How to Make Vintage Cans

Sometimes I think I have an obsession of making old things look new and new things look old. For instance take the look of old cans, I love them but they’re not always easy to find. Sometimes you find them and they’re a little too rusted or the label is torn off or not the right color. It’s hard to find exactly what you want. I’m going to show you how to make Vintage Cans and get the exact look you want using new metal cans.

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Aren’t these awesome? I love how they turned out. None of them are the same. Which is totally perfect for the rusted metal can look.

Here’s the supplies you’ll need:
Cans- (these are large #10 cans from any LDS cannery for only .75 cents each) or you can also find them at Lowe’s or Home Depot (you can even use soup cans if you want smaller containers)
Plum Brown Barrel Finish- (found at most sporting goods stores or Amazon)
Cleaner/Degreaser- (found next to the Plum Brown or Amazon)
Rag- (to apply the cleaner)
Tooth brush- (to apply the plum brown)

You will also want gloves and an apron.

Apply the cleaner/degreaser to the can using a rag. I only used it on the outside of the can. It cleans off fingerprints and other spots so the Plum Brown can work it’s magic. I would recommend wearing gloves even though the label didn’t say anything about that.

Apply the Plum Brown with a toothbrush. Just dip it in the bottle and brush it on the can. I brush it on top to bottom, not side to side. It didn’t seem to go on as well that way. I did it over the sink and wore an apron just in case it got a little messy (which it did).

Place the can on the burner (top down) and heat for about 20 seconds. Every stove is a little different so leave it on until it starts turning rusty. Turn the can over and put it back on the burner for about 10 seconds. I used kitchen tongs to turn them over. Don’t touch it because it’s very hot. Place the cans on hot pads to cool. It only takes about a minute. As you can tell it makes your stove a bit messy, but it was easy to clean up with a little scrubbing.

Check out their rusty goodness.

These labels are so fun and perfect for our vintage cans. These are found on Flickr but a google search for ‘vintage fruit crate labels’ will give you some additional sources.
French Labels
English Labels
The images are printed on weatherproof polyester label sheets by Online Labels. The labels are available in many different sizes. They’re easy to cut to size using a paper cutter.

I’m really happy with how they turned out. There’s so many uses for the cans plus they add a little unexpected art to your space. The large ones can be used to hold cooking utensils and many other things, and the small one would be perfect for succulents or herbs. They would also make a great housewarming gift. Fill with their favorite flowers and give as a gift!

How about a bit of trivia: Did you know that can label art work was the birthplace of commercial art in America? The advent of Lithography enabled companies to use art to sell their product commercially and there was a great deal of competition between companies to create the best works. Here’s some links to a bit of history if you’re interested.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Diane @ The Checkered Apple May 24, 2012, 6:55 pm

    These are really nice! I’ve never heard of this type of rusting technique…very interesting. And never new about the polyester sheets either! Learn something new every day. Thanks for posting this!

  • Cynthia May 25, 2012, 1:12 pm

    I love how they are turning out! Apologize to your stove for me! LOL! I am glad to know that it cleaned up nicely. Thanks for taking on all the work of making the cans- it will be so fun to update this post and show everyone what they look like AFTER we finish the stuff that goes INSIDE the cans. Great work.

    PS- I did a little test on the labels and held them underwater to see if the ink would run etc. Nope! The polyester labels are totally waterproof- that’s good to know for all sorts of handcrafted stuff!

  • Emily Saddler May 25, 2012, 2:22 pm

    Gorgeous Leanne! I can’t wait to see the finished product with the succulents planted in them!

  • Courtney! May 28, 2012, 9:20 am

    Those look great! And I love those labels! I have some lemon labels I need to do something with…

  • Vanessa @ {nifty thrifty things} June 2, 2012, 1:01 pm

    Wow! I Love those vintage cans! Very cool idea!

  • six sisters June 4, 2012, 6:21 pm

    These vintage cans are so stinkin cute!! What a fun idea. We are so glad you joined our “Strut Your Stuff Saturday”. We love to see all of the great recipes and ideas!! Thanks and we hope to see you again next week! -The Sisters

  • Alana June 4, 2012, 8:49 pm

    These look amazing! Thanks for sharing this great tutorial 🙂

  • Miss Kitty June 9, 2012, 3:24 pm

    Wow! What a great tutorial with all kinds of products that I have never heard of. Thanks for sharing all of this info with us. I saw your post because it was featured last week at Nifty Thrifty Things (I am browsing around at things that I missed).

  • Traci June 16, 2012, 6:13 am

    Thanks for linking up to my monthly party! I’m highlighting this project in my next post.
    great job!

  • Okie Fields November 8, 2012, 10:01 am

    I LOVE these, and I can’t wait to try them!!!

  • Linda at Mixed Kreations August 15, 2017, 5:30 am

    I love rusty things and these cans are great. I have rusted some cans with a different technique but this looks even quicker. I love the labels I am going to have to try these. Your right that’s it’s hard to find rusty cans with labels in good shape, then if you did they want way to much. Thanks for sharing! Pinning, and sharing!

  • Liz August 17, 2017, 2:37 pm

    These look amazing! Thank you for sharing the info.

  • Lisa Mailliard October 12, 2017, 1:35 pm

    How do you format the label so it’s the right size for your can? Did you use a regular printer to print on the special labels? Love the look and want to make some for Christmas gifts! Thank you!

  • farmhouse kitchen July 20, 2020, 2:31 am

    It’s not hard to see why people love vintage interior design. There’s something so appealing about paying homage to the elegant aesthetics of the past

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