How to Make Punched Tin Panels for Kitchen Cabinets
If you can’t afford an extensive kitchen renovation you might want to consider adding a few punched tin panels in your cabinet doors. Replacing all of the door panels with punched tin would be time consuming and overkill. Select a few doors to serve as focal points that will add traditional charm to your kitchen and harkens back to a time when pie safes were in every home. You can purchase pre-punched panels that can be installed immediately, or you can buy tin sheet blanks and make your own unique design.
Traditional tin sheets were pure tin which are still available but are more expensive. Other choices are tin plate steel and galvanized steel. Galvanized metal is coated in zinc, while zinc is essentially food-safe in this application, the zinc is very prone to white corrosion staining, and to deter that it is often dipped in chromate. Chromate is NOT food-safe. For this reason stick with pure tin or tin-plate steel but keep in mind that once you punch the sheet, you will expose the steel beneath the tin plating and rust can form when the panel is cleaned or gets wet from cooking activities.
Tools and Materials
Sheet metal cutters
Clamps and wood strips
Nail sets or a set of tin punches
1-inch decorative wood trim
Set of Tin Punches
You may want to practice on some plain sheet metal to get the feel for punching tin. Practice on the depth and various punches that produce different shapes. You can use a piece of ¼ luan mahogany plywood as your work surface since it is soft and inexpensive. Screw it down on a wood workbench or use clamps to secure it to a table top.
Removing the Wood Cabinet Panels
To start remove your cabinet door from the cabinet and determine how it is constructed and how the panel can be removed. Flush panels on less expensive cabinets can be stapled to the door frame from behind or inserted into a groove along all 4 sides of the door. If the later is the case, you will need to carefully remove the back edge of the groove to release the panel. This can be done with a sharp utility knife and chisel. Take several passes to score the wood until you cut all the way through. Remove the excess in the corners with a sharp wood chisel.
Punching the Tin
1. Measure the width and length of each cabinet door panel and transfer these measurements to the tin with a pencil or wax pencil. Use your straight edge to draw the lines for cutting. Depending on how deep the groove is you may want to leave about 1/8-inch of space for expansion.
2. Cut the tin with sheet metal cutters or a sharp utility knife. When using a knife, score the line several times and then bend the sheet back and forth a few times until it snaps off. Watch for burrs.
3. If you purchased a tin punch pattern position the template on the tin and center it along the two sides and from the top and bottom. Use painter’s tape to secure the template to the tin sheet.
4. Tap the tin punch into the tin; use slight pressure if you want to make an indentation or more pressure if you want to punch completely through the tin. Create a dotted-line pattern along the lines of your design motif. Save the pattern if you are using it on another tin sheet.
Tin Overlay Option
If you are a little squeamish about ripping apart you cabinet doors you can opt to install the punched tin over the existing door panel. If you have flush modern doors you can apply wood molding around the door that will cover the tin sheet edge. For doors with flush panels or square raised panels, measure from the point where the door frame profile changes from flat to curved.
Location of Door Panel Measurements
Measure the width and length of each door's central panel. Cut the tin panel down to this size to fit over the cabinet door. For flat doors, leave about 2 ½-inches around the door to represent the door stiles and rails.
Lay the tin panel over the cabinet door.
Use a miter saw to cut pieces of wood trim with mitered 45-degree ends to frame the tin panels. Stain or paint the trim to match the existing cabinetry.
Overlap the tin panel's edges with the wood trim and nail into the cabinet door with the pneumatic nailer and brads.
Tips• You can try using a finish nail, Philips head screwdriver, or slotted screwdriver to create different shapes instead of a nail punch.
• After you completed the punched design you can stain the metal for an antique look.
• To make the hole size consistent, only hit the punch once to maintain a uniform diameter of the holes.
• The back of the punched metal will have sharp edges or burrs so don’t run your hand over it. You may want to use an orbital sander to remove the edges prior to installation.