How to Emboss a Metal Tin

comments (26) August 20th, 2008     

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Sister_Diane Diane Gilleland, contributor
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Use hardware-store foil tape to create lovely embossed surfaces on ordinary candy tins. Its easy!
Look in your local hardware store for aluminum foil tape. Its often in the duct section.
An ordinary pencil makes a great embossing tool. Or, save your empty ballpoint pens!
Use hardware-store foil tape to create lovely embossed surfaces on ordinary candy tins. Its easy!

Use hardware-store foil tape to create lovely embossed surfaces on ordinary candy tins. It's easy!

Photo: Diane Gilleland
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Here's a clever way to turn an ordinary candy tin into a striking one with some simple embossing.

What you'll need:
Small candy tins, such as Altoids tins, emptied and cleaned
Aluminum foil tape
Scissors
Plastic spoon
X-Acto knife
Self-healing cutting board
Pencil
Empty ballpoint pen (optional)
Sharpie markers in assorted colors (optional)
Cardstock (optional)

I love aluminum foil tape! You can find it in your hardware store. It's basically a thin sheet of aluminum with very strong adhesive on the back. A roll of this material isn't cheap, but it should last you a very long time—and it has 1,001 crafty uses. But, please do keep these cautions in mind when you work with it:


Aluminum foil tape, available at your local hardware store, is an amazing craft material. And, incidentally, it also comes in copper.

Sharp edges. When you cut foil tape, the cut edge can often be sharp. Handle it with care, and never run your fingers along any edge of foil tape!

Aggressive adhesive. The sticky back on this tape is very strong. If it sticks to a surface, it may not come off again without damaging it. So, protect your work surface with some cardboard.


Line up two pieces of foil tape to cover the lid of the tin. The tape should be larger than the tin on all four sides.


Foil tape is most commonly available in a 2-inch-wide roll (although you can sometimes find it in 4-inch widths). Check the width of your tape against the width of your tin. Some tins can be covered with a single piece of tape. Others, like this one, will have to be pieced. Begin by cutting two strips of tape that are longer than your tin is. Peel away the backing paper, and stick the tape strips to the lid of your tin. The edges of these strips should just meet, and the tape should overlap on all four sides, like this.

 


Burnish the tape with a plastic spoon until it's smooth.

Use the back of a plastic spoon to burnish the tape down smoothly. (By the way, a metal spoon doesn't work well for this step—it will mark up the foil tape.) See how much this burnishing minimizes the seam between the two pieces of tape?


Place a third piece of tape over the center of the lid, covering up the seam between the first two pieces.

We actually need two layers of tape in order to provide a deeper surface for embossing. And in this case, where we're piecing the tape to cover the tin, we also want to cover up that center seam. So, place a third piece of foil tape across the center of the tin, as shown.


Thoroughly burnish the tape with a plastic spoon to smooth the surface for embossing.


Burnish this piece down with the plastic spoon as well, until the seams between the pieces of tape are nearly invisible.


Cut along the edges of the tin with an X-Acto knife, cutting the excess tape away.

Place the tin face down on a self-healing cutting board. Use an X-Acto knife to carefully cut the tape along the edges of the tin. The adhesive may make this a slow process, so you may need to cut around the tin twice in order to cut all the way through the tape. When you're done cutting, remove the excess tape.


Burnish the edges of the foil so they won't be sharp.

Now, the edges of the tape can be sharp! So, take your plastic spoon and burnish the tape all around the edges of the tin until it's very smooth. This step also may take a couple tries.


Tape a pattern over the tin and trace the design firmly with a pencil.

You're ready to emboss your tin! A slightly sharpened pencil makes a great embossing tool, or if you prefer a sharper line, you can use an empty ballpoint pen. You can always draw freehand on the foil to emboss it, or you may want to transfer a pattern. This is what I'm doing here. I found a design I liked online, sized it and printed it from my computer, and then taped it down to the top of the tin. I like to crease all four edges of the paper, so I know where the edges of my tin are. Then, just trace over the elements of the design you like with a pencil, using firm pressure.


Lift the tracing template to see the design lightly embossed in the foil.

When you're done tracing, remove the paper. The design is lightly embossed into the foil tape! (I should mention here, you can also trace an image from a magazine, some fabric, or other items with some tracing paper. Then, just tape the tracing paper down to the tin, and retrace the design to emboss the foil.)

I like to trace over my tracing lines again, directly on the foil this time so they're etched more deeply.


Add more surface texture by embossing more details—the more detail, the nicer embossed foil will look.

Embossing is all about surface texture, so I also like to add lots of little details to my embossing. Here, I'm incising some little lines. You can also use a toothpick to make a tiny "pebbled" texture. If you're embossing a larger area this way, you can use a bundle of toothpicks as your embossing tool.

As a finishing touch, you can also add some subtle color with Sharpie markers. (Just don't press the tip of the marker too hard into the foil because it will also emboss!)


If your tin was made with an embossed lid, you can put some cardstock over it to make a smooth surface before you add foil tape.

One note: Many brands of candies in tins, including the beloved Altoids, have begun to produce tins with embossed lids. You can work around this by cutting a piece of heavy cardstock that's about 1/8 inch smaller on all sides than the dimensions of your tin. Then tape and emboss as usual.

Also, a flat-topped tin is best for this project. Tins with domed lids are much harder to cover smoothly with foil tape.

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Comments (26)

lbuser writes: I love recycling metal tins with aluminum tape. Two notes: Aluminum tape comes in multiple widths. The wide width fits the top of Altoid tins with a little left over so you won't have to overlap a seam in the middle of it. Also, I run the tape (with the paper still over the sticky part) through my embossing machine. I have a couple of them and I can emboss any of my designs and even cut out designs from this tape very successfully. Then turn the tin upside down and trace on the paper side and cut out. Voila!
Posted: 11:56 am on March 8th
minniemack writes: This is a great idea. Looks wonderful for little expense. However, the tape I am using is a bit gummy when I try to cut it. Is this normal, or is my tape too old? Thanks for any comments.
Posted: 4:35 pm on June 16th
barbarella writes: OMG - Thanks so much for this tut!! I am addicted to Altoids - I have 11 tins sitting on my desk at work and tons at home. I wanted to turn them into little gift boxes for xmas and now I know how! :)
Posted: 4:21 pm on June 16th
Misslu62 writes: I will try this tomorrow. I want to run it through my cuttlebug for the embossing to see if that works.
Posted: 1:25 am on September 20th
McJulieO writes: Such a helpful idea! I've got the tape and I expect to try this on practically everything that doesn't move, to make Christmas ornaments. I can hardly wait!
Posted: 11:06 am on December 5th
HclarkDesigns writes: It's a cute idea, I love how the texture can be applied so easily. I work with harder forms of metal, it would be hard for me to practice with Alum lol. Have you ever tried emailing Martha Stewart about your crafty ideas? She loves stuff like this and she's always promoting crafty websites.
Posted: 12:51 am on November 22nd
fallingjewel writes: Thanks for this tutorial, it's great! I was trying to think of a way to recover a tin for use as a gift, and this is perfect. I can't wait to try it out :)
Posted: 9:57 pm on November 20th
ladydiane writes: LadyDiane: That was so cut and a great ideal.
Posted: 9:32 am on September 21st
eveh writes: I just happen to have an eclipse mint tin. It is fairly small and embossed but I think it will work. I have the tape already or my DH does. ; )...I will post a pic when I get it done. Thanks, this is a great idea for a lot of crafts. My mind is racing.
Posted: 7:22 pm on September 3rd
paperrain writes: Well, just to follow up on my process, I have to say that the non-adhesive aluminum sheeting I tried on my tin did not work. It adhered to the tin on both sides just fine with the PVA. But it's too thick for the stylus I was using to make much of an impression. And I think the designer paper I was using to trace on was too thick, as well. So I guess I'll go get me some adhesive tape, and use tracing paper! This is too good an idea for the holidays.


Posted: 4:21 pm on August 29th
paperrain writes: I'm making this right now, and I'm applying the aluminum to the tin, but it's not the adhesive type, it's two-sided aluminum sheeting and I'm using PVA glue to adhere it. My question is this: when I sand the tin to make it adhere better, is this toxic?
Posted: 2:58 pm on August 29th
keepinthefaith writes: How totally cool!!! I was wondering how to paint or whatever to do with a ton of these things..Thanks for sharing! keepinthefaith ;-)
Posted: 8:17 pm on August 28th
Jrsjewels writes: Oh, I love these! I WILL be trying these! Thanks!
Posted: 12:45 pm on August 24th
drs522 writes: OMGosh...this is awesome! I will have to get me some of that tape :)
Posted: 7:44 am on August 24th
mcraesheri writes: This is a great idea as Iam in the process of trying to have the metal lokk in a room at home, this will save on buying some of the more costly items.
Posted: 6:37 am on August 24th
Sister_Diane writes: Merilyn, if you cut the cardstock about 1/8" smaller than the top of the tin, then believe it or not, the adhesive on the tape will hold the cardstock down to the tin just fine. It's a very strong adhesive - just burnish the edges well with a plastic spoon and you're all set. If you prefer to glue the cardstock down first, then you might find something like double-stick tape to be easy and effective.
Posted: 12:57 am on August 24th
Merilyn writes: If you put cardboard on to cover the embossing of Altoids how do you glue it down and good as the foil??? What glue etc do you use to get it to stick ???
Posted: 10:31 am on August 23rd
BluePlum writes: When you look in the hardware store for this tape you will probably find that it's called furnace tape. It's actually used to tape up furnace duct work.
I love it. I use mine to make faux soldering.
Posted: 9:35 am on August 23rd
ANGEL_WARRIOR_MUTTER writes: I TOO WANT TO TRRY THIS IDEA. WILL HAVE TO WAIT TIL SEPT. SOMETHING. WE ARE IN PROCESS OF MOVING TO NEW PLACE. THEY CALL IT A TOWNHOME WE CALL IT AN APT.

I SAVE ALL MY E-MAIL OF CRAFT IDEAS. I HAVE BEEN DOING FABRIC DESIGNS ON TOWELS AND OTHER ITEMS. PAINT BY NO. OTHER ITEMS SO WILL DO THIS WHEN I CAN. SOUNDS FUN. GOD BLESS YOU ALL. VICKI
Posted: 8:05 am on August 23rd
purplbutrflyjewelry writes: very creative. can't wait to get my hands on some rolls of aluminum tape!
Posted: 3:19 am on August 23rd
sewer101 writes: you could probably also take a cookie cutter or something else, put it over the tape before you take the back off, and cut around it then stick it on and emboss it then too.
Posted: 9:22 pm on August 22nd
mdfigueroa writes: This is great idea or project to do....
Posted: 2:59 pm on August 22nd
sarahelizabeth writes: Very cute!
Posted: 5:49 pm on August 21st
LindaPermann writes: oooh, so pretty! there are so many surfaces you could apply this to, too. fun!
Posted: 3:01 am on August 21st
Jannadu writes: luv this idea - sooo cute - soooo cleaver!
Posted: 12:34 am on August 21st
FashionAngel writes: omg so cute@creative luv it
Posted: 6:00 pm on August 20th
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