Ultimate Guide to Recycled Tin Can Crafts

Recycled Tin Can Lanterns

You probably already have the tools to turn an empty can into a hanging lantern. You'll need a hammer and nails, wire (or a light, strong chain) and wire cutters, pliers and a freezer. You may also want oil-based primer and enamel paint, but that's up to you.

To start, fill a clean, empty can with water and place it in the freezer. When the water has frozen solid, remove the can.

Use the hammer and nails to punch patterns into the sides of the can. The ice keeps the tin from denting. You can create any pattern you want. If you're skilled with a blowtorch or rotor tool, you can go even further.

The more holes you make, the more light your lantern will produce, but the more its structural integrity may be compromised. Sometimes designers do that deliberately. Using tin snips, some crafters make parallel vertical cuts in the sides of a can to create a fluted section. The lantern can then be vertically compressed to create sides that bell out. Use safety gloves when you try this -- the metal will be sharp.

Punch holes in the top of the can to attach the wire or chain. Use the pliers to secure the lantern to its hanger. The length of the hanger is up to you, but if the lantern will be outdoors, you may want to keep hangers short to reduce wind hazards. Conversely, if the lantern has a short hanger, you'll need to avoid hanging it from flammable structures.

Drive a short nail up through the bottom of the can. You'll use this nail to secure the candle. Push the candle down onto the nail to anchor it.

If you want your lanterns to be colorful, as well as a bit more waterproof, paint them first with primer and then with a rustproof outdoor enamel paint. If you plan to paint your lantern, you may want to start by punching holes that are a bit larger -- layers of paint can obscure details.

If you're looking for a bigger challenge, try flattening the cans and assembling them in panels.

On the next page, we'll look at a related craft -- candleholders.