Introduction: Reclaim Scrap Metal - Recycling Drinks Cans

Picture of Reclaim Scrap Metal - Recycling Drinks Cans

Buying metal sheet can be an expensive business. Everyday millions upon millions of metal resources are thrown away and in the case of aluminium cans they are generally recycled.

However, thin aluminium sheets are very useful and we do not collect and use this resource enough.

This Instructable will help you understand how you can easily and safely process metal cans to produce quality and repeatable sheets.

WARNING: cut metal sheet can have very sharp edges. We recommend that you wear gloves, take your time and do not process cans with young children around.

Step 1: Collect Empty Drinks Cans and Drain and Wash Them Out

Picture of Collect Empty Drinks Cans and Drain and Wash Them Out

You need drinks cans to complete this instructable. They can be found in many places cafes, outside shops, recycling banks and of course you own supply from your icy beverages.

When collecting cans you need to ensure that the cans are in good conditions. Ensure that it is not dented, scratched or pierced.

You will need to drain the contents and briefly wash the cans out.

Step 2: Using Sharp Scissors Pierce Can

Picture of Using Sharp Scissors Pierce Can

So this step is the most important. You want to cut into the can as efficiently as possible to ensure that the top cut is as clean and straight as possible. My recommendation is to cut a centimeter into the can just before the rim bends over. Use your scissors and nip the end together so that it goes through the can. It may take a couple of attempts to get this right but practice makes the final result almost perfect.

Step 3: Cut Can Through Piercing and Remove Top

Picture of Cut Can Through Piercing and Remove Top

Slide a scissor arm slightly into the opening and then cut around the top of the can as if you were cutting paper. Take your time and use steady movements.

Step 4: Pierce and Remove Bottom of Can

Picture of Pierce and Remove Bottom of Can

Now that the top has come off cut down the side of the can to the bottom rim. From the bottom of this cut angle your scissors so that you can use the same technique as the top to remove the bottom.

Step 5: Stack Reclaimed Aluminium Sheet for Later Use

Picture of Stack Reclaimed Aluminium Sheet for Later Use

You will now have a sheet of aluminium that you can store and reuse at a later date. You can see from our photos that we collect and process our cans on a regular basis.

We plan on making dragon scales with our metal sheets and covering a sculpture that we have planned. The lightweight sheets will flutter in the wind. Please check back in the future for an Instructable on our dragon.


suncoaster2 (author)2015-08-30

You can watch Matthew McConaughey make stuff out of beer cans during his interview on the first few episodes of True Detective, season one.

Bruce McCarthy (author)2015-08-30

I've been experimenting with capacitive switches for some electronic projects. This could be a perfect material for that. Thanks for the inspiration.

Machine (author)2015-08-28

Nice Instructable. Makes it easy to use that huge abundance of free aluminium sheet.

Thank you.

ms match (author)2015-08-20

the possibilities for items made from recycled aluminum cans are endless, in the past I have covered a card table top, an old trunk, a big round cardboard icecream container-these make really cute trashcans- and I went from using old license plates to aluminum cans to cover bird house roofs. Currently I am making earrings and butterflies!

firefly1112 (author)ms match2015-08-21

I know someone who drinks Foster beer; big, thick cans. I've been wanting to use them for this aluminum shingle method. For use on sheds, shelters.

JamesF24 (author)firefly11122015-08-24

Sounds like a great excuse to hold beer parties to collect enough cans to roof the shed. :)

MacCupcake (author)ms match2015-08-20

Yes! Birdhouse roofs. I recently built a gigantic doll house (dolls are 18" tall) and the house stood over 84" tall. I could have used this idea if I had known about it!

ms match (author)MacCupcake2015-08-21

American Girl dolls?

MacCupcake (author)ms match2015-08-21

Yes! Also there are quite a few lines of dolls in the 18" market: American Girl, Today Girl, Journey Girl, Madame Alexander, My Twinn, Our Generation, KidKraft Sadie, Gotz and Disney Princess... even a few more generics. (You can see it on my blog

ms match (author)2015-08-22

Looked for the dolls but only saw furniture and plants.......

bevin.chu (author)2015-08-20

Wouldn't an angle grinder work better than scissors?

Just a thought.

Actually, scissors do a much faster an cleaner work, I tried both. The worst result is obtained with cutting pliers (to short, makes a lot of dents and it's awfully slow).

Okay. I see.

MacCupcake (author)2015-08-20

Its plausible... I am thinking for a little eco-friendly cabin in the woods, or a playhouse structure... and as he said, shingles for a dog house. Careful about putting down the ideas of others. This is a website about challenging folks and getting them to think "outside of the box".

DzBz001 (author)MacCupcake2015-08-21

thanks for commenting on that . there will always be people like that .. maybe some day that person will find themselves in a position to use my idea and regret what he said ... u never know where you may end up !!

COREi64 (author)DzBz0012015-08-21

Wow, lighten up guys. First of all, I'm all for recycling and building stuff where it makes sense, but this... Cutting up cans that you can get a dime for each can? That seriously makes sense to you guys. And an instructable is needed to tell people how to cut up a can? And where did I say that third world countries are bad...

And when exactly did it become inappropriate to express non-positive opinions...

I'm just glad I don't live next to anyone who shingles with pop-cans.

MacCupcake (author)COREi642015-08-21

This is the text under the comment section: "We have a be nice comment policy. Please be positive and constructive."

And not all states have dime CRVs, in fact, currently there are only 10. And my state and the one just next door are in that 40 that DON'T. So the only option I have is metal recycling (which I do) but it doesn't cost me anything to use aluminum from cans.

So be nice. There are plenty of sites for you to go and be mean. Just don't do it here. Please?

aluswata (author)2015-08-21

Thanx alot for this wonderful innovations. keep it up dear!

ms match (author)2015-08-21

firefly1112, awesome, never knew that about Foster cans, will check into the heavier gauge cans, thanx for telling that!

DzBz001 (author)2015-08-21

really ? even though I could most likely buy your entire life i still enjoy making things myself .... I enjoy the challenge and feeling of accomplishment... Also theres nothing wrong with third world nations ... mostly they are in that economic situation due to greedy corporations and the government officials stealing the profit off of natural recources. maybe someday when you grow up youll realize you get better results in life putting out positivity. take care buddy I hope you do well in life seriously.

Luposian (author)2015-08-20

Ah, yes... "We recommend you use gloves...", but in all pictures, he apparently doesn't take his own advice. Brilliant.

ms match (author)Luposian2015-08-21

he recommends it but he doesn't have to do it; I've been cutting cans open for years and never used gloves but if I were telling you to cut open cans I would also say you better use gloves, u could slice your hand/fingers.

SwiperF (author)2015-08-21

I made some recycling with it and made several alcohol stoves out of 330 ml and 250 ml soda cans. They work great.

Malcolm S (author)2015-08-20

Years ago I was on the way to the Bathurst motorcycle races here in Oz. On the bends near Lithgow a guy had slid off his old BMW and ground a hole in the rocker cover which was badly leaking oil. Didn't need my help (typical old Beemer rider). Next day I saw the bike in the car park at the races. The rocker cover had been turned 180 degrees and the hole patched with an aluminium drink can which had been moulded into place...

IamC (author)2015-08-20

WVSundown (author)2015-08-20

I never thought of using heat to flatten the cans! Great idea and I enjoyed your instructible! I've been recycling aluminum cans for a few years as crafting material. I'm continuously finding something to create with the metal. Here's one more method for deconstructing the cans and several uses for the flattened sheets:

1Vega made it! (author)2015-08-20

I met a Vietnam vet that told me they had to use beer cans to repair helicopters. Thats when I started to save them... thinking by the time I have a few ill think of something. I saved about 100 cans but I could never think of something to make with it... I tossed them because they were taunting me!

duk242 (author)2015-08-20

And if you need to make them as flat as possible, check out my instructable here!

hollowayhandbag (author)2015-08-20

i to have been doing this for years once you have the sheets you can use like any craft metal and the sheets can be cut in to all sorts of things if you have a diy cutting machine and diys i make jewelry ,fridge magnets,its great cladding material for boxs tables ect , make construction strips out of them for model making . emboss them with designs using old ball point pens or again running them throw a craft diy cutting machine using embossing folders punch holes in them with nails to make light shade you can colour the insides with alcohol inks , glass paints and spray paints have a look here for just a few of the 1000s of uses for them

Ktaan (author)2015-08-20

Great idea......I have been doing this for years. Would love to see some of the uses for the aluminum.

andrew.spencer.2 made it! (author)2015-08-20

I've been doing this for a while too, once I combined it with this instructable:

I use a dremel tool freehand to cut off the top and bottom of the cans, it's not too hard and leaves a much nicer finish than the scissors. Also in the UK, Tango brand drink cans are actually made of steel rather than aluminum. Once I get enough of them I'm going to see how my microwave transformer spot welder works on putting them together.

jrv_boots (author)2015-08-20

Recovering sheet metal from soda (or even beer) cans is an 50-year-old trade-secret!! Even the Vietnam USAF vets said a typical day was a 6-pack, 24 pop-rivets, and a can of OD spray-paint

jerry.ericsson2 (author)2015-08-20

Way back when Christ was a Corporal, I got a free one year vacation to the enchanted Republic of Vietnam. Many of the small hooches over there used beer cans as siding to keep the rain from ruining the plywood they salvaged from our bases. We American's always threw away crap like packing crates, and of course millions of beer cans a week so the products were everywhere, and it made for some neat looking hooches.

dmhoke (author)2015-08-15

Good Idea ! ! !

How about building a small jig with a dremel cutting tool and rotate the can on the cutter. Should give a good straight edge.

IAmBruce (author)dmhoke2015-08-20

Exactly what I was thinking. How about using modified bottle cutting jig so you get very clean, quick cuts?

I've been reusing the cans for years also and tried various methods for processing, and a jig will only work to cut off 1 side, because removing top or bottom removes a great deal of the rigidity and it just flops about, making it harder to keep hold of it easily and securely. I do it the other way around - mount the dremel blade and hold the can.

lr10cent (author)2015-08-20

This can also be done with a new (or sharpened), fresh blade on an Xacto knife, though it might require a bit more care to be safe. I've done it with #11 blades. With care, you can cut at the middle and jam them together for what looks like a very short can. Unfortunately, the graphics will not pass close examination.

If you need lots of cans, put two empties in a storage space. You'll have hundreds in a few months. Or, at least, that's what used to happen in my cubicle at work. ;-)

vineskm (author)2015-08-20

Would love to hear other ideas for using the reclaimed aluminum!

bombaste.vonhohenheim (author)2015-08-20

Fixed a hole in a muffler once when I was in the boondocks using this technique, works like a charm. I had a German Opel but the local Chevy store didn't even knew it was the same company... it was the 80's.

sammcleod97 (author)2015-08-17

Awesome job thanks for the post! You can also smelt down the top/bottom pieces to use 100% of it ;)

IanDavis (author)2015-08-16

Here in South Australia we get a refund of 10c per can for recycling them.

gator235 (author)2015-08-14

Do the sheets sell for anything?

I have no idea, you could easy get the scrap value for the weight but the idea is that you can get an awesome material to use for projects for free! The aluminium is excellent quality, unified thickness and can be easily worked. Pretty damned awesome in my opinion.

Doesn't the inside of these cans have some type of coating that keeps the corrisive cola inside from messing up the can? I believe they have a liner of some sort.

Yes, they're coated in a synthetic resin made from Bisphenol A.

David Bachrach (author)2015-08-16

Been doing it for great for making aircraft parts from the coke metal sheets....also smelting the leftovers.

momoluv (author)2015-08-15

Very good idea to help recycle! go green:)

Saiyam (author)2015-08-15

Nice idea!

DzBz001 (author)2015-08-14

you could flatten them - use them silver side up

shingle a roof with them - itll look cool ..jagged look maybe

aluminium doesn't corrode - and I believe these are coated too

eco friendly - reflects heat during summer - keeps house cool

I may try it on a dog house ....wheels are turning

anyone uses this post pics please thanks

KyleTheCreator (author)2015-08-14

Nice way to recycle!

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