December 18, 2006

50 Uses for a Tin Can

What is Tin?

  • Chemical symbol: Sn
  • Atomic Number: 50
  • Atomic Mass: 118.69
  • Density: 7.28g/cm3
  • Melting point: 232 degrees
  • Medium weight density (more than aluminum and zinc, less that gold, lead, mercury, silver and copper)
  • Forms alloys readily, creating pewter, bronzes, solders, fusible alloys and bearing alloys
  • Non-toxic
  • Resistant to corrosion
  • Attractive appearance

The population of Europe and America was growing exponentially. People were moving to cities, and away from farms. Getting food to them became a complex task. It would spoil en route, or needed to be dried and salted. The fresh taste of the farm would be exchanged for mold and disease, or tasteless food. Necessity, as always, is the mother of invention and one British man took it upon himself to find a solution.

Peter Durand invented the tin can in 1810, a year after Abraham Lincoln and Edgar Allen Poe were born. King George III liked it and gave him the patent. Unlike today, this sturdy can required hammering to open it. The tin can key opener was patented by J. Osterhoudt in 1866, just after the Civil War ended. A few years later, in 1870, William Lyman invented the can opener, close to what we now use.

Variations on the can developed over the years to allow for thinner construction, lithographed images, and different sizes. Aluminum and steel cans came down the line, for less expensive production.

Let's consider this humble can. It has served you well since you were young. It does more than what you might think.

Now, we aren't shy to tell you that behind almost every link is a related product you can buy. Maybe it isn't related -- it could be we just thought the product was interesting and used the word in the title. Peaking is free! If you do buy something, we'll have found one more thing a tin can is good for. It'll help support this little page and are sometimes as fun as this list. Either way, we hope you have as much fun as we did, and maybe even learned something. Frankly, before working on this project, we had no idea some of these things existed. We liberally used homonyms, synonyms, intentional spelling errors, and word play to find these gems. A number of them are odd price guides for strange thing. One man's rusty metal thing is another man's antique chocolate mold (see #20).

Can you find the connection in each link?

One string, two cans. If you live in the city, and have a friend across the way, you can tell secrets through the night.

Worm Keeper
When you're gone fishin', it is important to have a strong collection of worms. Fish, these days, like their bait natural. It is healthier than fabricated lures.

Watering Can
It misses the handy spout, but for quick houseplant watering, it can't be beat.

Pencil Holder
Point pens downward, in case the ink spills. Point pencils upward so as to not dull the lead.

Bug Keeper
With a cellophane cover with holes. Lightening bugs are fun, as are caterpillars.

Shelf Prop
It helps to also have a book or large brick to give it extra height.

Toothbrush Holder
Cover with wallpaper. Replace when necessary.

Camper's Cookware
Boy Scouts, take notes. Use one not lined with plastic.

Lamp Shade
The light will be strangely dim, as the shade will cover most of the bulb, but, with a decorative touch, it can make for an interesting ambiance. Consider poking holes in the sides for starry affect.

Trucker's Urinal
He'll never admit it, but during a long drive in the pouring rain, when he's in the middle of a great big convoy, what's he going to do?

Home for Disenfranchised Turtle
For the snapper who lost big-time in the tech stock fallout, or went through a messy divorce. He has to pay child support on each of those hundreds of eggs (he got around).

Cookie Cutter
Perfectly round every time. Try is with bologna too.

Height Extenders
Hold a string looped through each, place under shoe. Six year-old boys will feel on top of the world. Gary Coleman might find them helpful if he runs against Arnold in the California Gubernatorial Race.

Candle Holder
Fill with sand. We tried it. It really works. Lacks romance but makes up in economy.

Home for Ambitious Hermit Crab
Look, he was sucked into a bad real estate deal during the 1980s by a squid, but what do expect from a cephalopod?

Stop losing bills and other important papers. Great for office organizing.

Ash Tray
For those of you who haven't the guts to quit.

Golf Ball Receptacle
When the boss isn't looking, convert that pencil cup into something more useful.

Cowboy's Coffee Cup
Yup. When the range calls to you, and you've got to see those cattle into town, you'll want to start the morning right. Make ours black.

Jell-O Mold for that Redneck Home-cooked Look
Say, ma, where's all them fancy berries ya normally let float in the Jell-O?

Decorative Candy Dish
When painted, no one will know the difference.

Fence Post Shooting Gallery Target
Especially useful in the desert, where there are few ducks.

Coffee Can When It Grows Up
Mmm, good to the first drop.

Rolling Pin
You need a bigger one for bread, but if you need to roll a few cookies and don't mind the lines the can makes, try it.

Marriage Celebrators
Tied behind your getaway car after the wedding ceremony, with a big "Just Married" poster

Giant Donut Hole Maker
"Is there anything a donut can't do?" -Homer Simpson, culinary epicurean

No, not like Marilyn Monroe, but we like the way you think. We mean something like a Molotov cocktail.

Collector's Item
Antiquers love the ones from the 1800s.

Sand Castle Maker Tower
Show Donald Trump how to make a real tower.

Musical Instrument -- drum/tom-toms
Popular during "Little Drummer Boy" performances.

Rain Catcher
See how much it rains. Place away from any trees to get an accurate reading.

Be the first on your playground to call out to that cute girl on the swings.

Circle Tracer
This will entertain the young ones for hours.

Sapling/seedling growth area
Plant them in the can in late February, and have a prefab garden ready when the weather warms up.

Mosquito Breeding Pool
Impress your friends with a West Nile arsenal.

Thumbtack and Small Screw/Nail Keeper
Surely your dad used these in his garage too. Coffee cans are also useful for larger odds and ends.

Paint Mixing/Rinsing Can
Watercolor painters will love the price.

Can of Corn Baseball Hit
Means essentially a lazy fly ball, from 1896. It referred to a grocer lightly knocking a can of vegetables from a high shelf that he would catch softly. Had there been no tin can, what would Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds catch?

That's why "One Tin Soldier" can ride away.

Sundial Base
Does anyone really know what time it is?

Model Rocket Body
We tried this in third grade, but it blew up. Play carefully.

Maxi-Poop Scoop
When plastic baggies aren't strong enough when your heavyweight thoroughbred does his business in the local park, you can use a tin can to scoop it up and toss out. Bring two just in case.

Trash Can for an Extremely Small Person
Friends of Oscar the Grouch may find this a useful gift.

Loose Change Dish
Why is it loose? The pennies were at a bar all night looking for some hot dimes.

Plumb Line
Fill with soil, tie string through, and let hang. Great for use while building tree houses.

Carnival Pyramid Game
Give that man a Kupie Doll!

Window Prop
Useful on hot days when you want the window open just a smidgen.

Car Traction in Ice
Useful when stuck. Crush the long way and place under the tire at both ends. If the can breaks to reveal sharp edge and may flatten your tire. Use only when desperate.

Bombshelter for Beetles
This is why they've remained alive for so long.

Sword Hilt
For use with a wooden, blunt-tipped sword with tennis ball on tip. It can protect young hands.

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