How to Make Tin Can Lanterns

Light up lazy summer nights with these almost-free outdoor luminaries.

Photo by: Rae Sturm

Rae Sturm

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DIY Tin Can Lanterns 01:28

Make beautiful lanterns with a tin can and a few basic tools.

What You'll Need

  • empty metal cans (soup cans or large coffee cans work best)
  • graph paper
  • permanent marker
  • tape
  • hammer
  • finish nails
  • clamp
  • drill
  • 3/32" masonry drill bit
  • outdoor spray paint
  • wire hanger (optional)

Remove Label

Photo by: Rae Sturm

Rae Sturm

Run label under hot water to loosen adhesive, then remove by gently scrubbing with a sponge or rag.

Sketch Out Design

On graph paper, mark the top, bottom and sides of can with a permanent marker. Remove can and create a dot design within the marked parameters. Tip: the more dots you draw, the more light will show through the finished lantern.

Tape Graph Paper to Can

Photo by: Rae Sturm

Rae Sturm

Trim paper to fit the top and bottom of can, then attach with masking tape.

Punch Pilot Holes

Photo by: Rae Sturm

Rae Sturm

Attach can to a solid work surface with a sturdy clamp. Using a hammer and finish nail, stamp each drawn dot to create small holes in the can underneath. When finished, remove graph paper.

Drill Larger Holes

Photo by: Rae Sturm

Rae Sturm

Using a 3/32" masonry drill bit, drill through each of the small pilot holes made by the nails. This will clean up the holes and create a consistent, polished look. Feel free to play around with other drill bit sizes to create different looks.

Paint

Photo by: Rae Sturm

Rae Sturm

Stuff the inside of the can with paper towels or an old rag. Holding the can at least six inches away, lightly coat with outdoor spray paint. Layer three or four thin coats until metal is no longer visible. Remove rag when dry.

Optional: Add a Handle

Enchanting Tin Can Lanterns

Enchanting Tin Can Lanterns

These tin can lanterns are so simple to make that the kids can help — and so special when the sun goes down.

Drill a hole on each side of the can and add an old wire clothes hanger or piece of rope for carrying or hanging.

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