Introduction: Make a Parol - a Filipino Christmas Lantern

About: I'm a hobbyist. :)

Making a Parol - a Filipino traditional star-shaped Christmas lantern, is something I loved doing growing up. It is mainly made up of bamboo, strings, and japanese craft/gift paper but the ones hung outside (lighted with a bulb) can be made of tougher plastic, capiz (shells), or any other transparent/translucent materials.

I had the option of purchasing a kit (materials and all) from an online store but they proved to be expensive (plus shipping cost!). Instead, I was determined you could make one for only under $10 (no light) or under $30 (with light). After scouring Home Depot and some party stores, I found my materials and started building away! I came up with an instructable on how you can make one for your self or anyone you'd like to share the Christmas spirit with.

Let's begin making a parol!

Step 1: What You Will Need

  1. Bamboo garden stake - Home Depot has some. Search for "bamboo stake". ~ $1.89 (6pcs)
  2. String $2.00 / roll
  3. Plastic table cloth - I got this from a party store. ~ $1.99 ea. Choose your colors. I used Green and white ($4 total)
  4. Coffee cup covers - About $2.00 / pk
  5. Small nails - I had spare nails from previous project.
  6. Electrical wires, socket, plug - $5
  7. LED bulb - This came in a pack of 2 for $15. I used only one.
  1. Saw
  2. Tape measure
  3. Utility/Outdoor knife
  4. Hammer
  5. Wood glue
  6. Quick Dry glue - works with plastic tablecloth
  7. Wire splicer
  8. Electrical tape
  9. Cutter or X-acto knife
  10. Scissors
  11. Cutting board
  12. Drill with small drill bit
  13. Hot glue gun

Step 2: Build the Frame

The bamboo stakes are about 1/3 of an inch in diameter. We could split that in two and use each side of bamboo stick for our frame. You will need a total of 10 pcs of 20" bamboo sticks.

Extract bamboo sticks from the bamboo stake.
  1. Each stake is 6 ft. long (72 "). You need 5 pieces of 20" rods. Splitting the rod will give you 2 bamboo sticks.
  2. Measure 20" length starting from the bottom (thickest end) up. You should be able to get 3 pcs of 20 " bamboo rods from one stake so you will need 2 stakes. You will end up with an excess bamboo. Save it for later.*
  3. Cut the bamboo stakes.
  4. Once you have your 20" bamboo rod, lay it down on the cutting mat. Since the bamboo rods are cylindrical and may not be straight, you want to lay it on its stable side. Mark the center of the bamboo's diameter.
  5. Stand your bamboo upright and lay your knife across the center diameter of the top end of the bamboo. Use a hammer to gently drive the knife down on the bamboo, splitting it in two.
    (!) Be careful not to cut your self when driving the knife across the bamboo rod. Also, use caution when running your fingers across the bamboo as it may give you a splinter.
  6. Some bamboo rods are not straight enough and when you split it in two, each side may not be even. Don't fret! You have extra bamboo stakes to work with so just measure, cut, and split again till you get even sizes of bamboo sticks. You need a total of 10 pieces of 20" split bamboo sticks.

Step 3: Building Your Star Frame

To build your star frame, you will need 5 sticks and fasten them with a string.
  1. Notch each end of your stick about 1/4 " from the end to ensure the string will not slide off the end when you tie it. You can use either a saw or a dremel tool.
  2. Each stick has a flat (inner side of the bamboo), and a round side (outer side of the bamboo). Bring two sticks together with its outer side (round) facing the same direction. Tie the two ends together with a piece of string. Once the string is tied, open up the other end of the sticks to form a "V" pattern.
  3. Make another "V" pattern from another pair of sticks.
  4. Weave the two "V" pattern sticks through each other and add the fifth stick across to form a star figure. Tie the last stick to the ends of each "V" frames.
  5. Once you have the star figure down, just slide the ends of to ensure the distribution is even. You can use a ruler to gauge the average distance between points of the star.
  6. Repeat the process with another 5 sticks to build your second star frame.

Step 4: Assemble Your Parol Frame

Prepare your star frames
  1. Get your star frame. Find the intersection of the sticks and drill lead holes so you can easily insert the nails. Doing this prevents your bamboo sticks from splitting when you drive the nail through it.
  2. Repeat this step until all intersections have holes in both frames.
  3. Now, get the two star frames and overlay them. Make sure that the flat side of the star frame (inner bamboo side) face each other. The curved sides of each frame should be facing outwards.
  4. Tie the ends of each frame together.
Assembling the parol frame
  1. Remember the excess bamboo left over from the stakes? Take that excess and cut 3" rods out of it. You will need 5 pieces.
  2. These 3 " rods will become the spacer in between each star frame.
  3. Get a nail and insert it through one of intersection holes. Apply wood glue to strengthen the joint.
  4. Slowly pull the two frames apart and secure the other end of the short bamboo rod against the opposite intersection.
  5. Apply the glue and push the nail through the other end. Use a hammer to gently drive the nail through the hole if necessary.
  6. Repeat the process for the four remaining intersections until the two frames are propped open by the five spaces.
  7. The frame should look like the one on the final image.

Step 5: Time to Skin the Parol

Break out the plastic table cloths cause it's time to skin this bad boy.
  1. Choose your colored plastic cover and lay it out on the table.
  2. Put the parol frame and trace around the star shape. It helps to press down each spoke so it lays flat on the plastic as you trace around it. Give an allowance of 1/2 inch flap.
  3. Cut the pattern out.
  4. Trace the other side and cut the pattern.
  5. Glue the edges of the pattern onto the frame. Note that when you use a glue gun, the plastic might melt. I used it sparingly as it dries faster and provides a more secure hold. You may also use the quick dry glue for this process.
At this point you would want to install any lighting inside the parol. See next step: "Installing lights". If you are not installing any lighting inside, proceed to cover the sides of the parol with plastic.

Apply skin to the sides of the parol.
  1. Cut out an approximate amount of plastic to cover the side of the parol. Make sure you have excess plastic so you can adjust to make sure the side is covered.
  2. Apply glue to the frame.
  3. Gently lay over the plastic over the frame, pressing it down to adhere.
  4. Trim away excess plastic but leave at least 1/4 " flap.
  5. Apply glue to the flap and press it down gently to the parol.

Step 6: Installing Lights

You may install a ready-made light system or you can build your own.

IMPORTANT - A lighted Parol can catch fire if you have a poor electrical light fixture assembly or your light fixture is substandard. Be sure to have an expert check your wiring and test out your light circuit before installing it.

IMPORTANT - Do not use any lights that grows hot to the touch over time. It will melt the plastic and even burn the parol. Choose only a cool light source. You may opt to use battery powered LED lights, or you may use commercial 120v LED bulbs. Test your light source by running it for an hour and carefully feeling it around to see if it is hot. If it feels hot when you place the back of your hand near it, it is not suitable for your parol.

If you already have a light socket ready for installation:
  1. Make sure your light socket is unplugged.
  2. Insert the wired socket on one of the sides of the parol.
  3. Create a knot that rests just under the top most spoke of the parol. Secure this with a thin wire. This will create a small bump that will stop the socket from sliding out of your parol when it is accidentally pulled from the top.
  4. Screw the bulb in the socket.
  5. Plug and turn on the light fixture. Test to see if the bulb aligns nicely at the center of the parol. Test also if the bulb is hot and if it is, replace it with a cooler LED bulb.
  6. Turn off the light and apply the plastic cover to the sides (see previous step)

Step 7: Create and Attach the Spoke Decor

Traditional parols can have ring around the star. Others have a spoke decor and this is the one I chose to go by.

  1. Get a different colored plastic cover and cut a strip of about 3 inches width.
  2. Fold it length-wise and score lines as shown with about 1/4 inch apart. Just estimate.
  3. Take the folded pattern and wrap it around on one of the ends of the spoke.
  4. Apply glue to secure
  5. Cut away any excess.

Step 8: Create and Attach the Tail Decor

The parol typically has two tails. Each tail has two pieces: the inner tails and an outer shell.

Preparing the inner tail.
  1. For the inner tail, i chose the same color as the main skin of the parol.
  2. Cut 1 " width strips. For the length, I chose to go with the entire length of the remaining plastic table cloth I had.
  3. Create about 20 strips total (this is for one tail only).
  4. Find the tips of each strip and find the center by folding the strip in two.
  5. Once you have the center, puncture a hole through the center with a sharp pointed object.
  6. Get a coffee cup cover and using a sharp or pointed object, puncture a hole at the center of the coffee cup cover.
  7. Run a wire underneath the coffee cup cover then through the center of the strips.
  8. Get another coffee cup cover and punch a hole through it. Run the wire underneath. The center of the strips should be "sandwiched" in between the two cups.
  9. Distribute the "tails" around so it falls and covers all the sides of the lower coffee cup cover.
  10. Repeat the process for the other tail.
Preparing the outer shell
  1. Unfold the plastic over and, using its entire width, cut away a square shape.
  2. Fold it diagonally to create a triangle.
  3. Fold it in half, and then fold it again until you get the shape show in the image.
  4. Cut away small triangular patterns, staggering it from each end of the folded triangle.
  5. Stop cutting just before you reach the small folded side of the triangle.
  6. Cut away a small plastic at the tip of the folded plastic. This will provide the center hole to which the wire from the tail will go through.
  7. Unfold the pattern. It should look similar to the one shown in the image.
Assemble the tail
  1. Take the outer shell and run the end of the wire form the tail assembly through it.
  2. The outer shell should drape over and cover the tail assemble.
  3. Fasten the tail onto the lower spoke of the parol.
  4. Once you have fastened both tails, you are done!

Step 9: Hang Your Parol

Finally, we're done!

Although I built the parol to withstand the outdoor elements, I decided to install it inside the house instead as I didn't want to bother with outdoor wiring. It looks good enough behind the window. :)

There you go! Happy building!

Maligayang Pasko! Merry Christmas!

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