Friday, September 4, 2009

Fort Garry Tobacco Tin Progress

One of the artifacts that I'm working on is a portion of a rusted tobacco tin found in Aulavik National Park. The partially visible words on the tin say 'FORT GARRY SMOKING TOBACCO'. Its a different material for me to work, but if I take it one step at a time its manageable. Fortunately biscuit tins are still made in a very similar way today as these tobacco tins were a hundred years ago.

For the reproduction, I used a section of an old cookie tin to create the blank. I used a blowtorch and soft steel brushes to strip the paint off and then had to cut and hammer a new lip to match the Fort Garry tin, but its a good match now.

Now that I have a basic tin blank, I need to transfer the design onto it. At first I looked for fonts on my computer that matched the lettering on the can, but I didn't have any luck. I guess the Fort Garry graphic design team weren't using MS Office. So instead, I photographed the tin and manually traced the letters in CorelDraw. That gives me the clean template that I can use to print and make stencils. I'll print the designs onto clear acetate and cut them out using an x-acto knife.

I found a few reference photos of antique Fort Garry tobacco tins that appear to be the same style as the artifact. That helps with filling in some of the missing lettering and colour matching. There were several different desings used over the years, but the one in the photo on the left seems to be a good match with the artifact I'm working with. According to the site, the paper tobacco tax seal on the antique tin is dated 1915. Luckily, the artifact is missing the complicated image shown on the lower half of the antique, so the part I need to print is fairly simple.

After painting, the final step will be the antiquing; cutting, bending and rusting the reproduction to match the original. Cutting and bending won't be a problem and I've collected a few recipes involving different kinds of household acids and salts to accelerate the rusting. I'll need to experiment with those now so that when the tin is painted and ready I'll know what I need to do to get the rust growing where I need it.

The metal work is a bit of a departure for me, so I've also been working on some of the lithics for the project to keep one foot in my comfort zone. Lori is off to Ottawa for the weekend and I've been doing a bit of flintknapping while she's away. There are a few more flintknapped artifacts in the Parks contract, but I've also been working on a Dorset knife for a customer who has been very patiently waiting. I hope to have these knives finished before Monday.

Photo Credits:
Top, Bottom: Tim Rast
Middle: Photo from

Photo Captions:
Top: Fort Garry Tobacco Tin section shown with the digitized template
Middle: Antique Fort Garry Tobacco Tin
Bottom: Reproduction overlain with partial acetate stencil


  1. The tobacco can is a cool reproduction project and your use of a cookie tin is sure to be a time saver - and the bonus is you get to eat the cookies first ;)

    Any thoughts yet on how you'll get the rust marks in the appropriate spots? Sounds like a challenge. I'm looking forward to seeing how you make out on the rest of this project. Looks great so far!

  2. For the rust, the unpainted side of the tin is 100% rusted, so that shouldn't be too hard. For the painted side, I'm counting on the paint to inhibit rust growth. I'll use steel wool to remove the paint and texture the surface in the spots where I want the rust to grow.

    Right now I'm experimenting with diluted hyrdochloric acid and copper to find a good oxidizing solution. So far the best results seem to come from submerging the tin in the solution, rather than spritzing it on the surface, which is the opposite of applying the copper patina. My concern now is that although the paint may be rust proof, I'm not sure if its going to be Hydrochloric acid proof. I need to test some painted pieces to see if the acid eats paint as fast as it creates rust.


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