In Florida, its difficult to recycle soda cans (hundreds go in the trash) — which is ghastly to a native Oregonian (the first state in the nation to enact container deposit legislation on soda-bottles and cans in 1972). In other words, any excuse to re-use them (and start a project), is welcomed with eager hands. Stretching your creativity to repurpose items to be decorative is impressive and fun! The inner aluminum of the cans give off a great glow when placed near lights, which I found make lovely ornaments for the Christmas tree. Soda is a vice I have yet to crack — so I had plenty of supplies!
The first thing to know is that thin aluminum can be dangerous to handle when planning to cut it. I used gardening gloves to do this project, and I also suggest thick rubber gloves, as an alternative. Use anything that creates a buffer and still provides mobility to cut and maneuver. I named my ornaments ‘Calling Birds’ after one of my favorite Christmas songs, The Twelve Days of Christmas.
• Gardening gloves/ thick rubber gloves
• Sharp and cheap scissors (the blades become a bit chewed after this project. I found my sharp pair at a Dollar Tree)
• Metal nail file
• Glue gun (with a few sticks of glue)
• Medium-sized piece of cardboard (5”x5” or more)
• Scrap paper
• Ballpoint pen
• Ribbon/ twine/ string (for hanging the ornament)
I like to decorate with graphic birds year round, so the shape was an easy choice. I planned to make 8 ornaments, and fashioned my template accordingly—one can per ornament. I started by piercing each can near the top curve and bottom curve, rendering rectangular sheets. I took each sheet, folded it in half by length, slightly pressed the fold line, and cut the rectangles in half. A tip I learned through this process is that each square does not need to be precisely matching; you’re going to cut them again anyway. Also, making fewer cuts will create fewer burrs in the aluminum, which are terribly sharp, and will need to be dealt with later.
Cut a piece of scrap paper to design the ornament shape. I created the body of a calling bird with one wing, planning to mirror it with the same shape on a second sheet. Next, outline this shape on your cardboard, and label one side of the body as ‘A’ and the other, ‘B’. Begin tracing (with a ballpoint pen) 4 sheets with the ‘A’ side or your cardboard template, and 4 sheets with the ‘B’ side. The ink of the pen isn’t important because the tip of the pen indents the aluminum slightly, creating a great outline.
Next, cut out the shapes! This is your opportunity to add more decorative embossing by drawing lines on the non-blank side of the aluminum sheets. Along with etching the bird body and wings for texture, if you like, you can cut the wings into more feathery shapes. It was great fun experimenting with textures and shapes, before arriving at my favorite, which was (naturally) the simple outline and slightly rounded feathers. However, your dabbling in variety definitely makes gifts more personal.
Now, plug in the glue gun and set aside, on top of an old magazine or catalog. Use the metal file, at about a 45-degree angle to the blank side of each shape, and begin filing the sharp edge of the sides to your ornaments. It does not take as long as it sounds, as the aluminum is quite soft. Cut your ribbon for hanging into 5-6” pieces. Start gluing the non-blank sides of each body (A and B) together, beginning at the belly of the bird. When gluing the top, place your string, ends-down, in a loop, ¼ inch behind the neck. Lastly, glue each wing to its respective side of the your ornament. If you’re familiar with quilling, and enjoy the look, you can further cut the wings and curl them around a crochet hook or skewer to give a more whimsical effect.
To give each ornament my own personal touch, I added two tags, tied them together, and tucked them into the wings to be carried by the Calling Birds. I gave these ornaments to my neighbors, atop a plate of Christmas cookies!
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