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Bill Hudson

Tinware Tutorial

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Bill Hudson

I originally wrote the tutorial in 1995 and printed it in a booklet.  I have since added pictures showing patterns and tools. It may take me a while to post the whole tutorial here.  Most of my work shown here is in 1:12 scale however I also work in 1:8 once in a while. All of this material is copyrighted.


(Taken from the Scale Model Horse Drawn forum where it is also posted)


 Tinware Tutorial Bill Hudson is a master model maker who lives in Eugene, Oregon USA. A number of his models are now in private collections and museums. Here, Bill gives an excellent tutorial on bending and shaping tin to produce scale pitchers, jugs and tinware that adds interest and authenticity to many scale models. At one time Bill used to teach a class at the Guild School in Castine, Maine; and much information is reproduced here from a small manual bill prepared for use in the class. 


These first 6 pages show the basic lay out. This works for all thin metals, paper and probably even plastic. I usually lay my patterns out on old file folders. You can cut them out in paper or card and assemble them with glue for a test.


 

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Most all the method and tools are regular available tools or hand made tools and my methods of construction are geared not to require complicated or expensive tooling.

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Catherine Ronan

Oh WOW! Shame on me. I know who you are now. I remember reading about you a very long time ago. <blush> I am going to love these tutorials.

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Bill Hudson

This concludes the basic lay out of tin. Next comes making patterns

and some of the tools used to do tin ware.

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Bill Hudson

Developing good paper/card patterns and models before fabricating metal is a good way to improve your success at a quality finished project.

I use carpenter's glue in a puddle so it thickens up a bit. Then apply it with the sharp tip of a tooth pick. It only takes a few moments to dry. 
The photos shown below are of projects that were developed from pattern models. I had more but they did not survive the packing away and the move.

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This is a lavabo (not quite finished). It is a wall hung water vessel with a basin that sits on a table. It is usually used in bedrooms for washing up or shaving but they are also used in kitchens as drinking water and washing up. Some thing similar to a lavabo was some times carried in wagons or chuck wagons while stopped for a night. They held drinking water to prevent contamination of the water barrels by dipping.

I am showing the lavabo because it required developing compound curves for the moldings. The problems in developing the lavabo was made easier by using paper patterns.

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Bill Hudson

In the foreground, two tin pitchers, the little one one quart (1/12th scale) the larger one, one half gallon. The pint was damaged beyond saving. Also part of a coffee pot and in the background the model for the bay window of the popcorn wagon. The copper piece is a spout for a larger piece.

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Bill Hudson

Materials for making tinware. 
Most of the material used for tinware is of course tin. That is ferostan tinplate or dairy tin now days called tinplate or just plain tin. I was able to purchase a lot of 5’x5’ sheets of dairy tin about twenty five years ago and have barely made a dent in it. The 4” x 10” sheets of tin available at hobby stores packaged by KS is ok but hard and has a tendency to kink as it is rolled. If that is all available to you there are ways to overcome that problem (to be discussed later). 
The most available and workable size is .010” thick. This applies to brass and copper too. It is very close to scale in both 1/12th and 1/8th scale; anything heavier than that is just too hard to work in small sizes. Brass is also nice and fun to work. You have to be very careful with your soldering as it shows if you use too much solder. Brass polishes up nicely or can be darkened. Copper is nice to work too but slightly stubborn to solder. Very soft tooling copper can be used with tin for making spouts and small tube shapes and it can be tinned, (a soldering term).

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Bill Hudson

Tools
:

Following is an assortment of tools that I use in my tinware work.

1. Used for bending. The vise-grip contraption is a mini box break I made. Just clamp a couple of like steel strips in the jaws. It is best to place a 1/16" metal strip between the back of the two metal strips. This allows for a variety of thickness to be bent. The rusty large tool is a tinsmiths bending tool. The plastic handled pliers are square nosed pliers with no serration to mar the metal. The silver pliers are clock makers pliers for tweaking pendulum wires. Very good for bending handles etc.

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Bill Hudson

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2. This is a combo shear, break and roll. It is made in China so is probably available in most any country. Great shear for small metals. Worth for that part alone. The break is lousy for thin metals and the rolls are great for wagon tires but not anything smaller than 2" diameter.

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3. Surprisingly this break works well. Also China made and usually a very affordable price

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Bill Hudson

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4. Free hand cutting. The blue and green are flush cutters for model rail road track. They work well on brass, plastic, nickel strips but not too well on steel. the spring loaded shears are from a hobby catalog Micro-Mark and are probably something like them at hobby stores. The stainless scissors are telephone wire splicer's shears, given to me by my father in law. The little ones in front with the black loop handles are my favorite. This came from our local hobby shop. They are for cutting plastic radio control car bodies but work great on tin and brass of .010 or thinner thickness. I have been using this pair for over twenty five years. (they are great for toe nails too!)

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Bill Hudson

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5. Hammers.

Bake sure you polish the faces and balls of the steel hammers so that there are no scratches of dents; they will transfer to the surface of the metal you are working.

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6. Anvils and formers.

The back anvil was made from railroad track by my father in law. The little one on top of it was made from over head crane track from a WWII airplane plant in LosAngeles by my uncle. The various tapered and rounded pieces (dollies) were returned on my lathe from plain old steel rod from the hardware store. The dapping block was from Micro-Mark and I used an assortment of ball bearings for daps.

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Bill Hudson

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7. More forming tools. As you can see most of my tools are not of the expensive type and most are home made. The wood blocks are for forming concave discs or the likes. Good for pot lids. The blocks are rock maple and most of the end grain is used. Just draw a circle on it and use a power tool and a round burr to form the dish in the wood. Then finish off with sand paper on the tip of your finger.

The three short flat topped, tapered ones are for finish forming buckets and coffee pots. The tall wood one in back is for forming the tin hats.

The one on the right end with the leaver handle is for forming the pedal cranks for my pedal cars.

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Bill Hudson

post-35-0-71578200-1399015059_thumb.jpgMaking a joint in a cylinder or cone.

A simple (brake) bending tool can be made from a but 2" hinge. File or grind the long edges of the hinge back to 60º angles. This allows making sharp bends. You can hold this in your hands for bending.

Add 1/8" to the length of the cylinder or cone to make a tab to make a joint. Before rolling the cylinder bend a step in one end.Bend the whole tab down 90º and then bend part of it (about 1/32" or less) back to 90º forming a step. After the step is formed cut off half of the long end of the step leaving about 1/16" or as little as 1/32" length.

Rolling a cylinder.

For rolling miniature cylinders out of thin metals I like to use a web belt material or leather belt material about 1 1/2” wide and 1’ long. Clamp one end in a vise about waist high. lay the cut cylinder metal, with seam leg already bent, on the belting about six inches from the vise. The step leg end should be facing you with the leg up. Using a six inch long dowel, undersize for the diameter of the cylinder,(with ends rounded off for comfort) lay ing it across the metal right at the leg. I usually hold the loose end of the belt with one hand whole setting up the dowel with the other. Now let go of the loose end and using both hands and thumbs pull the belting tight while pinching the metal tightly against the dowel. Keeping the belt taught roll you hands forward while dropping them down. Once you have reached bottom move back up and re-grip starting the process again until the cylinder is rolled. Roll the ends pass each other with the plain end on top. When done you should ba able to spring the cylinder open so that the plain end will snap into the step.

Note on rolling tin.

The reason for using a web strap or leather belt for rolling cylinders it to eliminate the tendency of tin to kink every little bit as it is being rolled. Very small pinch rolls (ones that pinch the metal between them as they roll are very hard to find. This type is less likely to kink the tin. The type that uses a top roll to press the metal down between two lower rolls is the worse for kinking. By using a strap you are supporting and backing the metal with the strap, which helps stop some of the kinking if you are lucky and keep enough pressure on the metal with your thumbs.

Planishing out cylinders and cone bodies.

It is inevitable that during your rolling and bending you get some lines or kinks in the bodies. Look back at the tools. You will see a variety of anvils and round bars (mandrels or dollies as they are also know by), some tapered. Most of the work can be done on the shiny jeweler’s anvil but you will also find an assortment of home made bars useful too. In removing dents and kinks place the cylinder over the rounded end of the anvil and using a plastic or brass hammer tap them out. Use a glancing blow. For finish you can use a planishing hammer. You can buy an expensive jewelers hammer or use an inexpensive 2 oz ball peen hammer and polish up the flat end to a smooth shiny dome.

Truing up and rounding.

It is likely, that when you have got to this stage, you will end up with an egg shaped cylinder rather than round. Notice in tools there are several dollies of different tapers. Place one in the end of the cylinder and lightly tap on it. It will round out the cylinder. Flip the cylinder over and do the other end. The tapered bar’s, are good for cones like coffee pots and buckets. You can make wood or metal dollies to fit the inside of you bucket or coffee pot and tap them to final shape.

Making spouts.

Some spouts are cylindrical and others are tapered. For cylinder types use available brass tubing. Even so I like to chuck it in a lathe or drill press and file it to a slight taper. It just looks better. For taper spouts, use a soft tooling copper. Wrap it around a tapered mandrel. To make a mandrel, use a 3” long piece of 3/16” round steel chuck it in a lathe or drill press and turn or file it in to a very long taper down to a fine point.

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To make a mold board for the spouts.

Clamp two hard wood blocks together, tilt the block about ten or fifteen degrees; in a drill press and with a 3/16” bit drill down the length of the block. As you drill, the drill bit should start centered at the joint and as it drills down it should cross the joint line and end up coming out at the bottom on the side of the line. When opened you should have a tapered hole from one end to the other.

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Bill Hudson

Forming the spout.
Cut you spout out using a pattern and lay the flat spout along the mold. Press the mandrel down into the metal, forming it to the mold. Bend the rest of the spout over the mandrel and tap it down on the mandrel forming the joint. Remove the spout and coat it with flux and tin the whole thing.
Wiring.
To strengthen and finish off tin ware the edges are wired. That is you will see that the top edge of a bucket is rounded off. This is done by wrapping the edge around a wire. That is nearly impossible in miniature. I use wire, just plain brass beading wire. I tin the wire, wrap it a couple times around a smaller dowel to form a ring and then solder the ring on the top edge of the bucket. It is that simple. Well not quite!
Using a couple of feet of 26 gauge brass beading wire clamp one end in a vise, grab the other end with pliers and pull on it, stretching the wire a couple of inches. This straightens out the wire and hardens it. Then flux the wire and tin it. Wrap the wire around a smaller dowel than the diameter you need. Make several rings; wrap one ring around the top of the bucket so that the joint mates up with the bucket seam. Tack the wire in place in several places. Lay it top side down on the soldering block or a smooth block of hard wood and run a solder fillet around the bottom side of the wire. When you turn the bucket backup run your iron around the wire and bucket joint. This will draw the solder up. Finish off with a file.
Hope this is helpful.

Copyright 2014 ~Bill Hudson.~

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Wm. R. Robertson

Thank you for posting this. It is one of the most incredible posts I have ever seen. The generosity of taking the time to do this and share it with us is outstanding.

I hope many will make good use of this information.

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ElgaKoster

Thank you so much Bill, this is a great tutorial, I am sure I am going to come back to it a lot in the future, once my Cape Dutch home is build it is going to need pans, pots, kettles etc. I bought a book called the Cape Coppersmith that has a lot of photos and info about what was made here in South Africa during the 17 and 1800's and this will help me to make some of those items.

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Wm. R. Robertson

Elga I am sure you will show us what you make for your Cape Dutch House from this, can't wait but we know it will be sometime.

And Bill, congratulations, this is the first thread on the Fine Miniatures Forum to reach 2 pages!

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ElgaKoster

I will probably ask many questions along the way and I think a visit to the jewelers supply shop in Pretoria will have to happen as well, I saw some of those formers there, this is going to be fun! And take a few years too...

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Debora Beijerbacht

Superrr post & very informative! Thank you Bill!!!

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Pete Boorum

Spectacular work, Bill.  I am so sorry that I was only able to take two of your classes. 

 

Last year found a book called The Tinsmith's Helper and Pattern Book, H.K. Vosburgh,1994, Astragal Press which is a reprint from an 1879 work.  This ia much more of the same typ of patterns.

 

When you did miniature tin work how did you keep the solder marks in scale?  Did you have resort to painting?

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