The Tinsmith

Discover the craft of the tinsmith


The tinsmith is a metal craftperson who makes and repairs items using sheets of tin or resuing materials such as old biscuit tins.  In the past tinsmiths made tin containers for use in the kitchen and farmyard. They made a stock of tin containers in the winter and took to the roads in the Summer selling their wares.  They sold their goods door to door and also to local shops.

Bernard Mongan's tinsmith tools - photographed for N.M.I., 1965

The tinsmith travelled with his family from place to place on a small cart or wagon, which carried his tools, items for sale, and personal effects.   Each year the tinsmith would return selling new goods and repairing damaged saucepans or buckets and other items. Broken earthenware might also be put back together with pieces of wire, and some tinsmiths repaired items such as clocks and umbrellas. The tinsmith would work at the side of the road making and repairing while his wife or daughter would sell his tin vessels to local women. He was a welcome and valued visitor providing much needed goods as well as bringing news.

View below rare 1965 film of tinsmith Bernard Mongan making a tin can.  This film was commissioned by the National Museum of Ireland. Follow below a description of each step in the process of making a tin can.

Short film of tinsmith at work

Short film of tinsmith at work

Bernard Mongan, tinsmith

Making a lidded tin can

Making a lidded tin can

Showing each step of the process