Garden Candle Lanterns




I refuse to pay $15 - $30 for fancy lanterns to hang from the trees in my yard. In this instructable, I'll show you how to make your own lanterns using glass jars, wire, and a few other items.

During the day, people will wonder why the heck you have pickle jars hanging from the trees but at night the look is amazing.

Please keep in mind that this instructable involves open flames and trees. If you are in the midst of a drought, you may want to skip thisproject.

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Step 1: Materials & Tools

Material list:

- One glass jar for each lantern. Wide mouth jars work best.
- One candle for each lantern.
- One 2" galvanized roofing nail for each lantern
- 3' to 6' of heavy wire for each lantern
- Masking tape
- Vinyl concrete patcher

Tool list:
- Wire cutters
- Pliers
- Work gloves
- Safety Glasses

Step 2: Candles & Nails

Push a 2 inch galvanized nail approximaely halfway into the bottom of each candle. Try to insert it as straight as possible in relation to the candle.

Step 3: Jars

Peel the labels off the jars and clean off any glue residue. WD-40 works well. Wash & dry the jars.

Mix vinyl concrete patcher (hereafter referred to as VCP for brevity) and place some in each jar. Hold the jar with one hand and tap with the other so the VCP will level out on the bottom.

VCP should be about 1" deep.

Step 4: Add Candles

While the VCP is still wet, Place a strip of masking tape across each jar opening. Place the tape off-center as shown.

Tear off 2 more strips of tape for each jar and keep within reach.

Step 5: Insert Candles

Place a candle in a jar, pushing the nail head in the VCP in the center of the jar.  It doesn't matter if the bottom of the candle touches the VCP 

Hold the candle vertical (against the masking tape previously placed across the opening) and place the other two pieces of tape across the jar opening. The tape should make a triangular support to hold the candle until the VCP dries in about 24 hours.

Step 6: Add Wire

The wire I used was left over from a chain link fence installation. It's used to attach the chain link to the posts & rail. It's thick and hard to cut & bend.

You may find something a bit thinner and easier to work with, but definitely use work gloves and safety glasses when you proceed. None of the jars have shattered on me but that doesn't mean it could never happen. Safety first.

Next, pull the candle out. The nail stays imbedded in the patch. Hold the jar firmly in one hand and wrap the wire 2 or 3 times around it. Slide the jar out.

Step 7: Adjusting the Wire

The wire should look something like a spring.

Stretch the coil out until it is the approximate height of the jar.

Take your pliers and put a sharp bend at the coiled end of the wire. This is what the bottom of the jar will rest on.

At the top of the coil, put a 90 degree bend in the wire. This will extend up.

Put the jar back in and see how it fits. If the wire is too tight/loose, remove the jar and expand/contract the coil by grasping the top & bottom and twist (kind of like wringing out a rag).

Step 8: The Hook

Next, figure out where you will hang your lantern. Keep in mind that you have an open flame so you will have to make the wire long enough to protect overhead branches.  The jars have some weight to them and will pull thin branches down. Try to pick thicker branches and hang above a "Y" so the wire won't slide down the branch.

Also,  avoid high traffic areas. Bumping your head on one of these things will hurt. 

When you've selected a site, measure from the branch to where you want the lantern to hang. Add about 8 inches and cut the wire.

Bend the end of the wire into a hook that is slightly wider than the branch. The end of the hook should be at least twice as long as the branch is thick.

Step 9: Hang the Jars

Hang the jars.

I know the candle in this lantern is too long I usually cut them in half & whittle the bottom half to a point until there is enough wick to light. Voila. Two candles for the price of one!

Step 10: Enjoy

Light your candles at dusk and enjoy the ambiance late into the night.


Francesco Rinaldi Pasta Sauce jars work really well and have a nice pattern in the glass. Claussen Pickle jars have a wide opening and don't get sooty.

"Emergency" candles work well and last for hours but most any candle except tea lights will do. I've been using IKEA candles for years with good results and at 50 for $5.99, you can't beat it.

If the candles are allowed to burn themselves out, the nail is left exposed, ready for another to be inserted.

Narrow neck bottles (like Snapple) tend to collect soot and are hard to re-light.

Don't store the lanterns with candles inside. If left in a hot shed, melted wax can make a mess.

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    11 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    this is actually sucha cool idea, i think i may try it when we have garden summer parties :D can i ask why tea lights can't be used?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    They're pretty much the same type of candles, but serving a real purpose later on as it got very dark out there (until we got the fire lit anyway). However, most just had wire wrapped around the necks of the jars.



    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    LOL, we're on the same page.  Since I ran out of the heavy wire, I've been using thinner copper wire (also free) wrapped around the neck.  It's my next instructable - took photos earlier today.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I don't think they would be as bright but you're right - they're drought safe! 


    9 years ago on Introduction

    During the day, people will wonder why the heck you have pickle jars hanging from the trees but at night the look is amazing.
     LOL.. my neighbors have given up wondering! I hang jars as small flower pots, candles, oil lights, Ive even used 3liter clear soda bottles as goldfish tanks (that was a real converstaion starter) The cement and nail is a good idea though. I generally buy thick holiday candles after the holidays, they fit in most jars and dont need a stake and if they melt in the heat the wick usually stays pretty much in the center. Thanks for the idea and LOVE your yard....

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I think my neighbors gave up wondering about me the day before my son's wedding. I didn't have time to dig up two dead junipers so I spray painted them.  They looked so good I left them for several years! 
    I saw the oil light ible the other day and it gave me the push I needed to finally publish this one.  I've since experimented with the oil lanterns and like them.
    Also like your idea of the pillar candles but I'm too cheap, even when they're on sale!