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We started feeding our cats canned food recently, and I kept staring at the empty cans of food thinking “what a waste to just toss these in the recycling bin”. I had recycled a few tin cans into wall-mounted candle holders, but I wanted a way to reuse more of them. Then I had a brilliant idea: recycle the tin cans into Christmas decor! I made this recycled tin can Christmas tree for our entryway table and it’s perfect!
This little tin can Christmas tree is so quick and easy to make, and it’s a perfect way to repurpose our empty cat food cans! Also, unlike other recycled projects I’ve done, I didn’t have to spend a ton of time removing the sticky label residue from the tin cans; it actually helped to LEAVE the sticky stuff on the can to hold the scrapbook paper on there. Bonus!!!
And, since the tin cans are recycled, this project is basically free! I spent $1 to get the ornaments from the dollar store and I already had paper and glue on hand, so the whole project cost me $1 and took about half an hour to make!
Recycled Tin Can Christmas Tree
Here’s what you need to make your own tree: (affiliate links below to the products I use and recommend)
- 17 empty tin cans (tuna cans or cat food cans are about the right size)
- colored or patterned holiday scrapbook paper
- glue stick
- hot glue
- miniature ornaments and string to hang them (I found a tube of 15 ornaments at the dollar store that came with gold thread for hanging)
- smooth edge can opener (so you don’t have sharp edges on your cans!)
I started with a bunch of empty cat food cans.
After slicing open a finger picking up one of the cans, I decided to use my smooth edge can opener to cut off the sharp edges of the cans. I seriously love this thing; it’s just a regular can opener but it takes off the sharp edges so you’re left with a smooth rim on the can. It’s perfect for crafting! I used it for my tin can snowman project and my tin can tea lights too!
After the sharp edges were gone, I cleaned the cans out with soap and water. The labels peeled right off, but I left the sticky residue on the can so that I could easily attach the scrapbook paper later. It doesn’t matter what the outsides of the cans look like because they will get covered with paper later, but make sure the insides are clean!
Cut your paper into strips wide enough to cover the outside of your tin cans. For the cat food cans I used, that meant the paper had to be 1-1/2″ wide. I used a 12″ x 12″ piece of scrapbook paper and cut it into eight 12″ x 1-1/2″ strips.
Then I stuck one end of the paper strip to the sticky label reside on the can and pressed it on well.
Then I wrapped the paper all the way around the can and used a glue stick to attach the other end of the paper strip to the can.
If you don’t have sticky label residue left on your cans, glue both ends of the paper strip to the can itself and you’ll be just fine!
Once all of your cans are covered in paper, it’s time to glue them into a Christmas tree shape! Lay your cans out on the table starting with one at the top, then two in the next row, three in the next, and so on. For a tree with five rows like mine, you need 15 cans for the tree itself, and 2 cans for the trunk.
Using hot glue, glue your cans together everywhere they touch another can. I started with the top can and added two lines of hot glue near the bottom. Then I set that can down and pressed the two cans from the next row onto the hot glue. I worked my way down the tree, gluing on additional cans one at a time. Since the cans are circles and only touch at one point per can, it takes a little bit of time and care to make sure you add hot glue exactly where the cans touch. But it can be done; just take your time and go carefully!
Once you’re done with the tree shape, add two more cans at the bottom to make a trunk. Then you’re ready to add ornaments!
Tie a short loop of thread through the top of your ornament. Hold the ornament centered in a can and measure how long the string should be to reach the top of the can. Add a very small dot of hot glue the string right at this point, then stick the hot glue to the top of the can.
Be very careful not to burn yourself on the hot glue! Use a toothpick if you need to in order to press the string and hot glue onto the top of the can!
Once your ornaments are glued into all 15 cans in the body of the tree, use scissors to snip off the ends of the string, and you’re done!
Stand up your Christmas tree on a mantel or a shelf somewhere and enjoy!
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P.S. if you liked this project, check out these other simple Christmas crafts!