clock menu more-arrow no yes

How to Create Tin-Can Lanterns

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

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.

Step 1

Plug Cans with Ice

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.

Step 2

Create 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).

Step 3

Draw 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

Step 4

Punch out The Design

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.

Step 5

Attach a Handle

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.

Step 6

Add a Light

Photo by Tina Rupp

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