How to Make a Decorative Metal Plate

How to Make a Decorative Metal Plate

When working to transform sheet metal into something decorative, you'll hear the terms "blanking" and "piercing." In blanking, the shaped piece is punched from the plate; in piercing, a design is left behind when pieces are punched from the plate. In this project you'll learn about piercing, and more specifically about the piercing technique known as perforating. Basically, perforating is just what it sounds like: the process of punching holes in metal. These holes could be the result of a nail used to decorate a thin sheet of copper or of complex punch and die sets that help metalworkers massproduce intricate designs. Here you'll use simple holes to perforate a piece of metal (think of your kitchen colander), either to let light shine through or simply for the pattern of the holes themselves.


• Pencil

• Paper

• Scissors

• Straightedge

• Drill

• Small cobalt or titanium bit, ⅛" to ¼"

• Emery cloth

• Hacksaw (optional)

• Angle grinder

• Bench vise


• Any length and width "hobby" sheet of metal (0.024" or 0.048")

1 Search, copy, and print a stencil from the Internet, then cut it out and trace it on the piece of metal with a pencil. Or, use your creativity to draw the outline of a picture on the metal.

How to Make a Decorative Metal Plate

2 Using a straightedge, draw perpendicular gridlines inside the outline. For a larger picture, you might draw vertical and horizontal lines every inch. For a small, perforated design, your gridlines might be every couple of millimeters. You'll be tracing a grid that looks like graph paper inside your picture outline.

How to Make a Decorative Metal Plate

3 Use a drill with an appropriately sized cobalt or titanium drill bit to make a hole at every place inside the outline where gridlines cross. For small designs with tight gridlines, you will want an equally small drill bit, such as a ⅛"; for larger pieces with more widely spaced gridlines, you could choose a larger drill bit, such as a ¼". Size your bit based on aesthetics. Smooth away excess metal shavings with an emery cloth. You should end with an organized pattern of dots that define your picture.

How to Make a Decorative Metal Plate

4 Remove the stenciled shape from the metal surface to reveal a series of dots arranged in the shape of the image you selected.

How to Make a Decorative Metal Plate

In other materials, like paper, perforations are used to efficiently separate portions of paper (like the postcards, paper dolls, and original perforated stamps) from a larger piece, without the use of scissors.


The project detailed here results in, literally, a simple plate with a design on it. But as you become more experienced in the technique, there are many items on which you can use this method.

• The perforations let light shine though, making it ideal for a small metal lampshade, whether for an electric light or a candleholder or sconce.

• Use it to decorate a metal picture frame or to frame a mirror.

• Make a design on a metal garden pot, such as an ornamental copper pot in which a ceramic or terra cotta plant holder sits.

• Put a design on kitchen items or wall hangings, such as the rim of a metal serving platter, a metal spoon rest, or a wall-mounted row of hooks.