How to make floating paper lanterns

Written by g.k. bayne
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Whether you have a small pond, fountain or a swimming pool, a floating paper lantern can add a little elegance to your next outdoor gathering. The paper bags used in this project can be either white or a typical brown lunch bag. The candle placed inside will emit an earthy tone glow, regardless of the coloured bag. By following a few procedures, making a floating paper lantern will take only a few minutes but will add hours of a luminary elegance.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Pocketknife or razor knife
  • 12-inch by 12-inch piece of 1-inch-thick white styrofoam
  • White or brown lunch bags
  • 2 cups of sand per luminary bag
  • Silicone (optional)
  • Votive candle
  • Long-handled matches

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  1. 1

    Cut a 12-inch by 12-inch piece of 1-inch-thick styrofoam using either a pocketknife or a razor knife. The razor knife may make a cleaner cut. This type of white styrofoam is sold in a 4-foot-by-8-foot piece and will yield 32 1-foot square pieces.

  2. 2

    Unfold one of the paper lunch bags and pour two cups of regular sand into the bag. The sand is used for ballast in the floating lantern and to hold the votive candle in place.

  3. 3

    Squirt a small dab, 1-inch round, of the silicone in the middle of the piece of styrofoam.

  4. 4

    Place the sand-filled bag centred on the styrofoam and gently push downward to seat the bag. You may want to let this cure for about a half hour, but it is not necessary.

  5. 5

    Take the votive candle and insert it into the centre of the bag by pushing it into the sand. The sand will hold around the candle, keeping it from tipping over.

  6. 6

    Light the candles with the long-handled matches. The longer wooden match will help in keeping you from burning the side of the bag--and perhaps your fingers.

  7. 7

    Launch the floating paper lantern and enjoy the reflection, not only from the water's surface but also the white styrofoam.

Tips and warnings

  • You can make a number of these well ahead of time for your next outdoor gathering.
  • These floating paper lanterns can be easily reused by pouring the sand out and folding the lantern bag for compact storage.

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