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Recycled tin collage pendant

Cut, stack, and rivet elements from colorful tin containers to create a reversible pendant with a wooden core.
Because tin is so thin, it can be difficult to file. Make sure you use a fine-cut file and push the file along the edge of the tin. If you try to file at a more perpendicular angle, the tin will catch and distort.  
Trio of pendants
By making a separate collage for each side, you can make your pendant reversible.

Almost everyone has memories of an old coffee, cookie, or tea tin put to work as a catch-all to store household caches like screws, coins, and pencils. While these tins are lovely in their own right, don’t overlook their potential to be repurposed as a raw material for your metalsmithing projects. 


  • Lithographic tins, amount and style determined by design
  • 1⁄8-in. (3 mm) craft hardwood, amount determined by design
  • 20–22-gauge (0.8–0.6 mm) copper or silver wire, hard, 4 in. (10.2 cm)
  • Circle template
  • Handheld shears
  • Disk cutter (optional)
  • Fine-cut hand file
  • #0000 steel wool
  • Dot adhesive
  • Rawhide mallet (optional)
  • Flatnose or linesman pliers
  • Flush cutter
  • Jeweler’s saw with #0 saw blade
  • 220-grit sanding stick (optional)
  • Black acrylic paint



Construct a collage pendant_step 1
Step 1
Construct a collage pendant_step 2
Step 2

Cut the base circle. Your pendant can be any size you choose; mine is 1 3⁄8 in. (35 mm) diameter. Choose a piece of decorative tin [STEP 1]. Use a circle template and scribe to mark a circle on the tin [STEP 2]. 

Use shop shears or a disk cutter to cut out the circle. 

NOTE: If you use shears, don’t cut the circle directly from the large piece of tin like you would from paper. First, cut out a square of metal around your circle and then trim the remaining tin to the scribed line. 

Use a fine-cut hand file to remove any tin outside of the scribed line, and then use fine #0000 steel wool to smooth the edge. Be careful not to file or use steel wool on the painted surface. Use shop shears or a disk cutter to cut out the circle. 

Construct a collage pendant_step 3
Step 3
Construct a collage pendant_step 4
Step 4

To de-bur the edge of the tin circle, hold the metal flat against your bench pin and run your file at a shallow 10–15° angle across the arc of the circle [STEP 3].  

Cut the smaller circles. With your shears or disk cutter, cut out 1–3 smaller, coordinating tin circles. File the edges and refine them with steel wool as before. Play with the placement of your circles until you have a pleasing collage [STEP 4]

Rivet the circles. Use dot adhesive to temporarily hold the pieces together. Use a fine-tip permanent marker to mark 3–4 rivet positions. Place your drill bit into a flex shaft, and drill the first hole through all the layers.

NOTE: Choose a drill bit that is as close to the same size as your rivet wire as possible. Since I am using 20-gauge (0.8 mm) wire, my drill bit is a #67 (0.032 in./0.81 mm). The wire should fit snugly in the drilled hole.

Cut a 1 in. (25.5 mm) piece of 20–22-gauge (0.8–0.6 mm) copper or silver wire.  

Construct a collage pendant_step 5
Step 5
Construct a collage pendant_step 6
Step 6

NOTE: If the wire is soft, harden it with a rawhide mallet on a steel bench block.

Hold the wire firmly in a pair of flat-nose or linesman pliers so that only 1 mm (1⁄32 in.) of wire extends above the jaws. Brace the pliers against your bench block, and use a riveting hammer or the rounded end of a ball-peen hammer to tap the end of the wire until the tip mushrooms over [STEP 5].

Thread the straight end of the wire through the hole in your collage from the painted side of the tin and use flush cutters to trim it 1 mm from the tin at the back. Place the assembly on a steel bench block and use your hammer to create the second side of the rivet [STEP 6]. Flip the assembly as needed to refine and secure the rivet. 

Repeat to consecutively drill and set a rivet at each mark to complete one circle collage, then repeat the process to create a second riveted circle collage.

Construct a collage pendant_step 7
Step 7
Construct a collage pendant_step 8
Step 8

Create the wood core. Use a pencil and the circle template to mark a circle the same size as your base tin circle on a piece of 1⁄8-in. (3 mm) craft hardwood [STEP 7].

Use a jeweler’s saw with a #0 blade to saw out the circle [STEP 8]. Use the fine file to refine the wood circle until it is symmetrical. 

NOTE: Don’t get too detailed at this stage; final filing and sanding will be done after you have riveted all the pieces together.

Construct a collage pendant_step 9
Step 9
Construct a collage pendant_step 10
Step 10

Rivet the tin to the wood. Use dot ad-hesive to adhere one collage to one side of the wood. Determine the top of your pendant and mark the edge of the wood at that point [STEP 9]. Using this mark as a guide, adhere the second tin collage to the other side of the wood. 

If either collage isn’t flush with the wood, remove it and gently file the rivet heads to flatten them slightly. Mark 3–4 rivet positions.

NOTE: For this size pendant, I like four equally spaced rivets. You need a minimum of three, but you can set as many as you would like for your design. No matter how many rivets you choose, plan to set your bail rivet last. 

Drill your first hole through all layers and set one rivet, then drill the second hole and set the second rivet. Once two rivets are set, you can drill all of the remaining holes and set the rivets consecutively. 

Finish the edges. Use the fine-cut file or a 220-grit sanding stick to remove any excess wood or metal to make the edge of the assembly as smooth and symmetrical as possible. To de-bur the tin circle edges against the wood, hold the assembly flat on your bench pin and file at a 10–15° angle, as before [STEP 10].
Construct a collage pendant_step 11
Step 11
Construct a collage pendant_step 12
Step 12

Create a tight mass of fine steel wool and vigorously rub the piece all along the edge [STEP 11].

Dab a small amount of acrylic paint the same color as your base tin circle onto the wood with your fingertip or a small paintbrush [STEP 12]. Clean up any paint that may have gotten on the metal, and let the edge dry for a few minutes.

Make the bail. Bails can vary widely in design, but I like simple, capsule-shaped bands. Use your shears to cut a small, rectangular piece of tin (my bail here is approximately 3⁄8 x 3⁄4 in. [9.5 x 19 mm]), then round the corners. Use your file and steel wool to refine the edges as before. Scribe in any designs you wish. 

Construct a collage pendant_step 13
Step 13
Construct a collage pendant_step 14
Step 14

Mark and drill centered holes at each end of the rectangle. Bend the rectangle over an awl at the midpoint to form a U-shape [STEP 13]. Adjust the curve so both sides are symmetrical. 

Fit the rectangle over your riveted circle at the point where you planned to put the bail. Make a mark through the drilled hole on one side of the bail onto the circle. Remove the bail and drill all the way through the assembly at the mark. Fit the bail back on your assembly, and rivet as before [STEP 14].

Slide the finished pendant onto the chain of your choice. 

Play with your food tins

Tin has become a frequent guest material for many artists in recent years. Most are attracted to the lovely floral and advertising tins of bygone years, but I have an affinity for the bright colors and patterns of those from more modern times. I’ve become particularly interested in adding a personal touch by scribing and distressing the surfaces. The tough, enamel-like finishes are great blank canvases for a variety of distressing experiments. The effects are rarely predictable but always intriguing.

Play with your food tins

The impressive array of color and imagery is more than enough to recommend lithographic tins, but they also happen to be great fun to work with since they’re simultaneously strong and thin.

FIND MORE: pendants , necklaces

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