At Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum Arts and Crafts Museum

Punched Metal

Age range 11 yrs (with some adult supervision) - adult

Materials: ArtEmboss in lightweight light brass (available from good art shops and also in gold, silver and copper), a cutting board or surface onto which you can hammer nails without being told off, a stylus (often given away with the artfoil), design and technology scissors or metal shears, a nail, a lightweight hammer, tracing paper, masking tape, soft pencil.

If you would like to try this activity out but using tools readily available you could use the large tinfoil platters used for buffets and a biro that doesn't work anymore.

Safety note: the foil has sharp edges so please be careful not to cut your fingers. You could stick masking tape over the edges to prevent cuts

Pen tray designed by C F A Voysey, around 1900

First have a close look at the copper pen holder by C F A Voysey, 

Two brass sconces designed by Ernest Gimson, 1906, and made by Alfred and Norman Bucknell between 1919 and 1939

and the brass sconce design by Ernest Gimson.


Metal Template

This is a very simple design using sheet metal and folded to create a shape without the need to solder the metal for permanance. The sconce shows a very naturalistic design which was first drawn out and then transferred to the metal. Think about your design and draw it out onto the tracing paper. The design needs to fit in the rectangular sides of the box. Use the template, or pattern, to help you draw out your design. Try making a 'mock-up' in paper or thin card first. It will help you to see how the folds work!

Fix the metal sheet to a board with masking tape. Use an old biro and the metal ruler to draw the template onto your metal.

Metal 1

Decide where you are going to put your pressed or 'embossed' design. Trace the design with the biro through the paper onto the metal and then go over the design again with the stylus to make the lines a little deeper.

To create the punched design, rest a small nail over the metal and tap its head gently, it may take two taps to get the nail to make a small hole. Keep making small holes until you have completed the design.


Take the metal sheet off the board and turn it over, re-tape to board and gently rub over the backs of the punched holes to flatten any sharp bits of metal. 

Metal 2
Fold the 1 cm flaps over VERY carefully, the edges are sharp. Then fold the two long 3 cms sides at right angles to the base and do the same to the short 3 cms sides. You should have a basic box shape with four wings pointing out at each corner. Fold each wing towards the centre of the short side and then roll the end of the side under to make the handle.

 Metal 3

Extension ideas for older children and adults

You can use your beautiful punched metal technique and embossing in a variety of ways.

  • Cut a frame from one piece of mount board or the thickest card you can find. Make it about 5cm larger than your piece of metal and cut a hole in the centre. Place the metal on top of the card frame and carefully bend the metal over each of the edges. You will need to secure with tape or glue.
  • You could hang the design at a window and watch the light come through the pierced holes.
  • Create a frame using an old wire coat hanger. Bend each of the metal sheet edges over the frame and secure with some glue - you could experiment with some different shapes. Bend the metal and frame into a curve and stand behind a candleholder ensuring it is stable and cannot be knocked over.
  • Make a box from thick mount board and cover with your pierced metal design.
  • You can also purchase sheets of zinc from most builders' merchants in a variety of thicknesses and try some larger projects!
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