Weekly Upcycling Inspiration: The Tin Can

Welcome to your weekly serving of upcycling inspiration!  Once a week I’m going to feature an item for which I’ll endeavour to list some upcycling ideas.  They might be my own or they might just be little light bulbs of genius that I pinch from someone else.

Craft tool cannister

This week I’m featuring the tin can (also referred to as the steel can or just plain old can or tin).  Steel is 100% recyclable, and although considerably less energy is required to produce steel from recycled cans (75% less than making it from scratch, in fact)  it takes only a little bit of your energy to transform a can into another very useful thing.   (Check out some tips on recycling cans here.)

Pencil holders: cans covered with origami paper

1. Decorate (or not) with pretty or interesting papers (old maps, music sheets, wrapping paper, etc), paint, fabric or old buttons, and use as canisters to house all kinds of items – pencils and pens, paintbrushes, scissors, tape, rulers, knitting needles, crochet hooks.  Take a peek at these clever storage ideas here and here.

2. Turn into pots for plants.  Make drainage holes in the base first, using a drill with a drill bit designed for metal. Decorate or leave plain.  I tend to go for the natural look as the rust that develops adds charm.  Or you might like to leave the label on.  Any steel can is fair game – large or small, round or square.  The small tuna-type cans make cute little pots for succulents, which survive with minimal soil as their roots are so shallow.  Large cans, such as those for olive oil or Milo, make excellent pots for herbs.

Succulent in tuna can (this one was already coloured by the manufacturer)

Scented geranium in old Milo can

3. Use the top rim to make little picture frame magnets.

4. Make percussion instruments for youngsters.  For drums use larger cans with lids (and let your child bang away with whatever is on hand…hopefully something like a wooden spoon or chopstick).  Or cover a lid-less can with a section of old balloon or baking paper and secure with a rubber band.  If filled with dried pulses, rice, bottle caps – those sorts of things that will make noise when tossed inside a steel can – it can double as a shaker.  Go over to Mini Eco for a colourful version using ordinary tin cans.  Or be inspired by this too cool for school drum kit featured on Little Lovely.

5. Create a tin can lantern or try your hand at candle making (preferably using old candle scraps or beeswax) and use the can for a container candle or home-made citronella candle.  When it comes to melting the wax, you can even use a tin can to melt the wax in (as the part of the double boiler) so you don’t ruin a precious bowl.

6. Make a tin can telephone with the kids.

7. Need a height advantage?  Fashion a pair of can stilts.

8. Use as a round cookie cutter by removing the lid and base or make into custom shaped cookie cutters via Mother Earth News.

9. Stock-up the kids’ play kitchen.  Be sure to select cans that have a smooth edge where the lid was removed (or expect your bandaid stash to dwindle).  Wash carefully, leaving labels on.  You might be able to replace the lid (if removed with a can-opener rather than a ring-pull) and secure with glue, for authenticity’s sake (trust me…your child will think you are VERY clever)!

10. Make pigeon holes by glueing several cans together and placing them on their sides.  

What can you do with an old can?

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