Recycled tin can lanterns

As dusk falls, my husband and I gravitate toward the garden. We can usually be found lounging in our hammock, sharing dinner with friends, or just enjoying an evening stroll. At these times, the halogen patio light outside our back door seems too harsh. Instead, we turn to candlelight to set a mood. These punched-tin lanterns add a folk-art touch to the garden and are fun and easy to create.



Sheets of paper
Masking tape
Permanent black marker
Recycled aluminium cans, cleaned
Sand and water
Hammer and nails
Rust-Oleum 2X spray paint
Tea light candles




1. Fill the can with sand to give structure to the can and a surface against which to pound, so that the can does not become misshapen.

2. Select a design that will fit the size of the can nicely and trace its shape with a permanent marker onto a piece of paper. Don’t worry about including lots of details because only the basic shape will show up on the final product.

3. Tape the paper tightly around the can, positioning the shape exactly where you want it.

4. Rest the can on its side on a folded towel to keep the can from rolling around and to protect the work surface. With a hammer and a sharp nail, punch holes though the paper and into the can along the lines of the design. Change nails frequently, as they dull quickly after repeated punches.

5. When the design is finished, make two large holes opposite each other at the top of the can for hanging wire.

6. When the design is complete, remove the sand, rinse the can well, and allow it to dry completely.

7. Spray the inside of the lantern with white paint to diffuse the candlelight and give the lantern a brighter glow. All that’s required is a couple of quick shots of spray paint aimed into the can from 10cm above the opening. Then choose a colour for the outside and spray on two light coats, allowing the paint to dry between coats. This paint is not only decorative but also offers a little protection from the elements if you leave your lanterns outside.

8. If you want to hang your lantern, cut about 50cm of wire and insert the ends into the hanging holes from the outside, twisting the ends back over the top and around the wire again. I like to place a votive candle inside a glass holder for ease of use and even better light diffusion. If you don’t use a votive glass, I recommend using a tea light candle or putting about a 2cm of sand in the bottom of the can so that a completely melted candle is easy to take out and replace.