What is Tinning?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Tinning is a process that is used to apply a thin but even coating on different types of metals. Typically, the coating is composed of tin, and has the benefit of helping to aid in rust prevention. While tinning may be used with a number of different metals, the process is most often associated with the application of a thin coating to sheets of steel or wrought iron. The use of the process goes back to ancient times and is still in use today, notably with the production of cans that are used for packaging food and other types of goods for sale.

Over the centuries, various strategies for tinning evolved, using different types of methods for preparing the surface to receive the coating as well as the composition of the coating itself. The experimentation with different processes often made it possible to employ the produced tinplate for the production of a wider range of goods. For example, tinning during the 19th and early 20th centuries made it possible to create both cookware and serving pieces that were ideal for everyday use in the home or on camping expeditions. The thin layer of tin provided durability that minimized the chances for chipping or damage to the surfaces, while also making it extremely easy to clean the dishes and cookware after use. Best of all, the tinplate was rust resistant, a benefit that made the cookware ideal for use in humid climates.


Many of the innovations in the tinning process made it possible to increase output significantly, which in turn meant that more goods could be produced using the tinplate in much less time and using fewer resources. This led to even more experimentation in terms of the range of goods that could be produced using the tinplate. While other methods of sealing and protecting metal surfaces have emerged over the last century, tinning remains a viable and sometimes the preferred method with certain applications, such as the preparation of cans for use in the production of packaged foods.

The process of tinning is still in regular use with a number of different applications. Many of the metal packages used for products like paint and other products sold in metal containers undergo this process before use. The end result is a container that is capable of keeping the contents fresher for a longer period of time, while still preventing the development of rust inside or outside the can. In some nations, the metal used to produce bicycles are also treated in this manner, helping the components to last longer in spite of exposure to the elements throughout the calendar year. Metal plating that is used in manufacturing plants and some building projects may also be treated to a tinning process as a means of prolonging the life of the object.


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