Flatten Soda Cans

About: Hello - I am the scientist formerly known as Naegeli and of course I was inspired by the artist formerly known as Prince. But in contrast to his royal badness I do not want be become the king of pop but the ...

This Instructable shows you an easy way to flatten soda cans completely and turn them into shiny sheets of aluminum that you can use in your DIY craft projects.

The reason for presenting a solution how to flatten soda cans is that after recycling normally the obtained aluminum sheets keep the round shape of the can. This makes it cumbersome do work with. It is much easier to work with a flat sheet where you can transfer you design onto and then cut it out with scissors.

The current method to flatten soda cans that I could find in the Internet was to bend the round sheets over a tables edge for flattening. However, I did not like the results and therefore was looking for a better way which is presented here.

As an example, I attached a small project how to use the flat aluminum sheet to make a 3D-star. Thereafter it is up to you to check out paper craft books for ideas that you can realize with the flat aluminum sheet. I am looking forward to see your ideas.

Step 1: Parts List

To flatten soda cans, you need the following household items:

  • A clean soda can (you can remove the ink before or after flattening)
  • Knife
  • Small piece of wood
  • Scissors
  • Electric iron

To make the 3D-star you will need additionally:

  • Pliers
  • Marker
  • Cardboard

To remove the ink from soda cans you will need:

  • Pressure cooker
  • Nail polish remover or another solvent like Acetone, EtOH etc.

Step 2: Remove the Ink

Before you start you can remove the imprints on the outside wall of the soda can. I already posted an Instructable that demonstrates a method for ink removal from soda cans. You can find the Instructable here: Ink removal from soda cans

Step 3: Separate Top and Bottom of the Soda Can

Clean the emptied soda can by rinsing twice with water and then let it dry. Now we start a procedure to carefully cut off the upper and lower part of the can. Pay attention to your fingers during this procedure, as aluminum edges can lead to heavy cuts. Use a knife to mark a groove around the can. Hold the knife on a piece of wood at a level plane and then rotate the can around. It is not necessary to cut through the aluminum. Apply some pressure with your fingernail near the groove to separate the top and the bottom part (see video). Separate the tube with scissors to obtain an aluminum sheet.

Step 4: Flatten the Soda Can

Now comes the trick: To flatten the aluminum sheet, use an electric iron. Adjusted it to the maximum heat (Linen) and then hold it over the sheet for 3 minutes. I could not see any damage to the iron after using it on various sheets however I have to admit that the iron I use is only for waxing alpine skis. Let it cool down and then you have completely flat aluminum sheets ready for any kind of DIY projects. I recommend scrolling through old paper craft books for ideas how to use the sheets. The advantage of aluminum is that your crafts later can be put outside because it will withstand any kind of weather.

Step 5: How to Make a Star

Draw a star on a piece of cardboard. Cut out the star and place it on the flat aluminum sheet. Transfer the design by following the star with a marker. Cut out the star with the scissors. Mark even lines between the opposite corners of the star with the back of the knife. Bend the aluminum along the lines to form the star (see video).

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    16 Discussions

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    Ninzerbean

    Question 7 days ago on Step 5

    Feldschlosschen beer!? I used to drink that in high school in Switzerland - is it available in the US?

    2 more answers

    I have no clue if you can buy Feldschlosschen in the US.... but one can produce an Instructable in Switzerland with Feldschlosschen and upload it to the WWW. Regards from Switzerland. Cheers!

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    graywoulf

    9 days ago

    Yeah, this is a good one. I have to ask what the pressure cooker is for though.

    1 reply
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    rnjenny

    Question 9 days ago on Step 4

    Does this appear to affect the paint/decoration on the can? I often use the cans for their graphic properties and wouldnt want to affect this.

    1 more answer

    No it does not affect the paint. As you can see in the video I had the electric iron on the paint side and nothing is happening. Hope you will be successful.

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    Troubah

    14 days ago

    Nice instructable ! Thank you for sharing this.

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    Gadisha

    15 days ago

    Thanks for sharing your techniques, very useful information... and I love how the stars turned out, these will make great decorations for the holidays.
    Would this work on tin, or other thin sheet metal, as well (as opposed to aluminium)?

    1 reply
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    ilpug

    16 days ago

    I think I can describe what is happening here. You are heating the sealant glue past it's glass transition temperature and allowing it to move. This glue is applied to drink cans on the inside after they are formed, meaning that the glue holds to the shape of the formed can, so when you are trying to flatten it out into a sheet, the glue still wants to hold the can in the round shape. The heating allows the glue to become more plastic, therefore allowing the aluminium to be more easily formed.

    The level of heat produced by a clothes iron is much less than the annealing temperature (~730 F, 387 C) of alloy 3104-H19, the aluminium commonly used in drink cans. Therefore, you can't be actually affecting the crystal structure of the metal. To make your metal very flexible and less likely to tear when bending, I would recommend giving it a quick heat with a blowtorch and letting it cool in air.

    Drink cans are made by a forming process, which bends and shapes the metal into a can shape at room temperature. This shaping introduces stresses into the metal and alters the internal metal structure in a process called "work hardening" which makes your metal less flexible and more brittle. Annealing as described above will make your metal much easier to work.

    4 replies
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    raphanilpug

    Reply 15 days ago

    I was wondering which magical process an electric iron could make on an aluminium sheet to flatten it; now I knwo, THX.

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    memjr73ilpug

    Reply 15 days ago

    You got it 99.999% fight. It's not glue, it's a thin plastic coating used to keep the acid in the soda from reacting with the aluminum can.

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    ilpugmemjr73

    Reply 15 days ago

    Ah okay, I was thinking back to an old how its made I saw where the liner was applied via what looked like an aerosol spray, so I guess I assumed it was a glue. Thanks for the clarification!

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    dmaz.culz

    15 days ago

    Thanksfor your tips, very helpful