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How to Make a DIY Solar Lantern

A solar lantern is the perfect way to add a little ambiance without the hassle of expensive hard-wired lighting. Follow these directions to learn how to make your own DIY solar lantern for less than $15.

A solar lantern is the perfect way to add a little ambiance without the hassle of expensive hard-wired lighting. And to give it a finish that’s easy to apply, and will withstand the elements outdoors, I’m teaming up with our friends at Varathane.

They make a fast-drying stain that saves me time, and a water-based spar urethane that seals out water.

For this project I also grabbed some scrap 1x boards and picked up square dowels, wire hardware cloth, and a solar light bulb.

Steps for Making a Solar Lantern

Step 1: Cut the Parts

DIY Solar Lantern Jenn Largesse

Download our cut list above. Using a miter saw, cut the parts. To cut the dowels, set the saw to 2.5-degrees. To make the dowels splay outward in both directions, tip the dowel on edge during the cut as shown.

Step 2: Drill the Top Hole

Drilling a hole in center of the lantern Jenn Largesse

Drill a hole in the center of the lantern top for the solar light bulb.

Step 3: Assemble the Parts

Jenn Largesse

Assemble the parts by drilling pilot holes through the top and bottom boards and into the square dowels. Secure the pieces with wood glue and screws.

Step 4: Size the Hardware Cloth

Sizing the hardware cloth for a DIY solar lantern. Jenn Largesse

Trace the inside opening of the assembled frame onto the hardware cloth.

Step 5: Cut the Hardware Cloth

DIY Solar lantern Jenn Largesse

Cut three panels from the hardware cloth.

Step 6: Apply the Stain

DIY Solar lantern Jenn Largesse

Sand the parts, and then wipe away any dust with a lint-free cloth. Using a lint-free cloth, wipe on a coat of stain in the direction on the grain. I’m using a Varathane color called Weathered Gray. Let the stain set for two to three minutes. Wipe away the excess stain with a lint-free cloth, and let dry for at least an hour.

Step 7: Apply the Top Coat

DIY Solar lantern Jenn Largesse

Brush on a coat of Spar Urethane with a synthetic bristle brush. Let dry for an hour.

Step 8: Coat the Hardware Cloth

DIY Solar lantern Jenn Largesse

Lastly, spray the hardware cloth with two coats of flat black spray paint.

Step 9: Attach the Hardware Cloth

DIY Solar lantern Jenn Largesse

Staple the hardware cloth panels to the filler strips.

Step 10: Secure the Side Panels

DIY Solar lantern Jenn Largesse

Secure the assembled hardware cloth and filler strips inside the lantern frame with nails.

Step 11: Install the Light Bulb

Light bulb gets installed into the solar lantern Jenn Largesse

Secure the solar light bulb with glue.


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