How to make concrete Japanese lanterns

Japanese garden image by Yianni Papadopoulos from

Japanese stone lanterns are a great addition to any landscaping project. The high cost of artisan-made lanterns and the time-consuming difficulty of actually carving a lantern from stone, however, prevent many from thinking seriously about adding a Japanese lantern to their home. Thankfully, creating a Japanese lantern using common household items and shop-bought cement is a relatively easy, relatively inexpensive process. With a little know-how and some creativity, you can begin making your own Japanese stone lanterns.

Creating the mould

Collect your materials. A mould can be a number of common household items. For a circular lantern component, you can use a plastic ball decoration. Cylindrical moulds can be built with items such as large, empty yoghurt containers.

Cut holes in the sides of your lantern moulds with your razor. You'll need to do this in order to create the holes in the lantern through which light will shine.

Place PVC pipes through the holes in your container. When you pour the cement into your mould, the PVC pipe will ensure that a hollow remains, though which light will shine.

As an alternative to Steps 2 and 3, collect large plastic containers and smaller, square or circular objects such as empty milk cartons that can be placed inside the larger containers to create hollows.

Making the parts

Put on your work gloves.

Coat the inside of your moulds and cake pans with liquid latex using the paintbrush. This will prevent the cement from sticking to the material as it dries. Three coats are recommended, at intervals of one hour each. If you are using PVC pipes, coat the outside of them with liquid latex.

Mix the cement in the bucket. Shop-bought cement will come with mixing instructions. While mixing cement, wear a dust mask to protect your lungs.

Pour the wet cement into the mould that has been coated in liquid latex. If you are following Step 4 from section one, place your smaller object inside your larger container and pour the cement around the smaller object.

Pour cement into your two cake pans, which will ideally be different sizes. Fill them halfway. Smooth the surface of the cement with your hands or a garden trowel. Allow 12 to 18 hours for the cement to dry.

Assembling the latern

Remove the hardened cement from the moulds. The cake pans should easily release hardened cement. The apparatus from Step 4 in Section 1 should as well. For moulds like a plastic pumpkin or yoghurt container, you may need to cut them away with a razor.

Remove the PVC piping from any moulds you have used them in.

Using the disks from the cake pans as the base, assemble your Japanese lantern. Place the largest disk first, followed by the second largest. Place your central form--the circle, cylinder, square, etc -- on top of the disks, and any smaller shapes or disks you've made on top of this.

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