Tin Can Lantern





Introduction: Tin Can Lantern

Today, I'll show you how to create a beautiful lantern out of a recycled tin can. This costs basically nothing, and the results are great! I hope you like making it!

Step 1: Gather Materials

For this step, you need to gather all your materials. They consist of:

Tin Can



And that's it! You can likely find all of the supplies around your house. Time to get started!

Step 2: Fill Can With Water and Freeze Solid

Title speaks for itself.

Step 3: Make Pattern

Take the can filled with solid ice, and then make holes in it using the hammer and nail. The ice is so that when you hammer the holes in, the can won't get dented. Get creative with the patterns!

Step 4: Make Holes for String

If you plan on hanging this, you should probably hammer two holes at the top for string.

Step 5: Add Candle and Light!

Slip a small candle in, and light using a barbecue lighter or a lit piece of pasta. Enjoy!

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21 Discussions

Seriously? Because every time I've tried this the water (as it turns into ice) has expanded and bulged the can. Suggestions anyone? Maybe it only works with small cans??

3 replies

I have used this technique many times, and my solution may be a mini-Instructable in itself . . . You are right - the expansion of water when it freezes can damage or at least distort the container. My solution is NOT to fill the container with water, but rather to fill it as much as possible with ICE. I usually fill the container maybe 1/4 full with water, then put it in the refrigerator for a while, to get the water and the container close to the freezing point. Then I pack it as full as possible with ice cubes, then stuff crushed ice into any small gaps that remain. The liquid water is close to freezing, and the container* is, too, so very little of the ice melts as you do this. By the time you are done, the can is maybe 90% full of ice (which has already expanded), and only 10% full of liquid water. When you then put the can in the freezer, the expansion is just enough to give you a good, solid surface to drill, pound nails, etc. I have even frozen water inside GLASS containers this way.

If your vessel is glass or extremely fragile for some other reason, you may want to go even further and freeze it in stages. Fill loosely with ice cubes, but this time add just enough water to fill it up to 1" or so. Let that freeze, then add another 1" of liquid, and so on. This way, more of the expansion can be UP - if you fill a tall container to the brim, almost all of the expansion will wind up being OUT.

Yikes!! That sounds like a lot of work!! I just filled them with water
and stuck them outside for a couple of hours! Thank you!! I'll try
the ice trick. Or maybe pack them with snow when it warms up enough
that the snow will pack. Because they look great when they're lit up! Curious though... Why do you want a glass container full of ice?

The ice usually does expand and create bulges in the can, but I haven't found it as a problem. Sometimes, it can make the bottom of the can pop, so that the can can't stand, but that's fixed with a few whacks of the hammer. Hope this helps!

I have some cans with pretty labels printed directly on them. I'm thinking of highlighting the designs there and using a battery operated light in case the heat from a candle would damage the design. Thanks for the inspiration.

Suzanne in Orting, WA

I used to make these with my kids. they turn out really nice and are fun to make! We used them a lot at Christmas.

nice tip on freezing water inside, thanks, mike

I recently made candle/lantern from a jones soda bottle(with a screwon cap) simply punched a slot in the cap with a screw driver(narrow wick size) and filled with candle oil and a wick


How about dropping in a flameless tea light or led colored tea light.

I made something similar - a firekeeper - out of a large coffee can and the discarded handle of a camping pot. I should post it.

1 reply

This is great! I'm an artist in my spare time and am collecting tin cans for a tin man and will put some by. I have a riveter and will experiment with this without the Rivera?

Instead of just random patterns of holes, you could write words, such as I LOVE MOM.
Great. Simple. Cheap. Thanks.

I agree with "ggrookett"

The same project from the Boy- Scouts/Cub-Scouts manual.

Did this project in the 80's with the same steps

Word of warning! Watch the holes on the inside of the can when adding or removing candle, lighting, etc. They will be very sharp!

Knew an engineer years ago that worked for Frigidaire. When they developed one of their first automatic clothes washers they were going to do a demo for some investors. When the demo was about to start they discovered that they had forgotten to put holes in the inner tub. The engineers got some punches and quickly added some holes to the inner tub, reassembled the machine and ran a load of clothes. When the cycle was done they had a load of SHREDDED clothes!

We did this in grade school and spray painted them matte black. Rather I should say the parents sprayed him black. Amazing that they let us use hammers and nails. Really cool.

Thanks for the Instructable did something like this in the Boy Scouts as a kid. Will do this in the summer with my daughter for those summer nights in the yard catching fire flies.


3 years ago

ice idea is brilliant. requires more for thought than I usually have time for though.