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How To Make Repurposed Tin Can Ornament For Christmas

Yesterday, I received an early Christmas gift from Ryobi of two of their cordless power tools. I couldn’t wait to start playing with them and made two sardine tin can ornaments for my Christmas tree.

The two tools I was given were a soldering iron and a slimline file sander. The file sander was the one I was most excited about. It’s a nifty tool, great for sanding and filing things in those hard to reach places. I can see myself using this tool with many of my future craft and upcycling projects. These tools were all cordless as well, which made them even better.

Ryobi gifts

Repurposing Sardine Cans Into Ornaments

I’ve been wanting to make something with old sardine cans for a while.

I have upcycled many round food tin cans into planters, but I haven’t made anything with the rectangular sardine cans before. This is surprising as I get through a lot of tinned anchovies and sardines.

Every year I visit my parents in Portugal, I always buy a couple of tins of sardines, not just for the fish but I can’t resist the cute packaging. Not only are the Portuguese the best at canning fish, but they also wrap it in the best packaging.

One of my favourite shops in the world is in Lisbon, the Conservera de Lisboa, which sells nothing but tinned fish.

Sardine cans

Don’t worry, you don’t need a fancy sardine tin for this upcycle, a standard tin from the supermarket will do. If you don’t have any, I suggest you go buy yourself a tin of sardines in olive oil (they are so cheap).

Then, make yourself a delicious and nutritious lunch of sardines on toast. For something fancier, just add smashed avocado (my son’s favorite).

After lunch, wash the empty can in hot soapy water, before turning it into a lovely Christmas ornament or the tree.

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What You Need To Make Tin Can Ornaments

pictures of doors for sardine can ornament

How To Make Sardine Tin Can Ornaments

Preparing the tin cans

1.. Remove the ring pull from the lid of the sardine can. It should just twist off.

Sardine can to upcycle into and ornament

2. The inside edge of the sardine tin will be sharp. This is when the power file comes into it’s own. Use the file to smooth off the sharp edges by running the tin over the file. Like with all power tools make sure you wear safety googles, as little bits of metal are likely to fly off.

With the power file it will only take a minute or two to blunt the sharp edges.

Smoothing the edges with power file

3. Next, use the soldering iron to solder the ring pull to the back of the tin can. If you are not used to soldering this can be a little tricky and may take some practice. My soldering skills certainly need to improve, but I have plenty of tin cans to practice on.

Another option is to use a glue gun to attach the ring pull, but it won’t be as strong as the solder.

soldering tin can

4. Next, spray paint the tin can inside and out a nice creamy white colour.

spray painting the cans

Decorating The Tin Cans For Christmas

5. This is the fun part and one that the kids can get involved in. Sort through all your old Christmas cards and cut out any pictures or sayings that you think would be fun to use for an ornament.

I keep my Christmas cards every year for upcycling and friends even pass my on their old cards. Last year I used my cards to style a printer’s tray for Christmas.

Cutting out Christmas cards
cutting out backgrounds

From sorting through the cards I made two very different tin can ornaments. One with a winter wonderland theme, and the other with a Christmas door theme.

Making the winter wonderland ornament

6. For this tin can ornament I cut out a blue starry background from a Christmas card. Then, I placed the tin can over the Christmas card and drew around it. Next, I cut out this shape, cutting inside the line by about 1mm, so it would fit into the bottom of the painted tin.

From another card I cut out the words “winter wonderland” and a cute polar bear.

If you can’t find suitable images, search the web and print some. There are lots of polar bear images here you could use.

Making the wonderland tin can ornament

Place the blue background into the base of the tin. Then with the hot glue gun, stick the polar bear to the base of the tin can so that it sits a few millimeters in front of the background.

Then stick the words across the front of the tin.

Making polar tin can
Making tin can ornament

Finish off this winter wonderland tin can ornament by adding a red velvet ribbon to hang it from.

Polar bear winter wonderland ornament
upcycled ornament
How to Make a tin can Christmas ornament

Making the Christmas Door Ornament

As this was a sardine can I thought it would be appropriate to pick a red Portugese door for this ornament. I downloaded the door (available in the materials list above) and printed it on to matte photo paper.

I drew around the tin can and cut out the door shape. Then use a craft knife to cut the doors so they will open.

cutting out door
cutting the doors

I thought a mini Christmas tree would look good with this tin can ornament, you will be able to see it when the door is opened. Photos of loved ones would be a fun thing to place behind the door.

door ornament bits

Place the background in the base of the tin can. Then use the glue gun to glue the mini Christmas tree to the base of the tin.

gluing in the tree

Then using a hot glue gun, stick the cutout door to the front of the tin can ornament. Add some fun decorations to the front door, using the Christmas card cut-outs. This time I added a gold ribbon for hanging.

Making a tin can ornament
Upcycled tin can ornament
making ornaments out of cans

I can’t decide which of the two ornaments are my favourite. But what I do know is that both will be hanging on the tree. I can’t wait to use the Ryobi power tools again.

It won’t be long before I get the file sander out and smooth off some more tin cans. I fancy making a series of door ornaments, each one a different colour of the rainbow with a picture of a family member behind each door.

These ornaments will stay up all year round. This means I need to eat a lot more sardines on toast!

tin can ornament

You should check out the upcycled china plate Christmas trees I made last year with my Ryobi gift. Also, there are some beautiful tuna can ornaments with butterflies here.

Yield: Tin Can Christmas Ornament

Tin Can Ornament

tin can ornament

Make stunning Christmas ornaments for your tree by simply upcycling old sardine tin cans and old Christmas cards.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Active Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $1


  • Sardine can
  • Christmas cards or images from Christmas magazines
  • Red velvet ribbon


  • Ryobi File Sander
  • Ryobi Soldering Iron
  • Ryobi Hot Glue Gun


  1. First, remove the ring pull from the sardine can. Then use the file sander to smooth off the sharp edges on the inside of the tin can.
  2. Use the soldering iron to add the ring pull to the back of the tin can. Make sure the ring pull overlaps so that you can use it for a hanging loop.soldering tin can
  3. Next, spray paint the tin can cream. Make sure you spray both the inside and the outside of the can.
  4. Sort through your Christmas cards and magazines for suitable images. You can also look online. Draw around the tin can on a blue starry background. Place the background in the tin can.
  5. Find a suitable Christmas animal for the ornament. I found a lovely polar bear (links on the blog post). Glue the animal onto the base of the ornament so that it stands in front of the background.
  6. Glue some suitable festive words across the front of the tin can.
  7. Finish off by adding a red ribbon through the ring pull for hanging the ornament.
  8. There is also a tutorial on the blog for a Christmas door version of this ornament with free door downloads.

Recommended Products

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This tin can upcycle featured in the comprehensive list of upcycling ideas and resources. You will find more repurposed Christmas crafts here.


Tuesday 16th of February 2021

Excellent idea! I like it very much <3 thank you for such a detailed tutorial 🙂

Claire Armstrong

Tuesday 16th of February 2021

Thank you so much.

Donna @ Modern on Monticello

Wednesday 6th of January 2021

You always make the most interesting recycling projects! And usually so pretty too! Thanks for sharing. The #HomeMattersParty is back this week and I look forward to seeing what you have been up to over the holidays.

Claire Armstrong

Wednesday 6th of January 2021

Thank you so much. I hope you had a good holiday too.

Michelle Leslie

Thursday 31st of December 2020

How on earth do you always come up with such amazing ideas, Claire? It boggles my mind and what a nifty little tool that power file is. That would come in so handy when I make miniatures. I'm going to have to see if Ryobi stock them here in South Africa.

Claire Armstrong

Saturday 2nd of January 2021

Thank you, Michelle. Yes, I can't wait to use the tool again, it's so handy. Happy New Year!

Melynda Brown

Monday 21st of December 2020

One of my favorites from Funtastic Friday, pinned to the FF board! Thanks for sharing great such great content! Melynda@ScratchMadeFood!

Claire Armstrong

Tuesday 22nd of December 2020

Thank you so much and thanks for sharing.


Sunday 20th of December 2020

You never fail to amaze me, who else thinks about starting with a sardine can? lol They look marvelous, I love them, well done. I want one of those Ryobi sanders it would be so handy for all sort of DIY projects.

Claire Armstrong

Monday 21st of December 2020

Thank you, Leanna. The sander is great fun and I can't wait to use it on another project. So handy for crafts and upcycles.

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