This recycled craft is made from soda cans and scrap wood: tiny tin-roof cottages. A craft punch makes it super easy to make shingles from pop cans. Dress them up with nail-hole designs and you’re all set.
I’ll show you the supplies I used and walk you through how to make these tiny houses. If you would like to rescue more craft supplies from the trash bin, also see DIY Soda Can Garden Charms and DIY Water Bottle Bird Feeders.
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Recycle Bin Crafting
If you’ve ever watched a fence or deck installation, you’ve probably also noticed how much wood goes to waste. And all of those zillions of off-cuts probably end up in the landfill. I nabbed a bunch of fence post pieces last summer and thought I’d see what I can make from these 4×4 wood scraps.
The next part of the idea came from this Fiskars craft punch. If you’re a life-long crafter you know the enticement of good tools. As soon as I learned it could punch metal sheets, I thought how cute it would look to make tin shingles on a birdhouse. Since the 4x4s wood pieces are actually solid (not hollow inside like a birdhouse), the idea morphed into tiny cottages instead.
These cottages would work nicely as garden and patio art/decor. You could also suspend them from a hook and hang little bird feeders or bird baths below or add small, hanging flower baskets. I also thought it would be fun to tin-punch a giant letter for each house and spell out a word. That would look very sweet to see a bunch of them in bright colours all hanging on a fence spelling out W-E-L-C-O-M-E or, if you prefer, G-O A-W-A-Y.
If you’ve ever seen the gorgeous, colourful seaside homes in places like St. John’s, Newfoundland, you will recognize my inspiration for the bold colours.
How to Make Tiny Tin-Roof Cottages
Here’s a quick video showing the basic steps.
Supplies and Tools
- 4×4 fence post wood. These houses are 6″ tall.
- 6″ wide (or more) scrap lumber for roof pieces. The stuff I used is 1/2″ thick.
- 3-4 soda pop cans. Two (or three) cans for shingles, and one for decor (mini doors, windows, birds).
- Acrylic primer (optional – use it if you like bright, clear colours).
- Acrylic craft paints (or leftover house paints or stains).
- Paint brushes.
- Glue gun and glue sticks.
- Protective gear for eyes and hands while cutting soda cans.
- Saw (to cut fence posts and roof pieces).
- (2) 1″ wood screws (to attach roof pieces to cottage).
- Good crafting scissors for cutting metal. I use Fiskars Cuts+More.
- Craft punch for soft metal. I use the Fiskars Thick Material 2″ Tag Punch.
- Exacto knife (for taking apart soda cans).
- Electric drill and small, wood drill bit (to create pilot hole for roof screws). Or not.
- Nail and hammer (to create designs on shingles).
- Old scrap of wood or cutting board to hammer on.
- Pencil, ruler.
- Electric staple gun (to attach shingles to cottage).
- Decorations: old drawer pulls, knobs, house numbers, etc.
When I make a new project like this, I like to test a whole bunch of options to come up with what I think is the best way to make it. As I walk you through the steps, I will show you alternative methods you may prefer.
First we’ll get the wood cut. You could also get the cuts done at a lumber store if you prefer.
- Cut a 6-inch piece of 4×4 fence post. (If you want a taller cottage, choose any length you like.)
- Cut one end of the fence post for the roof. The cuts should be at 45 degree angles. This is important. The top roof pieces will fit nicely together this way.
- Cut roof pieces. Mine are 2.5 x 4″ and 3 x 4″.
You want one piece shorter than the other (the difference is the thickness of the wood) so you can put them together the way you see in the image above (L-shaped).
You could miter the ends but since I used cheap plywood, the miters would not really look good.
- Prime and paint the wood. You only really need to paint the edges of the roof pieces that will be visible. Allow paint to dry thoroughly.
- Attach roof pieces to fence post using 1″ wood screws. Hold pieces in desired location while placing screws, otherwise they will wiggle.
Next we’re going to take apart the soda cans for the metal we’ll use for roof shingles and decor, and cut out the shingles.
- Cut apart soda cans with an exacto knife, protective gloves and glasses. You want to carefully slice off the top and bottom, leaving the side panel of metal.
This video for my DIY Soda Can Garden Charms shows how I cut the cans. And if you are unsure, please have someone else do it for you.
- Cut open side metal and remove any jagged edges with craft scissors.
- Cut out shingles using metal craft punch. You can see how it works in the video (above).
I actually found that by using the punch upside-down, I could see exactly where it was going to cut and therefore waste very little metal.
I hope you find metal punching as addictive as I do! I wanted to keep going.
Have a look at the next image. On this cottage, I cut each tab using the punch, and then I punched them in half again (to get two pieces). The other cottages shown here have full-size tab shingles. Your choice!
Here’s how the tabs look. I was also rather delighted to discover that one piece ends up looking like a perfect cat head which I’m sure I’ll use in future craft projects!
- Using a nail or screw tip and a hammer, create designs in your shingles. You could also leave them plain if you like boring projects.
- Be sure to work on an old piece of wood (or something similar) that you don’t mind getting little holes in. Not your good cutting board. Ahem.
- To attach the shingles to the house, there are a few options. I ended up using both the hot glue gun and electric stapler.
- The stapler holds the shingles very nicely in place. The actual staples should be added at the top of each shingle where they will be hidden under the next row above.
Before you attach your shingles
- Test out the locations to see how it will work. With the roof size here, I needed 9 full-size metal tabs or 12 half-size (cat head) tabs.
- Just like a real roof, you want to start at the bottom row and overlap each new row as you go.
- To finish it off, you might want to glue on a folded piece of metal to cover the top of the roof (like flashing). In the next image you can see examples with (yellow house) and without this piece. I also gave the yellow house a fancy front roof triangle (I’m sure there’s a word for these things).
- The final step is decorations. I cut out metal from the soda cans to create little doors, windows, birds, and (of course) cat heads.
- You could also go a more traditional junk-birdhouse route and use old drawer pulls, handles, little number signs, and other riff-raff to dress them up.
And that’s it. Your career as a tiny tin-roof cottage-maker awaits you.
- Hang the tiny cottages from chains and suspend little bird feeders, bird baths, or flower baskets below.
- Add to pipe scraps to create garden hose guards.
- Put a giant letter on each house to spell out a garden sign.
- Use as place markers at a family dinner.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛