LED Tin Can Lantern




Introduction: LED Tin Can Lantern

In this instructables we update the old tin can candle lantern, to the new improved Way-Cool LED Tin Can Lantern. The LED tin can lantern is a neat way to light up your backyard or camp ground with interesting patterns of brilliant LED lights. You too can make your own LED Tin Can Lantern just like this one; it is easy and fun to build to bring the night into the LED light.

Summary: The Blue LED shine through the small holes punched out from a quart size tin paint can. It is neat how the bright LED light shines the punched out pattern on the ground around it.

Draw inspiration from the pictures and the idea to get your creative juices flowing in what you can do with this unique technique in LED lighting. Enjoy

Step 1: Design and Materials

Find a neat and interesting pattern on the internet or make up your own. For some ideas to get your creative juices flowing try Googling “Tin Can Lantern”, ” Tin Can Light”.  I used two leaf patterns and a tree pattern. At the hardware store go to the paint department and buy a metal quart size paint can for making the LED tin can lantern. You can also use any tin can from beans or soup etc, but you need a lid.

Materials list:
1.  Tin can with lid. Quart size is good
2.  Printed out paper pattern or design
3. Tape
4.  Hammer
5.  Awl or Ice pick (smaller tips work the best)
6.  Wire for tin can handle (metal hanger or 16 gauge or type wire)
7.  LED light circuit with batteries for illumination
8.  Cotton towel (keeps can from rolling while punching holes)
9.  Water
10. Freezer (prevents the tin can from denting during hole punching)

Step 2: Punching Holes in Tin Can

Take the printed out pattern or design and securely tape it to the tin can. Remember the lid is the top (up) position for pattern layout.

Fill the tin can with cold tap water leaving about 1/4 inch from the top and put in the freezer for 24 hours.

With the tin can frozen you can punch-out the pattern.
Lay down a towel on a hard surface like concrete will work the best in punching the holes in the tin can. If the paper is getting to wet due to condensation then put the tin can back in the freezer for refreezing.

Punching the holes with an awl or ice pick rather than drilling is best. Drilling make the holes all uniform in diameter but punching the holes makes light different hole diameters thus give the tin can a more unique way it lights up. The LED will shine through the holes in the lantern.

The handle for hanging your LED tin can lantern can be made from a metal hanger or 18-16 gauge solid type wire. Punch two holes in the tin can for support. See the picture for reference.

Step 3: LED Light

The LED tin can lantern is using a Blue 1W Luxeon HB LED. (High-Brightness)  The LED is driven by a 300ma (max current)  LED driver circuit that works with 12V. I used two battery packs of 4 each for at total of 8 AA reachable NiMH batteries to power the light. The LED driver can be made or bought from eBay search for “LED driver” they are cost around one dollar.   You can use 5mm LED's to illuminate the tin can lantern. It is best to shine the light downward from top of the lid I found. 

The LED is mounted to the inside top of the lid with plastic screws and nuts.

Step 4: Let It LED Shine

See the LED Tin Can Lantern movie to see it in action.

I hope you like the LED Tin Can Lantern.

LED Contest

Finalist in the
LED Contest



    • Tiny Home Contest

      Tiny Home Contest
    • Fix It! Contest

      Fix It! Contest
    • Metalworking Contest

      Metalworking Contest

    18 Discussions

    cool I still share a room with my sister she's scared of the dark this will be a fun project that solves problem

    Look's great!

    Thank you! Would never have thought to freeze water inside the can. I'm kinda new at this, great tip.

    put a florescent tube with a flash camera voltage source and you got a real winner, even better then shown here!


    Where did you buy all of those materials?

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing. An idea to ask, what do you think if instead of freezing it with water inside, you put sand in the tin as much as you can and then put the lid on before punching holes on it? Can this technique used to avoid dent in a faster way? (people use that to bent pvc with heat).

    1 reply

    I've tried the ice in the tin can method and you do need the hardness of the ice behind the metal otherwise you'll bend the can in no time. You'll also have to work reasonably quickly as you'll get the best results when the ice is closest to your work (i.e. when the ice melts you'll start to get a bit of flexing). If you had a piece of timber that fit the can, that would work too. I used a nail as my punching tool.

    I put a tea light candle in mine and I didn't get anything like the intensity of light through the holes as you can see in this Instructable. I'll have to give that a go next time round.

    Where does the 8 AA battery pack go? Great looking lantern!

    I will be doing this next week with my cub scout troop. Awesome!

    I like this, it's a very cool project. That video of the tin can was awesome, it took me a while to realize that you were spinning the can and not like moving the camera around it. It going up and down made it look like a weird zoom in and out that looked awesome. :P good work

    I really like the looks of this wish i had seen it before our reception you got my vote :)
    keep me in mind when voting i built the 3 tier fruit wedding cake

    brilliant idea, low cost and well presented...5/5

    I have done this with tin food cans but the paint can is way cooler! now if only i could figure out the electrics...

    Nice Instructable and great write-up! Good luck in the contest.

    This is what I need for my baby's cot!!
    This will keep the mom happy!

    Historically this sort of tin work would have been done while the sheet metal was still flat and then assembled after. The holes would typically be punched over a piece of wood.

    You can do this with coffee cans or other tins without a lip on a round piece of wood held in a vice or something similar.

    Ice is pretty innovative but you run the risk of rupturing the seams. Can't argue with the fantastic result though!

    Might try using a round piece of wood carved to leave room for the lip/rim of the can as well.

    Either way, it's a beautiful lantern!