How to Design a Metal Punch

Written by linda becksterhed
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How to Design a Metal Punch
Tapping a nail into a piece of sheet metal in a pattern can create a beautiful custom metal punch decoration. (Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Metal punch art combines rustic and industrial looks for an interesting piece of decor that you can create on your own. Creating your own metal punch design can be as simple as drawing a picture. Metal punch designs can be intricate and complex or can include more simple shapes for a more basic design. Punching out the design on metal is also a simple process that can be safely executed with nails and a hammer if you do not have metal punching tools on hand.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Sheet metal material, such as 36-gauge tooling foil, aluminium flashing or pie tins
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Fine tipped permanent marker
  • Masking tape
  • Tin snips
  • Nails in assorted sizes
  • Hammer
  • Wooden board
  • Acetone
  • Cotton swabs
  • Heavy gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Metal file

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    Designing on a Separate Piece of Paper

  1. 1

    Draw your desired design on a piece of paper with a pencil. Sketch the design lightly so that mistakes can be easily erased, then darken the lines once you are happy with the picture. Note that metal punch designs are a series of holes, so there needs to be adequate spacing between the detail lines on your design to allow the picture to be clear once punched.

  2. 2

    Trace over the final image with a permanent marker so that it can be saved for future use. Photocopy the image or trace it onto another piece of paper. Store the original in a safe place.

  3. 3

    Tape the copied image to your piece of sheet metal with masking tape. Masking tape leaves minimal residue when removed, so it is the ideal tape for this project. Position the piece of sheet metal on top of a piece of wood.

  4. 4

    Punch holes along the lines of your design by positioning a nail over the line and tapping the head with the hammer until the nail pierces the metal sheet. The harder you hit the nail, the larger the hole will appear until you completely drive the nail into the metal. Use different sizes of nails and different levels of force to create different sizes of holes according to your design.

  5. 5

    Remove the tape and lift the paper off the metal sheet once the entire design has been punched into the metal. Check the size and spacing of the holes to make sure you are happy with the pattern and add or widen holes as needed.

  6. 6

    Trim the excess metal from the edges of the design using tin snips. Use a metal file to smooth out the rough edges of the metal.

    Drawing Your Design Directly on Your Sheet Metal

  1. 1

    Draw your design directly onto your sheet metal using a permanent marker. Do not worry if you make a mistake, as the marks will be removed once the design is punched into the metal.

  2. 2

    Punch the metal with nails by tapping the nail head with the hammer along the lines you drew. Try to space your holes evenly and keep them about the same size. Do not punch the holes too close together, or they will split the space between the holes.

  3. 3

    Clean the permanent marker lines off the metal sheet using acetone. Use cotton swabs dipped in acetone to remove the marker from inside of the holes.

Tips and warnings

  • If you use a pie tin, you can smooth out the ridges in the bottom by laying a piece of paper over the metal and pressing firmly with the back of a spoon all over the metal. You will end up with a nice, smooth surface.
  • Rubbing alcohol can be used instead of acetone to remove permanent marker ink from pie tins, but not any of the other metal sheeting types listed.
  • Metal sheeting has sharp edges. Metal punch projects are not ideal for small children because they can sustain serious injury from working with sharp metals.

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