Tin Can Papermaking Without A Tin Can

Tim Can Papermaking book cover

Answered by Arnold Grummer in January, 2006

Hello, Arnold!

I am interested in teaching a class for kids. I have done papermaking with frames, screens, and sponges. Your tin can paper making sounds even easier! With coffee now coming in big plastic containers…coffee cans are hard to come by. Can you use the plastic ones if you cut one of the bottoms out? Is the cookie cutter project one of the easiest for groups? In your opinion, how young of a child would be able to take this class? Thank you! Lisa

A Tin Can Papermaking Setup

Hi, Lisa!

I started off using coffee cans because they were a natural. You are right, coffee packaging is changing. That fact, plus my desire to make different shapes of sheets, led me into the general field of other food containers. What it boils down to is that any reasonably rigid container which has a reasonably wide, open top, and from which you can cut the bottom can be used for “tin can” papermaking. For round shapes, nuts are packaged in a variety of tin or plastic cans. V8 juice cans (largest size) work well, too. Also, containers outside the field of food can be found, the bottom cut out, and used as the top “can”. The hunting can be fun! The top cannot, of course, be larger than the bottom “can”.

A Container Below to Collect the Water. A Grid. A Screen. A Shape to Contain the Pulp Once You Pour it In.

This is easily solved by getting a plastic bucket. Over it put a piece of plastic grid (for some odd reason called “egg crate”) available at a hardware or building supply store. Put the papermaking screen over the grid and the top can on the papermaking screen. Now you are ready to pour the pulp. If grid marks show up in your paper, place one or more layers of window screen between the grid’s surface and the papermaking screen. Of course, a very easy way to go is to buy our “Let’s Make Paper! Kit” or “Let’s Make Paper! Classroom Kit”. Both have screens, grids and other supplies, all ready to go.

Little Hands Love Making Paper

What age kids can handle tin can papermaking is not so much chronological as it is kids’ size and how manually adept they are. At the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. we worked with kids from three-years-old on up to senior citizens. For youngsters, it depends on how many you are working with and how much help you might have. At schools, we had parents come in or got students from higher classes to help. Using cookie cutters in place of a “top can” is a very basic undertaking, and again is not so much age as it is the manual ability of the kids. Good luck — both my wife and I having been teachers, classrooms have a special place in our hearts.

Arnold Grummer

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5 thoughts on “Tin Can Papermaking Without A Tin Can

  1. I’m always in search of a good tin can. Surprisingly, a few major coffee suppliers still use cans. My grocery store carries Hills Bros in big cans, perfect for groups. I was happy to find out they’re also good world citizens with fair trade sourcing and environmental practices. Win win win!

  2. School cafeterias usually get their canned veggies and fruit in large #10 cans. I used to ask the cafeteria ladies at my school to save them for me to use in the classroom, to make buddy ovens for campfire cooking with my Girl Scouts, and for storing art supplies at home.

    1. Hi Lorrie – Those cafeteria cans were perfect for Tin Can Papermaking! Isn’t it amazing how many useful resources are available in the trash? We had to upgrade our classroom kit to include a large can. The fun thing is, it’s a paint can with handles to store the kit parts in after the activity. Watch for it in 2021! What is a ‘buddy oven’? The girls in your troop are lucky!

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