Make a Tin Can Lantern

Make a tin can lantern banner

The next time you go to throw a tin can in your recycle bin at home, don’t! Get crafty and use it to make a beautifully stunning backyard or campsite masterpiece! By using up-cycled and re-purposed tin cans (think soup, canned fruits & veggies, ravioli, etc.), a hammer and nail, and a fun design or template, you can make a Tin Can Lantern. In just a few steps, you’ll turn a pantry staple into a whimsical decoration that will light up your summer nights. Go for a theme, such as beach, starry, or even ghosts or jack o’ lanterns for Halloween. Or create your own design of curlicues, swirls, or dots for a unique, personalized look. You can spray paint it any color that comes in a can, or leave it unpainted for a rustic look. So go empty a soup can, wash it out, and start punching holes in it! You have lanterns to make!

Materials Needed:

• Clean tin cans

• Paper

• Pencil

• Black marker

• Scissors

• Tape

• Hammer

• Nails

• Towels

• Spray paint (if desired)

• Small tea light candle or battery-powered light

Make a Tin Can Lantern


1. Fill a clean tin can with sand and top it off with water. Place it in the freezer until the water is frozen. This helps the can keep its shape when you’re hammering it (step 6). If you don’t have sand, just fill the can about ¾ of the way with water and freeze overnight. If you do this and the can bulges or pops apart when the water freezes, gently hammer it back into its original shape.
2. While your can is freezing, choose a template or create your own design on paper for the side of your lantern. Take into account the size of your tin can when choosing or drawing your design. Make sure the design isn’t too tall or large for your can.
3. Once you have your design, outline it in dots with a black marker. These will show where you’re going to punch holes with your hammer and nail. Make sure you space your dots out far enough that they won’t touch when you hammer them in, but close enough that the design is easy to see.
4. When the water inside your tin can is frozen solid, tape your design to the outside of the can.
5. Place your tin can on a few towels on the ground or a worktable to cushion it so it won’t dent when you’re hammering it. You might also want to hold the can with a towel so that you have a good grip on it.
6. Now you’re ready to start hammering away! Follow the dots around your design and hammer each one all the way through so that light clearly shines into the can.
7. If the water in your can starts to melt, place it back in the freezer for about ten (10) minutes. If you’re working on multiple cans, start on a new one while the other one freezes up again.
8. Once your design is complete, rinse the can under warm water to melt the ice and then you can dump your sand out.
9. You can choose to leave your beautiful new tin can lantern au natural or you can spray paint it to match your garden or patio décor or to go along with a holiday or seasonal theme. If you spray paint it, fill it with newspaper before you paint it.
10. If you want to add a hanger to your lantern, punch holes on opposite sides of the can about 3/8” below the rim of the can. Using a 10”-long wire, insert one end into one hole and curve the end to make a hook. Do the same with the other end of the wire and the other hole so that you have a hanger that forms an arch over the top of your lantern.
11. To illuminate your new tin can lantern, it’s safe to use either a small candle or a battery-powered light.

Display your stunning lantern in all its glowing splendor on a picnic table, patio table, in a sunroom, or hang it from a tree. They look especially beautiful when arranged in a display that features many tin cans in coordinating colors or designs to complement a theme. The decorating possibilities with this simple craft are endless! Let it shine!

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