Upcycle Tin Cans into DIY Napkin Rings

We love using cloth napkins at our dinner table but, instead of buying cheap napkin rings, we decided to DIY napkin rings using upcycled tin cans and IOD moulds.

DIY napkin rings with upcycle tin cans

You don’t have to wait for the holidays to do this DIY napkin ring idea. With the Birdsong mould, these napkin cuffs make a gorgeous compliment to any spring table. Want something a little fancier? Dress up your homemade napkin rings with the Lock & Key mould for a more vintage, Victorian look.  

(Wouldn’t these just be darling for DIY wedding napkin rings?)

This is a quick and easy DIY decor project that’s perfect as a beginner craft or for when you have an extra hour to get creative. 

No time now? Click here to pin this project for later.

Check out the step-by-step video tutorial below with Josie or keep reading for a complete supply list and instructions.

Supplies Needed to Upcycle Tin Cans into DIY Napkin Rings

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)

How to Make Your Own Napkin Cuffs from Upcycle Tin Cans

DIY Napkin Rings for Any Occasion in 13 Easy Steps

  1. Prepare the tin cans.

    Using a smooth edge can opener, cut both the bottom and the top off a 6 oz tin can. (In our family, these are usually tomato paste cans.) It’s important to use a smooth edge can opener because it nicely crimps the metal and prevents sharp edges.
    smooth edge on upcycle tin cans

  2. Decide which side of the tin can is going to the top of the napkin cuff and reshape the can into an oval.

    With the heels of both your hands, gently push down on the can to bend it into an oval shape. This will keep your project from rolling around when you’re working and it will also give you a nice surface area to create on.hands pushing on upcycle tin cans

  3. Prepare the mould.

    Using your Birdsong mould, lightly brush a bit of cornstarch in the mould cavity you want to use. This dusting of powder will help the clay release easily from the mould and prevent any distortion.dust birdsong mould with cornstarch

  4. Push the clay into the mould cavity.

    Estimate how much clay is needed to fill the cavity and pull that amount off from the block of IOD Air Dry Clay. Roll the clay in your hands for a moment to warm it up. This will make the air dry clay extra soft and easy to push into the mould cavity.thumbs pressing air dry clay into mould

  5. Remove the excess clay.

    Use your thumb to pull off the excess clay and reveal the micro rim. Normally, you level the clay surface to create a flat backside. However, for this project, you need to scoop out a bit of air dry clay from the center of the casting. This will create a concave surface where the back of the casting looks dented in. This is so that the casting has a lower profile on the napkin cuff.
    remove excess air dry clay

  6. Release the casting from the mould.

    Flip the entire mould over on a flat surface and then fold it back to release the casting without any pulling.
    release birdsong mold casting

  7. Sand the project surface.

    Take a medium or coarse grit sanding block, sand the inside top and bottom rims of the can to make sure there’s no sharp edges. Then rub the sandpaper all over the exterior of the can.

    This will rough up the metal surface and give it a little “tooth.” This means that the rough surface gives glue and paint something to grab on to.
    sand upcycle tin cans

  8. Figure out where you want to place your casting.

    Take a moment to lay the casting on the project where you think you want it to go. This is your chance to try a few different possibilities and choose the one you like best.position birdsong mould casting

  9. Apply the glue to the backside of the casting.

    Pick up the casting you made and squeeze some glue along the back. Using a small spatula or wooden craft stick, spread the glue so that it completely covers the backside of the casting. Make sure the glue goes all the way to the edges of the casting.
    apply glue to back of mould

  10. Place the casting with the glue side down and gently press to adhere it to the tin can surface.

    Place the casting on the surface of the tin can where you want it. Then gently press down on the entire casting being careful not to squish the design. This creates an even and consistent bed of glue that maximizes adhesion between the casting and the tin can. Take special care to press the edges down as part of this step.

    Don’t worry if a little extra glue squishes out – you can just wipe it a way with a finger or brush. 
    press down the edges of the birdsong mould

  11. Allow your air dry clay castings to dry.

    Ideally, you want to let the air dry clay harden for 24 hours before painting. But if you’re in a rush, set your napkin cuffs in front of a fan for a few minutes. This allows a crust to form on the casting and helps preserve the details of the design when you paint.

  12. Paint your napkin cuffs.

    Begin applying a chalk type or mineral based antique white paint to the surface of your project. If you only allowed a few minutes for the clay to dry, make sure you use a soft brush when you paint so that you don’t accidentally damage or distort the detail. 

    Painting tips:
    – Make sure you don’t use too much paint as it will pool in parts of the design and obscure the detail.
    – Sometimes it takes a couple of coats of paint to get good coverage on the metal surface.
    – After everything dries, you will likely have some gaps and cracks as the air dry clay shrinks while drying. You can easily touch them up with another coat of paint. 
    paint the diy napkin ring

  13. Leave your homemade napkin cuffs to fully dry.

    Set your upcycle tin can napkin rings upright so they are vertical while drying. Plan to let them dry overnight and then seal your work with a matte sealer of choice. 

Upcycle tin can projects are so easy and fun. You can use them to make planters, pencil holders, or festive luminaries. We’ve even used the lids to make holiday ornaments! 

Here are some more ideas for how you can upcycle tin cans with IOD.

Make these planters with Jami Ray Vintage.

Watch this video to see how to DIY tin can luminaries. While this video shows tin can lanterns for use during the holidays, wouldn’t these create great ambiance for you next party on the patio?

DIY tin can lanterns with IOD molds

Can you believe the ornament below is a tin can lid? Learn how to make it here.

Have you used upcycled tin cans to make something beautiful? Show us on social media – we’d love to see!

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  1. Carlyn on April 19, 2020 at 12:25 pm

    This is such a clever idea
    Never would’ve imagined turning at tomato paste scan into a napkin ring holder
    I need to get a mold and make one
    Thank you for sharing this idea

  2. Anonymous on May 28, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    These are so great!

  3. Jaxs on May 28, 2020 at 4:59 pm

    Personally I think I’d rather use some PVC sections that don’t look like a can. I know you can’t reshape them but it still appeals to me more. I love your molds and have used them on many things. Thanks for the idea.

  4. Christa Happe on May 29, 2020 at 12:01 am

    Hello from Germany,
    What can I do with the air dry clay moulds …they dissolved after the rain have falled on the projects….
    Please give me a tipp,,
    Thanks for the lovely ideas of crafting..

  5. Tracy on May 31, 2020 at 6:18 am

    Oh so many options with this!!!! A great up cycle project! The cans used for the herbs is an awesome idea and great look! It would be perfect for a window sill herb garden!

  6. Donna Hogue on February 20, 2021 at 10:40 am

    What a great idea!!!! I LOVE re-purposing items rather than throwing them away!!!! Beauty from ashes!

  7. Betty Bonnet on May 4, 2021 at 6:10 am

    Hello from Texas. I’m 77 years young and new to IOD. Looking forward to you teaching an ole dog new tricks.

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