How to Make an Easy Electric Lantern




About: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with.

My wife came home the other day with an old paraffin lantern that she had found at the local Op Shop.  Now this thing hadn't worked in many moons and she wanted me to "get the thing started" so instead of trying to fix something that was clearly never going to burn a wick again, I decided to "electrify" the old lantern and bring it into the 21st century.

Pretty simple instructable really but the end result looks great and now I never have to fill it up with paraffin to keep it going!



Step 1: Parts and Tools

You will need the following parts to make your Electric Lantern:

1)   Paraffin Lantern
this can be any old lamp as long as it is big enough to hold a globe.

2)   The light socket and power cord from an electric lamp. 
I used a lamp with an on/off swich attached to the cord for easy access.

3)   Plastic cable ties

I used the following tools but just use whatever you have that will do the job

1)   Dremmel

2)   Needle nose pliers

3)   Drill

4)   Stanley knife

5) Hot glue gun

Step 2: Pulling Apart Your Electric Lamp

Electric lamps are pretty easy to pull apart - just unscrew the light socket from the lamps body and the power cord and light socket should just come out as one peice.

Or - you can always just smash it out!

The first lamp that I pulled apart had a really large light socket which didn't fit into the parrafin lamp.  I was lucky enough to have another old one sitting around so I used the light socket from this one and the power cord from the other. 

Step 3: Pulling Apart the Paraffin Lantern

These lantern are usually only made from tin (the one I have is anyway) so they are easy to manipulate and pull apart.

1)   Take out the glass and remove the cage that the glass sits in from the main body of the lantern.  This should come off easily with some pliers.

2)   Next get your dremmel and remove the centre peice that holds the wick in place.

3)   Once this is removed you can jimmy open the surround which is joined to the main body by a couple of tags.  Make sure you don't break these as you need to put it back later on.

4)   inside the main body of the lantern you will see the main wick holder - remove this.

Step 4: Making Room for Your Light Socket

Once you can see into your lantern you will notice that there is another, smaller tank inside which holds the parrafin.  this will have to be cut away or grinded back before the light socket will fit.

1)  I first used a dremmel to try an make the whole bigger. 

2)   I soon got impatient with this so I just grabbed the paraffin tank with my pliers and twisted the tin.  It ripped easily and I was able to make a big enough hole for the socket.

3)   The light socket should fit snuggly into the lantern.

Step 5: Adding the Power Cord

You can add the power cord any way and any where you want.  I wanted to hang my lantern so I made sure that it came out from the top.  If your lantern is going to be on a table then you could easliy have the cord coming from the base.

1)   Drill a hole through the top of one of the arms - this is where your power cord will come out of.

2)   Make sure that there is enough clearence at the other end of the arm which is in the base of the lantern.  I had to bend the paraffin tank back some more to enable the cord to come through.

3)   If you can't thread the power cord through, heat up the end of some wire and poke it through the end of the cord.  Thread the wire down the hole and it should come out through the other end easier.   It's then just a case of pulling the cord through.

Step 6: Wiring Up and Construction

1)   Once your wire is through the arm, wire-up the socket to the end of the wire. 

2)   I cut a groove through the plastic screw cap which goes onto the end of the light socket so the cord would sit flat in the lantern.

3)   Put the light socket into the lantern and make sure that it is sitting straight.  Glue in with some hot glue.

4)   Replace the surround that you pried out in step 3.  I had to cut away some of the glue before it would fit.

5)   Before you replace the cage that the glass fits into, you need to widen the middle of it so the globe can fit into it.  I just used my dremmel for this.

6)  Getting the globe in was a little tricky but it went in eventually.

Step 7: The Final Bits and Considerations

Now that you have everything together, it's just a matter of  using some cable ties to secure the cord along the handle of the lantern.  I used the electric cable itself to hang the lamp, once the cables are on there's no danger of it pulling it out of the light socket.


  • You could easily rig this up with a solar light such as the ones you use in your garden.
  • What about adding one of those candle globes that flicker?
  • You could add a sensor so it turns on as soon as someone approaches.

If you make your own, please make sure that you post a picture of the final product in the comments section.

Thanks for reading - and happy making.



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    17 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    It is better to be safe than sorry...

    and to make an error is only human.

    But I think if you are going to make any errors with this lamp, it would be to forgo the 3 wire cord & stay with a 2 wire...ESPECIALLY if it is outside. The fact that it is hanging under a sheltered place, makes no difference. Condensation can still get to the inside parts of the lamp & create ALL KINDS of mischief...IE: short circuits, fires, etc,etc,etc. I love what you have done here, & I love how you documented everything, but for the sake of your family, ground it please. They will be able to appreciate it more that way. :)

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi lonesoulsurfer
    Another very nice project mwith modifying aan old kerosenelamp!
    You have done a great job. If you want to use a flickeríng bub you can get an impression here. I used an solution usin batteris as power supply so you need no power cord outside the lamp. With this installation you can also run a cfl bulb  (if you like to look at my other projects you will see it) 
    Cheers Aeon Junophor


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I am going to take the fun out of working on a project - bought one at the dollar store for $1.12, runs on a single AA battery (included but I use rechargeable) for a long long time (super bright LED with a small chip to up its voltage). but buying is no fun...

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Why do so many people post comments like this on instructables? We come to this site for DIY tips, not go-out-and-buy-it tips. If we wanted to know how much it costs (incongruously over a dollar, for a dollar store!) we would be on a different site whose stated purpose is to discuss such things.


    Come on guy, he was only trying to make a suggestion. Besides, we have greater matters at hand. You need to take this lamp to the old abandoned mill and find a guy named Horace. Tell him,"Eggs sunny side down." He'll know what it means. Good Luck!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    An old lantern with a nice new touch. The problem I see here though, is that lanterns could be carried anywhere, and this one cannot. I like the idea though, because I have some old Coleman's here, and rather than see them die completely, I may turn them into battery powered LED lights. Dare I say it, I will go out and buy some of those great little torches, and use them for the mod.


    7 years ago on Step 7

    The final product looks great!


    7 years ago on Step 2

    If you don't have a spare lamp, you can buy a light socket and cord at any hardware store. Make sure you connect the right wires! See link for reason-


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I've made about a hundred of these conversions. You should really use 3 wire and ground the body of the lantern. Especially, if you plan to move it by hand or use it outside. Also, many lamps don't have a hollow arm, so you have to go out the back of the oil basin.

    Otherwise, well done.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    The offset pins on the plug-top and bayonet lamp holder looks like Australian or New Zealand 240 volt AC products.

    If that is the case it is mandatory for a licensed electrician to modify and wire the appliance using flexible double insulated three core cable, earth the metal housing and install a strain relief fitting on the three core cable where it enters the metal housing.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Two-wire mains leads are only intended for double-insulated appliances (the "donor" electric lamp appears to be made of plastic or glass). With a conversion like this, where the lamp body is metal, it really should be earthed, which needs a three-wire cable and a three-pin plug. There is a real risk of electric shock if the wire insulation gets damaged or chafed, or if moisture gets inside the lamp.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    If you can get your hands on a 3 prong plug then definitely use one.
    Some hot glue down the arm of the lantern should stop any movement, help with insulation and help stop any water getting into the lantern.