Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tutorial: Tin Can Dollhouse Chair

So, this tutorial has been much awaited by google searchers everywhere.  My first post showed my first attempt to recreate the furniture, and it's pretty popular!  I thought it wouldn't be too hard to do a tutorial, but it proved to be difficult to illustrate using photos. (It's not easy to photograph these things, by the way.)  So this tutorial uses a combination of diagrams and photos, but you may need to use some trial and error and imagination along the way.  I hope this can help you quill some tin can doll furniture of your own.

Start with a can.  I used a soda can, which is aluminum and fairly malleable.  I think you can use other types of cans as well, but I would imagine that you would need some nice strong tools if your material is smaller.
I used some heavy duty scissors to cut off the top of the can.  I poked a hole, stuck the scissors in and went for it.
Trim off the curved portion of the can, make it as smooth as you can.  The next step is to mark and cut 1/4" strips around the can.  Your goal is to cut 54 strips total. 

This is where things got a little bit tricky here.  This diagram will give you a better picture of how the strips will be used to make the chair.  They are color coded.

There are only 2 techniques you need to know to make furniture, how to curl the strips and how to clamp the strips together.   The tool that I use is a pair of round nose pliers that are used for jewelry making, easily found at your local craft store.

To curl a strip: Grab the end of the strip with the pliers, twist the pliers away from you to begin the curl.  You can continue to curl the strip with pliers, but I prefer to finish curling up the strip with my fingers.

These short strips are clamps.  They are used to connect strips together when you are forming the chair.

To attach a clamp:  Fold the clamp in half to make a crease, wrap the clamp around the strips, and squeeze the clamp shut with the pliers.
Let's make a chair!  We need to start with the chair front, because that is where we get the clamps to make the rest of the chair. 

Step 1:  Cut off about half of the center strips to be used for clamps.
Step 2:  Curl the strips up to the top of the can, twist the curled strips to the side gently.

To make the legs, twist the strips gently to the center.  Gather the strips together and use a clamp to hold them together.  Slide the clamp so that it is about 1 1/2 " from the top of the can.
Use the round nose pliers to curl the ends of the strips out toward the edge.
Then use your fingers to roll up the curl all the way to the clamp.  Repeat for the other 3 legs.
Voila!  You have a chair that can stand on it's own 4 legs.  That was the easy part.

Time to do the back of the chair.  The crazy awesome part that is totally worth it.
Turn the 8 inner strips to the center, and clamp them together.
Curl down the two outer strips down to the clamp.

The next two outer strips will be used later, put them to the side and curl down the next two strip down.

The two strips that were put to the side, are going to be pulled around and clamped to the last two strips in the center.  It will be helpful to curl up the ends before you clamp it up, you can adjust it as needed.  Curl down the two center strips until they touch the touch the larger loops.

Attach the next two strips on the outer edge to the large loop with clamps.

Now curl the edges of the last two strips in,  and clamp the curls together.  It's tricky, keep trying.

Congratulations!  The hard part is over.  I promise.
 We reserved 7 strips for the arm rests.  4 strips get bent up to use for the arm rest, and 3 get bent down and curled, just like the chair front.  Start at the right side of the diagram and work to the left side.  Clamp the two strips together, leave some slack in the rightermost strip to give the piece a nice curve.  Curl down the edge of the rightermost strip.  Clamp the other 3 strips together, curl down the 2 strips on the outer edges.  Lastly, attach the center strip to the chair back with a clamp,  and curl up the strip.

That is it, you're finished with the chair.  I'm sorry if the tutorial is a little rough, but I hope it gives you a better idea of how to make vintage tin can doll furniture.

I will be working on another tutorial for the ottoman, and now that the basics are here, you can get creative and work on your own designs.  If you would like some inspiration, check out my board on pinterest.


Biz said...

I just found you via "The Life of Jennifer Dawn" and let me just say that this is pretty spiffy!
How creative :)
You have definite talent.
Are the edges sharp?

Jennifer Dawn said...

This is so impressive! What talent!

Sarah said...

Thank you :) Biz,I thought the edges would be sharp, but they aren't sharp.

Anonymous said...

Perfect fairy garden chair! You can control the size of tin.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! I am lucky enough to have one of these made 30+ years ago. It is nice to see a tutorial.

Betty said...

Thank you!!!!! My Meemaw used to make this exact pattern but she's gone now and I thought I was going to have to try to figure this out from scratch. How wonderful it was to find your tutorial! I make wire wrap jewelry and the techniques you show are practically the same as some that I use for that. Again, thank young or taking then time to do this tutorial!

Anonymous said...

I followed your directions and was surprised to have a chair as an end result! Thank you so much for the pictures and the color coded graphics HUGE help. After I was done I spray painted it gold and added a red cushion to the seat. My fairy garden looks even better now. Thanks again.

Unknown said...

Just used your tutorial for my granddaughters, now 9, for Grammy Camp. I bring them for a week in the summer to do vintage crafts a d food from scratch. They loved it and their chairs ended up beautiful! I made these over 50 years ago with my grandmother. It really saved me to find this!