Tin ceiling tiles often have elaborately embossed patterns that are done with precision. It often leaves one wondering, how the heck do they do that? With the variety of ornate patterns, textures, and finishes, you would think the tin tile manufacturing process would be incredibly difficult and time-consuming. However, that is not necessarily the case. Work that was once done by hand in the 1800s is now done with machines. Let us take a quick look at tin ceiling tile manufacturing.
The Evolution of Tin Ceiling Tile Manufacturing
When tin ceilings first became widely popular in the late 1800s, manufactures used hand operated presses that would stamp the patterns into treated metal. Using drop rope hammers and dies, the machines would force a pattern into the sheet of steel. The sheet would be laid into a cast-iron bed between the two sets of dyes, and the operator would release the dyes, stamping the pattern into the sheet with 900 lbs of force. Nowadays, the process is much more efficient. Historic patterns are created first by using a 3D model and dye casting methods. Then, modern hydraulic machines are set to stamp the patterns onto sheets of aluminum which is much lighter and more resistant to corrosion. Using the hydraulic machines, the press operators stamp patterns onto the sheets with an impressive 400,000 lbs of force.
Try It Yourself!
This may sound like a lot of work and heavy machinery but the process itself is actually relatively simple and can even be recreated on your own. You will need two cast plates, one recessed and one raised, and some clean soda cans. Cast plates can be found at flea markets, online, or you can do that part of the process yourself and create your own pattern. Just be careful – molten aluminum can be dangerous. After you have the casts ready, cut open several aluminum cans. Use a pair of tin snips to remove the top of the can, cut a line down the center, and take the bottom off. You should now be able to “unroll” a little sheet of aluminum. If you want to make a whole piece for a wall hanging, you are going to need a lot of these sheets (about 5 cans per square foot). Take your aluminum sheet and sandwich it between the two male and female casts, and begin hammering them with a ball peen. You will be able to feel the shape of the metal changing. Open the casts and you should have your very own tin tile sheet!