Soda can craft keeps Delaney busy, famous

Published 9:55 am Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sid Delaney has always been good with his hands. After serving in World War II, he worked at the International Paper mill for 40 years. When he retired, he worked informally as a mechanic and rebuilt bicycles.

But becoming regionally famous for building model airplanes out of soda cans wasn’t something he saw coming.

“I didn’t do anything like this at the paper mill,” Delaney said as he sliced open an empty soda can.

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The hobby started about 10 years ago when his daughter Melody Martin brought him a soda can plane she had purchased on a trip.

“I said, ‘I can do that,’” Delaney said.

He figured out how the plane was built and improved on the design, giving his planes a sleeker look and rotating propellers. He even made his own tools to measure, cut and create the cans. But he doesn’t use many templates.

“Mostly, I just eyeball it,” he said.

Now, the planes take Delaney about 45 minutes and six cans to make.

He started off selling them at garage sales, and word of his creations soon spread.

Now, his planes can be seen in gift shops around town, across the state. People in California and overseas have bought his planes, he said.

He has probably made a couple thousand so far, he said. Luckily, it’s something he enjoys doing.

“I was already fooling around with making windmills,” Delaney said.

He still makes double-bladed windmills and hot air balloons, both of which spin in the wind. But by far, the most popular creations are his planes.

Customers often request a particular can, like beer or an energy drink. The most requested are planes made out of bright red Coca-Cola Classic cans.

Those are harder to come by these days, though, Delaney said.

“They used to be Coke cans, but now all you can find is Diet Coke cans,” he said.

Even though he often gets his cans from Pleasant Acres Day School, because of special requests, people often bring him their own cans, which he works into art.

Recently, a few people brought him simple cans with no flashy colors. The plain aluminum cans, which read “distilled water,” were handed out after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.

One of the people who order dozens of soda can airplanes is Rob Hart of Pascagoula. He and his family visit Natchez about twice a year and saw Delaney’s work hanging in a shop. They bought a few, took them home and hung them in the restaurant they own.

Customers started asking if they were for sale, and once Hart started selling the planes, his customers couldn’t get enough.

“We hung them up as decoration,” Hart said. “People kind of liked them, so we started getting them and selling them. It’s just the fact they’re so well made and so lifelike, and they spin really good in the wind. It’s like a novelty item, a conversation piece.”

Whatever his customers call them, Delaney has fun making the soda can airplanes, he said. And with a little prodding, he’ll pass along good reviews.

“Everybody says they’ve seen one before, but none are this good.”