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Cupboard Decor

Photo by Scott Van Dyke/Beateworks/Corbis

During the colonial era, punched tin made its mark on everything from lanterns to cupboards. Today, these intricate designs on metal can lend furniture and built-ins a unique, handcrafted look—and, thankfully, you don't need to apprentice yourself to a master to make them. Though he uses specialty tools and metals he weathers by hand, second-generation tinsmith Richard Lavy of Katie's Colonial Lighting insists that any novice can tackle the process with little more than a sketched pattern on paper, a sheet of tin or copper, and a hammer and chisel or nailset. Inspired to personalize your cabinets with some punched tin? Read on for other off-the-shelf items Lavy suggests for creating panels at home.


Photo by Bill Mazza

Trace your design (find predrawn options at Country Accents Punched & Pierced Tin) onto a sheet of paper the size of the panel you want to punch. Back it with thin cardboard for durability, then use tacks to secure the paper to both the metal and your work surface.

Metal Sheets

Photo by Bill Mazza

Lavy recommends 24- or 28-gauge plated metal. Try copper as a warmer alternative to traditional tin.

About $10 for a 12-by-18-inch tin sheet, about $13 for an 8-by-10-inch copper sheet; CreateForLess


Photo by Bill Mazza

To create a pattern with dots, try these Dasco Pro tools, which have round tips.

About $6; The Home Depot

Cold Chisels

Photo by Bill Mazza

For punching dashes, use ¼- to ⅜-inch chisels.

About $4 each; Sears


Photo by Bill Mazza

Tap the punches into the metal with a claw hammer. One firm strike per punch should do.

About $9; Ace Hardware

Rawhide Mallet

Photo by Bill Mazza

Once you've transferred your design to the metal, flip it over and use a rawhide or rubber mallet to flatten its edges and dull the punches' sharp points.

About $20; available at hardware stores

Scour Pad

Photo by Bill Mazza

To rough up the metal a bit so that it better accepts your desired finish, lightly rub this heavy-duty scrubber over the punched design.

About $3 for three; available at hardware stores

Clear Lacquer

Photo by Bill Mazza

After scouring the metal, spray it with this clear coat to help prevent rust. For an aged look, first apply a black oxide finish (about $45; Caswell).

Lacquer, about $7;

The $15 Shortcut

Photo by Ted Morrison

For an inexpensive take on this project, swap out the tin and copper for sheet metal from the hardware store. Use a large nail as your punch, then "age" the panel by rubbing it with flat black metal paint.