Gallery: HOW TO: Recycle a Tin Can Into a Gorgeous Outdoor Lantern for ...

Gently tap the nail to punch a hole in the can - careful not to hit your fingers!
Gently tap the nail to punch a hole in the can - careful not to hit your fingers!


All you need to do to get started on this eco-friendly summer craft project is gather the following materials:

  • 2-4 cleaned, empty tin cans (you can use any size)
  • a hammer
  • an assortment of nails (for larger or smaller holes)
  • colorful permanent markers
  • paper, pencil, masking tape, scissors (if you plan to use a pattern)
  • votive candles
  • a towel


With your newly gathered used tin cans, remove labels, and clean thoroughly. Fill each can with water and freeze overnight until solid. The ice stabilizes the can and prevents it from bending when you punch holes in them later.


Decide on a design for your punched-tin decorations. You can draw the pattern out ahead of time on a piece of graph paper and tape it to the can as a guide. Alternatively, you can freehand a design without marking it ahead of time. Knitting patterns, wallpaper, textiles, and folk art are all great inspiration sources for patterns!


Cradle the frozen tin can in a folded towel (to prevent the can from moving and to catch ice chips). Position a sharp, narrow nail above each mark on your pattern and gently tap it 3-4 times with the hammer until just the point has punched the tin can.  Repeat for each mark until you have completed your pattern.


Rinse the can under a hot tap until the ice block pops out and allow the can to dry.


If you want to add color to your new punched-tin lantern, you can create a variety of fun, shiny designs by simply using colorful permanent markers.


Drop in some lighted votive candles and enjoy the fun, flickering patterns cast by your new handmade lanterns! Be sure to place the lanterns on a fire-safe surface as the candles can get hot.


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  1. Hazel Murray January 28, 2015 at 10:35 am

    creative, I love it.

  2. HandmadewithLove Carol December 1, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Love the idea of these lanterns. For those asking how to stop the tin bulging, I found this idea on another site: fill the tin can up to 3/4 of its length with sand then add water. The sand will prevent bulging of the tin can when frozen. I haven’t tried this myself (yet), but hope it helps :)

  3. angela garnace November 9, 2014 at 1:20 am

    wow!!!it is so very nice…i`d like it very much..
    This is Angela Garnace.A student

  4. The Green Queen April 16, 2014 at 12:17 am

    I have made these to use as luminaries during the Winter Solstice. Thanks for reminding me of the technique to use for summer lighting too.

  5. ecolt April 11, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    I’m making these to hang for my wedding.
    To prevent bulges at the bottom, put a bit of water (half an inch or so) in the cans and freeze. Then fill it the rest of the way and refreeze. The bit you put in first will freeze without bulging out the bottom and keep the rest from pushing against it later.

  6. gailos March 15, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Maybe a more environmental idea would be to sit the finished buckets in a bucket and collect the water from the ice melting and water your plants with that-rather than use more water-and heating it-to get rid of the ice?? I have lived on tank water for 32 years, so collect every spare drop!

  7. Katy Thurston August 21, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Is there any advice for the jagged edges inside the can after the holes are made?

  8. ecantando June 12, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I haven’t tried this, but to avoid the bottom of the can bulging, you could put a ball of aluminum foil at the bottom and add water on top. The foil should compress as the water expands upon freezing and then the shape of the can will be preserved.

  9. kimba002 February 14, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Please advise how to prevent the cans from bulging on the bottom after the ice freezes.

  10. kimba002 February 14, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    I made these at Christmas & had some of my cans to bulge at the bottom. I hammered back in place, but it was hard getting it even, so the candles wouldn’t sit at an angle. Can you suggest what to do to prevent the cans from bulging on the bottom of the can when the ice freezes? Someone mentioned adding sand to the water, but I haven’t tried it yet. I don’t know if I should fill the can with sand, adding the water or just put the sand in the bottom of the can & then adding the water. I would appreciate any suggestions you may have. Thanks!

  11. itzmb August 12, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Lovely and great also for the winter holidays… Caution with metal drill bits, use goggles for eye protection and do it somewhere that the tiny metal shavings will be contained. Years ago had a gust of wind blow a miniscule bit of shaved metal into my eye — that was NOT a good experience, it was surgically removed and had a bandaged eye for a week. Try seeing and walking with only one eye, not easy and no driving for sure. I was VERY lucky it missed my pupil. Just take precautions… and have fun!

  12. Craves July 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    It would be far easier (not to mention less messy!) to just use a drill with metal drill bits (which can be picked up fairly cheaply) to do the holes…

  13. isabluisa July 15, 2012 at 9:53 am


  14. dsrhode July 11, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    how absolutely beautiful and how easy, yet I would never have thought of this! Thank you!

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