The Tinsmith's Trade

Tinsmiths are those smiths who work with light metal, such as tinplates, out of which tinware is made. Wikipedia gives the following description:

A tinsmith is a person who makes and repairs things made of light-coloured metal, particularly tinware.

The tinsmith, or whitesmith, learned his trade, like many other artisans, by serving an apprenticeship of 4 to 6 years with a master tinsmith. He learned first to make cake stamps (cookie cutters), pill boxes and other simple items. Next, he formed objects such as milk pails, basins, cake and pie pans. Later he tackled more complicated pieces such as chandeliers and crooked-spout coffee pots.

In Iceland the tinsmith has to complete a four years training course, including formal education for six school terms (108 weeks), including examinations, and 60 weeks of practical training at the hands of a master tinsmith. The training will only be finished with a journeyman's examination.

Iceland's Ministry of Education has the following explanation of the tinsmith's trade:


Profile of knowledge and skills

The holder:

  • Is familiar with the main qualities and workings of materials used in tinsmithing, knows the correct handling of those and understands the possible dangers and environmental effects they may have.
  • Is familiar with and knows the correct application of all major machines and tools that tinsmiths use in their work, as well as their maintenance and care.
  • Is familiar with safety precautions in the workplace and arranges his or her work in such a way that the health and safety of self and others is not at risk.
  • Is familiar with the purpose and main types of ventilation systems, the construction of ducts and controls as well as factors that have an effect on their design.
  • Knows the workings of the most common ventilation systems and knows how to read instructions, illustrations and other information relating to the systems.
  • Is able to read drawings prepared by architects and/or engineers.
  • Is familiar with interlocking roof shingles and general requirements regarding the finishing of roofs and making buildings tight.
  • Knows the requirements relating to wall cladding.
  • Is skilled in those computer applications used in the construction and preparation of unfolders in tinsmithing.
  • Is thoroughly familiar with laws and regulations relating to the profession of tinsmithing and its production.
  • Understands the purpose of insulation and knows how to finish insulation and vapor barriers in roofs and cladding.

Range of occupation accessible to the holder of the certificate:

Tinsmiths measure, draw and construct objects from sheet metal, prepare working drawings of ceiling ducts based on drawings by designers and look after the construction, installation and maintenance of ventilation systems. They look after the metal cladding of buildings and determine the size and make of gutters and drains. Authorised to work as tinsmiths are those who have earned a journeyman’s certificate in tinsmithing issued by the Minister of Industry and Trade.