Tin Can Train

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Total Time 2 to 3 hours Ages school-age

Don't let looks fool you. Assembling a shiny freewheeling toy train like this one is a cinch -- the pieces are simply stuck or clipped together. Chances are, most of the parts you'll need for this model-making project are ready and waiting in your recycling bin.

What you'll need

  • Double-sided foam tape
  • An assortment of small, clean metal tins and cans (such as spice or tea tins and sardine cans)
  • Disposable mini tart pan (for making the cowcatcher)
  • Hammer and nail
  • Bottle caps (for each car, you'll need 4 that are about 1½ inches in diameter, like the type you find on juice and iced tea bottles, and 4 that are small enough to fit inside them, such as the type on soda bottles)
  • Metal washers (1 inch in diameter)
  • Paper clips
  • Duct tape
  • Small bulldog clips
  • Small suction cup hooks

How to make it

  1. step A

    Using pieces of double-sided foam tape, stick together assorted cans to create an engine and several cargo cars. For example, the engine pictured here was fashioned from a tea tin set on its side with smaller tins taped to the top and front. A twist-off bottle cap was added for a headlight, and a disposable mini tart pan folded in half and turned upside down was taped in place to serve as a cowcatcher.

  2. step B

    Attach 2 sets of wheels to each car. First, use a hammer and nail to make a hole in the center of each bottle cap (A); you'll need a larger and a smaller cap to make each wheel. Using small squares of double-sided tape, stick metal washers to the sides of the cars where the wheels will go, making sure that the washer holes remain uncovered (B).

  3. step C

    For each axle, straighten one end of a paper clip and thread it through the washer hole. Slip on a larger bottle cap (inside facing out), followed by a smaller cap (inside facing in), and bend the tip of the paper clip to hold them on (C). Now duct-tape the opposite end of the paper clip to the bottom of your car, positioning it so that the wheel turns freely.

  4. step D

    To connect the finished cars, simply attach a bulldog clip to the back of each one and a suction cup hook to the front, then hook them together (D).

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