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How to Create Tin-Can Lanterns

Welcome trick-or-treaters by candlelight with festive punched-out luminaries made from leftover food cans

how to make tin-can luminaries for fall and halloween
Photo by Tina Rupp

Welcome trick-or-treaters by candlelight with festive punched-out luminaries made from leftover food cans. Raid the recycling bin for a variety of vessels in different shapes and sizes; those that housed tomatoes, soups, or vegetables are all fair game. Remove the labels, and deodorize the insides by wiping with a damp sponge dipped in baking soda. Steer clear of containers that once held flammable materials, and don't bother with the fuss of cleaning out old paint cans; empty ones can be found cheaply at a crafts store. Keep reading to learn how we banged them out.


Steps // How to Create Tin-Can Lanterns
1 ×

Plug Cans with Ice

 
Step One // How to Create Tin-Can Lanterns

Plug Cans with Ice

how to make tin can luminaries paint cans with ice frozen in them
Photo by Tina Rupp

Fill cans with water and freeze them. Why? You'll be making holes with a hammer and an awl or a chisel, and if you just start pounding away, you'll have a mangled mess. The plug of ice firms the cans for punching.

 
2 ×

Create a Steady Surface

 
Step Two // How to Create Tin-Can Lanterns

Create a Steady Surface

how to make tin can luminaries build a jig to make a steady surface
Photo by Tina Rupp

Build a jig to hold the cans steady while you work. Screw scrap 1x1s to the long sides of a board (we used a 1x6).

 
3 ×

Draw Designs

 
Step Three // How to Create Tin-Can Lanterns

Draw Designs

how to make tin can luminaries draw templates for designs
Photo by Tina Rupp

Draw templates, thinking of them as reverse stencils; the lines are the negative space through which the light will shine.

Or, download one of our templates:
Pumpkin
Leaf 1
Leaf 2
Leaf 3

 
4 ×

Punch out The Design

 
Step Four // How to Create Tin-Can Lanterns

Punch out The Design

how to make tin can luminaries punch out designs from templates
Photo by Tina Rupp

Clamp a frozen can to the jig, and use a marker to trace on the image. With a hammer and an awl (for dotted lines) or a chisel (for wider slits), puncture the metal. When you're done, run the can under hot water, dump out the ice, and clean off any remaining ink.

 
5 ×

Attach a Handle

 
Step Five // How to Create Tin-Can Lanterns

Attach a Handle

how to make tin can luminaries adding handle to tin can luminary
Photo by Tina Rupp

Snip a length of 18- to 21-gauge wire and attach it to the can through two holes punched on opposite sides near the rim. Use pliers to crimp the ends closed.

 
6 ×

Add a Light

 
Step Six // How to Create Tin-Can Lanterns

Add a Light

how to make tin can luminaries adding tea light
Photo by Tina Rupp

Place a tea light at the bottom of each can. Arrange your collection on a tabletop or outdoors.

 
 
 

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