I love the rustic charm of tin can lanterns. Budget-friendly and super simple to make, their warm light brings a relaxing ambiance to any outdoor party. While flickering candlelight is perfect for a special occasion, I really wanted tin can lanterns that glow all summer long. I quickly decided that making them solar powered was the way to go.
I've written a tutorial for anyone interested in making their own solar tin can lanterns. Gather your supplies and follow along...
- recycled tin can
- solar path light
- cordless drill and drill bits suitable for metal
- galvanized steel wire
- quick set epoxy adhesive
- clear waterproof silicone caulk
- black permanent marker
- safety glasses
- spray paint or clear acrylic sealer (optional)
Tear off the label and wash the can thoroughly. A citrus degreaser such as Goo-Gone works wonderfully on stubborn label glue.
Draw your design with a permanent marker.
Ready to make the holes? Grab your power drill and don a pair of safety glasses. I found it's best to begin drilling each hole at slow speed. Increase the speed after a small dimple forms, and apply steady pressure until the drill bit breaks through the can.
One advantage of using a power drill is that you can incorporate different sized holes in your design. You may find that the larger bits don't grab well and tend to bounce around on the can. If this is the case, simply drill a pilot hole with a smaller bit first. I used a 7/64" bit to make my pilot holes.
Disassemble the solar path light. Typically, the solar head can be disconnected from the lens by twisting it counter-clockwise.
In the center of the closed end of the can, drill a hole large enough to accommodate the LED bulb.
To make a handle, drill two holes on opposite sides of the closed end of the can, approximately 1/2" from the rim. Cut a piece of steel wire to the desired handle length plus about 2". From the outside of the can, insert the wire into one of the holes that you just drilled, and use your pliers to twist the end into a small loop. Gently bend the wire into a U-shape handle, insert the free end into the other hole, and make another loop.
At this point, you can spray paint the lantern your favorite color or preserve the shiny metal with a coat of clear acrylic spray. If you are like me and prefer a weathered finish, leave it alone and the lantern will rust over time.
Prepare the epoxy resin according to the directions on the package. Apply a thin layer to the areas of the can that will make contact with the solar light.
Center the solar head on the can. Press firmly and lay a heavy book on top until the epoxy is set.
When the epoxy has cured, apply a bead of clear, waterproof caulk around the edge of the solar head.
Charge it up in the sun...
...and wait for nightfall to see the gorgeous result.
These tin can lanterns look beautiful hung in the trees or from the ceiling of a covered deck.
And they create stunning designs of light when displayed on a table or set on the ground.
I even found color-changing solar lights and made these fun lanterns for my children to use as night-lights. Sitting on the windowsill, they receive plenty of sunlight to charge and glow long after the girls have fallen asleep.
Tin can lanterns aren't just for summer either. The color-changing solar lights would make wonderful Christmas lanterns. Imagine lanterns with Jack-O-Lantern faces for Halloween, a snowflake design for winter, and hearts for Valentine's Day. You could even spell out a holiday greeting or display your house number on the front porch. The possibilities are endless!