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How-To: Tin Can Lanterns for Patio, Porch or Garden


Tin Can Lanterns for Patio, Porch or Garden

by Janean S. Thompson


There are a lot of neat projects that you can do with an empty can. One of those projects is to create a unique patio lantern in which you set a votive candle. These lanterns can be decorated in a number of ways and all add a wonderful glow to your evening dining table or garden easy chair.

Materials you will need to create lanterns include the airbrush of your choice (my preference for this project is the Iwata Revolution HP-CR 4500), an air source (I always rely on my quiet and reliable Smart Jet), enamel paints in a variety of colors, solvent for cleanup and slight dilution of paints if necessary, several empty washed and dried vegetable or fruit tins, a scrap of


wood that fits inside the cans, a hammer and heavy nail, and paper and pencil to create a design. A wire bail is a nice touch and makes it easy to move the lantern while it is lit. The bail handle can be created with an old coat hanger or other scrap of wire. To bend the wire handle you will need a pair of pliers. A votive candle and candle glass is set inside the finished lantern to contain the liquid wax as the wick burns down.

Begin by planning a design. The initial design should be uncomplicated, perhaps swirl patterns, simple shapes or straight lines.

Once you have worked out a design, you have two options for project completion. One option is to tape the paper on which you have drawn the pattern directly to the can, and then pierce through the paper with the hammer and nail. The advantage to using a paper pattern is that you can create several very similar lanterns, related by identical pattern placement. The second method is to use the permanent marker to draw directly on the outside of the can to create an original one-of-a-kind design, and then pierce the pattern with your nail/nails. Light transmitted from the inside will cast an interesting pattern into


the darkness of your garden or patio. Varying the hole size is one way to make the patterns more interesting.

Once you have pierced the can in the desired design, it is time to paint the can. Begin by painting a base color on the outside of the lantern. Add other colors if desired, softening the color at the top or adding stripes of color. You are in total control of the colors and their placement. Creating several identically pierced lanterns in multiple colors gives a neat look whether the lanterns are casting patterns during the evening or sitting in the garden or on a table in the daylight.

When painting is completed, attach a bail (handle) by piercing two opposed holes at the top rim of the lantern. Attach a short length of scrap wire bent into a curved shape. Bend the ends to hold the handle in place. Darkness brings out the beauty of your lantern.

For extra charm, you can wrap thin copper or painted steel wire around the handle. You can also create different patterns using other piercing “tools” like awls, punches or nail sets. For a star-like pattern, create a small pilot hole, and then tap a heavy Phillips-head screwdriver point through the hole.


If the can is thin enough, it will make an “x” pattern that will cast a star-shaped light image. Straight blade screwdrivers and different sizes of chisels create neat rectangle slits for dramatic light transmission.

Remember to be extra careful with sharp tools! But, with caution, this can be a great project with unique results.


Reprinted with permission of ARTtalk.com


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