The tinsmith purchases his tinplate from the local general store or directly from importers in Montréal or Québec City. The plate itself is manufactured in Great Britain and consists of iron rolled into thin sheets and then coated with tin. Since the tin does not rust, it acts as a protective covering. Owing to the flexibility of the tinplate, it does not need to be heated to be worked. It can be cut with heavy shears and then be shaped and folded with hammers, mallets and even the hands over small anvils.
The fabrication of tinplate objects underwent a major transformation in the first quarter of the 19th
century. At that time, two American inventors devised hand-powered machines that simplified certain tasks and allowed for much faster production. These machines became available in Canada from the 1830s and, with later improvements, dominate production into the early 20th
century. An investment in these machines soon repays the initial costs. For example, a village tinsmith can quickly turn out a pail: the circular shears cut out a pail bottom, the beading machine grooves the side walls to give them strength, the turning machine rolls the rims of the metal outwards in order to receive a wire that will further strengthen the pail and give it shape, and the wiring machine inserts the wire and then presses the metal over it. To complete the pail, the tinsmith seals the joints with solder (a mixture of tin and lead that is heated until it is liquid) and attaches a wire handle.