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How to Make a Tin Man

Whether you want to decorate your yard or want to show people your affection for L. Frank Baum’s books about the land of Oz, making your own tin man can be a lot of fun. It’s also a good way to show off your skills for working with sheet metal. Best of all, there’s plenty you can do with your tin man. He could stand guard in your front yard and make a statement as part of your landscaping.

Design your tin man. This is the fun part; you can make him look however you like. Do you want to follow the design of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz book or movie? Or do you want to create your own representation of a tin man? Your plans should be as close to scale as possible; you should know how big each part of the tin man’s body should be.

Start with the Tin Man’s legs. These should be a solid base to allow your Tin Man to stand securely. Begin by using your tin snips to cut large rectangular pieces of metal. These should be the whole length of his legs, depending on how tall you want him to be. Roll the leg sheets into cylinders and clamp them together so they don’t unravel. Hammer rivets along the seam to keep the legs from unrolling. Add feet to the bottom of the legs to add to your Tin Man’s stability. Cut several small pieces of sheet metal and bend them around the bottom of the legs to make feet and rivet them in place.

Fashion your Tin Man’s torso out of a much larger piece of sheet metal. You should bend the metal into an oval in such a way that the riveted seam will face outward in front. Add the rivets, then cut holes at the sides for your Tin Man’s arms. Make the arms the same way you did the legs.

Now it gets a little trickier, because your Tin Man needs hands and a head. These are a little harder to make than the other body parts. To make a hand, start by shaping a wrist-size oval cylinder. Cut five small pieces of sheet metal for the fingers. (One of them should be shorter, as it will be a thumb.) Bend the fingers lengthwise into semicircles and rivet them together in a hand shape. To make your Tin Man’s head, use the tin snips to cut the outside thirds of a piece of metal that is the appropriate size for your statue. Bend the bottom half around into a thin circle and the top half into a bigger circle. The thin end is the neck and the thick end is the head. Top it off with an upturned metal funnel. (Or make your own!)

Put your Tin Man together. Start by riveting the torso to the legs, then the arms to the torso. Attach the head and you’re ready to decorate your Tin Man. Use acrylic paints (or any other material you like) to add facial features and extra rivets. If you’re planning to leave him outside, you should cover the metal with a protective lacquer to prevent rust.

About the Author

Ethan Pendleton is a teacher and writer in Columbus, Ohio. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Ohio State University at Marion and teaches writing in various capacities in his community.