Introduction: Make a Fancy Ice Lantern Using a Bucket

For the holidays my parents in Norway always like to adorn their house and garden with lights. Not surprisingly most of them are electric, but on special occations my dad also makes ice lanterns with candles inside. It's a simple process that produces some pretty fancy ice lanterns and this year I took pictures along the way to share with the world.

To make these fancy ice lanterns you need:

1. below freezing temperatures (or a really big freezer)
2. water
3. a bucket
4. patience

Step 1: Fill Your Bucket(s) With Water

Find a bucket or three and fill them with cold water. Leave about 3cm or 1 inch of space at the top to allow the ice to expand as it freezes.

Step 2: Put the Bucket(s) in a Cold Place

Place the buckets in a cold place, for example outside in the snow. (I'm sure you can do this by placing the bucket in a freezer as well but it would have to be quite large.) If you place the buckets outside in the snow you can speed up the freezing process by dumping some snow into the water.

Step 3: Let the Water Freeze - But Not Completely!

Leave the buckets of water in the cold for a good long while. When we made these it was about minus 12 degrees Celcius (no idea what that is in Fahrenheit) and it took about 24 hours. With warmer weather ("warmer" is a relative term) it'll take longer.

You want the water to freeze to about a 6cm (2 inches) thickness on the top and the sides while the center of the bucket remains liquid. This happens because the water freezes from the outside in. To find out if the lantern is complete look down into the bucket through the ice to gauge how thick the walls. It's a bit of a guessing game but it usually works.

The most important thing is to not let the water freeze solid. If that happens you end up with a big lump of ice and the bucket will more than likely crack.

Step 4: Flip the Bucket Upside Down and Pour Water on It

To get the lantern out of the bucket flip it upside down and pour some hot water on it. You want to melt a tiny bit of the bottom and the sides so the ice releases its grip on the bucket. Not too much though or you'll end up melting the lantern completely.

Step 5: Carefully Lift the Bucket Off the Lantern

You'll know when the lantern is released because it makes a weird "slump" sound and falls out of the bucket.At this point lift the bucket off the lantern taking care to not bump it too much. Because of the boiling water you used earlier it can be quite fragile and the sudden exposure to cold also releases tensions in the ice causing it to crack. But fret not - the cracks will usually freeze almost immediately and the lantern will stay intact.

Step 6: Pour Out the Remaining Water

If the lantern froze correctly it'll still have a lot of water inside and a thin layer of ice on top (what was the bottom of the bucket). Carefully crack a hole in the top and pour out the remaining water so the lantern is nice and dry.

This is by far the most risky part of the whole process so be careful!

Step 7: Inspect the Lantern for Any Cracks

Pick the lantern up and hold it against a light to see if there are any cracks. If there are cracks, place it on the ground and pour some cold water over it. The water will seep into the cracks and freeze immediately solidifying the lantern.

Step 8: Place a Candle in the Lantern and Enjoy

Place the lantern where you want it - preferably somewhere where either you or your neighbours can enjoy its beauty - and place a small candle inside. The high walls will prevent the candle from being burnt out and as a result it can light up a dark night for hours and hours.