're thinking of using a regular soldering iron and solder used with electonic circuits, make sure you buy solder for Aluminum. Regular solder won't work... it'll slide right off. (Nice work by the way) :)

    One thing to try is using sandpaper to roughen up the parts you want to glue together.

    1 reply

    I sort of tried that, I used my scoring tool thing to scratch up the surface a bit, it helped a little bit but not as much as I had hoped...