Introduction: Repurpose Aluminum Cans Into a Wall Hanging

About: I enjoy repurposing and restoring old furniture and making woodwork projects that are not seen every day. I make most of my projects using wood that is either, recycled,reclaimed and love to repurpose and rest…

I try and create all my projects from recycled materials. In our house, we all love Pepsi Max, which leaves us with a fair few aluminium cans. Instead of sending them to the recycling centre, I wanted to try and create an aluminium can wall hanging with them. Because aluminium cans are not very big, I wanted to create a wall hanging that was made up of smaller panels that could be arranged in different designs on the wall. So your wall hanging can be changed around when you get bored with the design.

The idea came to me one night when I was cleaning out my craft drawer and found an embossing folder. I bought it years ago when I bought my Cricut machine with the intention of making my own cards. I must have had a stupid moment because I did not realise that I would need an embossing press to use it. So it has sat in my drawer ever since.

Step 1: Another Example for a Project

This was not my first attempt at this project, my first attempt was a steampunk mannequin covered in embossed aluminium cans. I embossed them all by hand using the folder which did work but the design was not consistent. I mentioned this so you don’t think you have to have an embossing press to do this project.

While I was doing the mannequin project, my mind was spinning with ideas for future projects. So I bought a second-hand machine off the Facebook marketplace, which I used in this project. This project looks time-consuming when broken down into steps but it was very easy and took about 2 hours excluding drying times

Step 2: ​Cutting the Aluminium Cans

I used 2 sizes of cans for this project, the mother cans give you a bigger sheet of aluminium to work with. To cut the cans you will need a Stanley knife and a pair of scissors. Wearing gloves to cut the cans will prevent any injuries. To get the most out of each can, I found it worked better to cut them as follows.

Step 3: How to Cut the Can

Using the knife you cut into the top of the can at the start of the flat section. You only use the knife to make a hole to get the scissors inside and then cut off the top section. You can now rinse out the can.

Next, using the straight line of the text as a guide cut down the middle. This will save time later because these edges will already be straight.

You can now cut off the bottom using scissors. This was not enough cans for my project because I kept changing my mind, so you will need more.

Step 4: ​Cut the Edges Straight

I found it was easier to have all the aluminium cans cut to the same size. You can use a cutting mat, Stanley knife and ruler to do this.

You only need to cut the long sides of the cans because you already cut along the text in the step before.

Step 5: ​Embossing the Aluminium Cans

When you load the cans into the folder you want the embossed side to be on the silver side. This makes it easier to see the design and to paint later. To make it easier to match up the design you should always put the can in the same position in the folder. At this minute in time, I only have one folder but I will be ordering more for future projects.

You now load the folder and roll it through the embossing machine. When I did the mannequin I did not have the machine for embossing. At first, I tried using a rolling pin to push down but I was not strong enough. I then used a very primitive method, I put it on the floor and stood on it. This definitely worked but the pattern was not always consistent.

Step 6: Embossed Cans

The cans look like this after embossing. I cut away the excess to use in a later project

Step 7: Cutting the Wood

Before I added the cans to the wood I did a test run first and found plywood to work better. It was softer than wood which allowed the pop rivets to embed into the back of the wood. You can glue the cans into place if you don’t want to add pop rivets. I cut the plywood to the following sizes.

  • 1 x 690mm x 120mm
  • 2 x 690mm x 80mm
  • 4 x 140mm x 140mm

Step 8: Adding Pop Rivets

Next, you place the can onto the wood and drill a hole through the cans and wood. Using the pop rivet gun add the pop rivets.

I used the smallest pop rivets I could find because they are easier to put in. The pop rivet pulled itself into the wood at the back. Cover all the wood and try and match the pattern up as you go along. I did have to trim some of the cans after with scissors. Note to self, put some wood between the wood and the table, lucky it was my workshop table.

Step 9:

Your cans attached to the wood will look like this image.

Step 10: ​Painting the Aluminium Cans

To paint the aluminium cans I used a cheap black matt spray paint. You will need about 2 coats to get good coverage.

Step 11: Highlighting With Wax Paste

To get the design to pop, I used copper and silver wax paste. To apply the wax paste, dip your finger into the wax paste and rub it over the raised surfaces. You still want to see some of the black below to add to the effect. The wax needs 12 hours to dry before you seal the wall hanging.

Step 12: Seal the Wax

To prevent the wax paste from going dull over time you need to seal it with 2 coats of clear spray polyurethane. This is where I originally stopped, but when I was taking the photos they looked unfinished.

Step 13: ​Making a Frame

I went for a very basic frame, by cutting some wood strips 1cm thick from 2 cm wood, and painting it black. I used glue and a nail gun to attach the frames to the panels. If you don’t have a nail gun you can clamp the frame in place while the glue dries.

Step 14: Arrange the Panels

It looked more complete with the fame. All you have left to do is create your aluminium cans wall hanging layout on your wall. You can move them around until you are happy with the design.

Step 15: More Great Project

Step 16: Repurposed Desk

I repurposed an old study desk into this cute sandpit desk for my niece.

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