Creating articles from metal may well be included in a camp handcraft program. Tin craft is a native craft carried on in the Southwest by Indians and Spanish-Americans. Many types of projects are developed, including the use of tin for animals, birds, masks, ornaments, and utensils. Tin cans provide material for many camp projects. Other metals, such as copper, brass, aluminum, pewter, and nickel silver, must be procured in sheets for craft use. Metal is a medium that cannot be used in the natural form. It must be secured in processed form.

This chapter will deal with projects that teach how to handle metal and metal tools with dexterity and with safety, and will include making camping equipment, camp furnishings, and camp symbols, and making articles that combine the use of metal with other materials, such as wood. There are many possibilities in metal crafts, including jewelry and utensil making, which are not included here because the projects require extensive equipment or do not seem to fit into a program of outdoor living as do the simpler activities suggested in the chapter.

Materials Used

Materials used in metal work may include:

Tin-a bluish-white metal, malleable at ordinary temperature; also tin plate, as in cans, which is a thin sheet of steel covered on both sides with tin

Copper-a reddish metal; very malleable

Brass-an alloy of copper and zinc, reddish yellow in color; malleable

Aluminum-a bluish-silver-white metal noted for lightness and resistance to oxidization; malleable

Pewter-an alloy with tin as its chief constituent; very malleable

Silver-a white metal capable of a high polish; very malleable

Nickel silver-a silver-white alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel, sometimes called "German silver"; malleable and relatively inexpensive

Foil-a very thin sheet of metal; suitable for tooling, like leather

Terms Used

Some terms used in metalwork are defined:

Malleable-capable of being shaped or stretched by beating with a hammer, or by the pressure of rollers Anneal-to heat and let cool, to make metal softer, and less brittle-necessary when raising bowls, etc., as hammering hardens metal Chasing, embossing, spotting, or tapping-ways of decorating metal with small hammers Raising-a method of making a depression in a piece of metal to form a bowl, dish, etc. Piercing-a method of making a design of holes in metal, usually with a nail-like tool; saw-piercing- the process of cutting out a design of holes in metal with a jeweler's saw

Beveling-riling or sanding an edge of metal to eliminate a right angle

Concave surface-surface hollowed out like a depression

Convex surface-having a rounded-up surface, like a hill or mound

Bench pin-a wedge-shaped piece of hardwood, with a V-shape cut sawed into narrow end; used as a working surface

Ball-peen hammer-a metal hammer with a ball on one end, and a flat surface on other; used for shaping metal

Techniques. General Safety

It is important to learn to handle tools and metal with safety as well as with dexterity. This is especially true with tin, for the edges of this metal are very sharp. Cotton work gloves should be worn when handling tin or other thin sheet metals, and edges of the metal should be turned and flattened.

A good working space, such as a table or stump with vise and bench pins, and logs that can be slipped into cans, will help in the handling of metals.

Flattening Metals

Wooden or rawhide mallets are used to hammer metal; these do not leave marks, as will metal hammers. The down stroke of the mallet is firm, and the mallet should slide along the metal as it strikes, rather than bouncing up and down (Fig. VI-1).

Making Folds Or Bending Edges

A fold or angle is made by flattening the edge of the metal against a wood or metal strip held in a vise (Fig. VI-2 a). The fold will be made more easily if the front edge is beveled slightly (Fig. VI-2 b).


Tools Used In Metalwork


Front Edge Is Beveled

Place metal strip in vise between two pieces of wood; tap with mallet to bend for angle or fold. For flat edge, take metal out of vise, and continue bending edge on wood surface until it is flattened against main strip (Fig. VI-3). To turn four sides of a strip, cut corners diagonally, then turn, pounding corners together (Fig. VI-4).

To bend edges on a curve, snip the edge with 14" cut every 1" to11/2". Bend back with pliers, then hammer flat with mallet (Fig. VI-5).


Use a pipe or smooth hardwood stick to round a piece of metal, using mallet to form in desired shape (Fig. VI-6).

Making A Sheet From Tin Can

A flat piece of tin may be made from a tin can. This is a good practice step in handling tools and in establishing good safety practices. A #10 (gallon) can makes a piece 6l/2" x 18".

Equipment and materials needed: tin shears; pliers or vise clamp; smooth cutting can opener; work gloves; mallet; vise; wooden work surface; cans to make strips of the desired size-must be clean and free from rust.

Wear work gloves when working with metal.


1. Cut off top and bottom of can with can opener.

2. Cut off both rims with shears or can opener.

3. Cut off seams with shears, cutting 1/2" from center of seam on both sides (Fig. VI-7).

4. Flatten strip by putting concave surface down on workbench, picking up back edge with left hand while rubbing toward back with heel of hand (Fig. VI-8). This process prevents the dents and marks that hammering may make.

5. Fold edges as in techniques (above).

Cutting Edges

Edges of metal are cut with tin shears or snips, of which there are two general types, the straight and the duckbill (Fig. VI-9). The straight shears (a) are used for cutting straight lines, and the duckbilled (b) for curved lines. Draw the outline to be cut with pencil, using a ruler for straight lines. Follow the lines, cutting at the center of the blades.

Cutting Edges

The job is simplified by using a firm working surface, and by resting the bottom blade of the shears on the surface as the cut is made. Separate the two edges as the work progresses, for ease in the cutting (Fig. VI-9 a).

For fine cutouts, a jeweler's saw is used (Fig. VI-10a). This is similar to a coping saw used for wood, and consists of a frame with a very fine-toothed blade. The saw blade is placed in the frame with the teeth pointing down, so that the cut in the metal is made as the saw is pulled down through the metal (Fig. VI-10 c). The blade is inserted in the top clamp first, then the top of the frame is pushed against edge of bench, springing the frame slightly, and the other end inserted in the bottom clamp (Fig. VI-10 b). To saw, keep blade vertical, pulling saw down with even strokes, then push up with lighter pressure, drawing back slightly.

To cut out a design: when a design calls for cutout parts, drill a small hole in the metal with an egg-beater drill (Fig. VI-11 a, b). Insert one end of the saw in the hole, clamp blade in the frame, and saw section as above (Fig. VI-10 d).

To turn inside corners: saw with a steady motion until the corner is reached. Continue sawing, almost in the same spot, pulling back on saw blade slightly while slowly turning blade in proper direction, then proceed forward. This makes an enlarged hole in which to turn the blade, preventing snapping the blade, which occurs when blade is turned too quickly.