How to Make Your Own Outdoor Lanterns

Written by katherine harder
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How to Make Your Own Outdoor Lanterns
Create DIY outdoor lanterns from glass jars. (empty glass jar image by vadim kozlovsky from

Since outdoor decorations and lighting elements spend a lot of time getting battered by the weather, you may be hesitant to allocate much of your home decorating budget toward their purchase. However, outdoor lighting is essential to outside conversational areas, which would be useless after nightfall without lighting. Outdoor lanterns, when set on the ground or hung from tree branches, provide low, romantic ambient light and are even cost-effective when crafted from everyday items.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Tin cans
  • Water
  • Freezer
  • Hammer
  • Nail
  • Pencil
  • Tea light
  • Sand, coloured (optional)
  • Glass jar
  • 22 gauge wire spool
  • 24 gauge wire spool
  • Wire cutter
  • Needle nose pliers

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  1. 1

    Wash any food or oil residue from your cans and remove the labels. Soak the cans in warm water for a few hours if you have trouble peeling off the labels smoothly.

  2. 2

    Draw a decorative pattern across the faces of the cans, creating borders, swirls and shapes with dots.

  3. 3

    Fill the cans with water and set them inside the freezer to freeze overnight.

  4. 4

    Remove the cans from the freezer when all the water inside the cans has solidly frozen.

  5. 5

    Poke holes into the cans wherever you drew dots, using a hammer and nail to puncture the tin.

  6. 6

    Fill the bottom of the can with at least an inch of sand to help keep the tin from overheating. Place the lanterns around your yard and add a tea light candle.

  1. 1

    Cut 2 pieces of 22 gauge wire to match the height of the space between your lanterns and from where they’ll hang, plus 6 inches and the circumference of your jar’s mouth.

  2. 2

    Wrap the end of one piece of wire around the mouth of the jar, twisting it tightly around itself at the end of the circle. Wrap the other piece around the mouth of the jar, starting at the exact opposite side, and twisting tightly around itself at the end of the circle.

  3. 3

    Hold up the jar from the wire hangers to figure out where to secure the top so the lantern will hang evenly. Fold over and twist the tops of the wires together in this spot to complete the construction process. Repeat with remaining wire and jars.

  4. 4

    Add an inch of sand to the bottom of the lanterns to keep them from overheating. Hang from branches or hooks and drop in tea light candles.

Tips and warnings

  • Space the dots in the tin can far enough apart that tears between holes don’t occur during the poking process.
  • To make the project completely DIY, create your own candles, too. Poke a hole in the top of the metal lid of a small jam or baby food jar and thread a wick through the hole. Fill the jar with cooking oil, reaffix the jar lid, and place the mini-hurricane inside one of your sand-filled lanterns.
  • Anything involving fire is extremely dangerous. Use good sense and caution.

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