Creativity 521 #52 - DIY Tin Can Lanterns

Posted by ~Summer~ on September 05, 2014
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In the blink of an eye, Mid-Autumn Festival is fast approaching again. It's funny, and a little scary, how it seems like yesterday when we were strolling at Gardens by the Bay with our DIY Hello Kitty and My Melody lanterns and yet when I think about it again, a year has already passed.

Time, it just seems to whizz by, doesn't it? Especially true when you have children.

Anyway, this year, the teachers have kindly requested for Angel to bring along a handmade, recycled lantern for the Mid-Autumn celebration. I thought it was a pretty neat idea because it encourages parents to spend time crafting with their kids and also teaches them the importance of recycling and being eco-friendly.

So, I really wanted a lantern that can last and instead of the more commonly seen, and easier to make, paper lanterns, we decided to make metal lanterns. Ah huh! Do I have your attention now? In today's Creativity 521, we are sharing with you our DIY Tin Can Lanterns, which are specially dedicated to my precious Angel and little Mermaid.  

Materials we used:

1) Cleaned, empty tin cans with lids removed (Mine were from canned fruits)
2) Hammer
3) Nails of different sizes
4) Printouts of the images or patterns you desire
5) Tealights
6) Permanent markers
7) Scissors
8) Ribbons
9) Sticky tape
10) Rattan sticks

Firstly, decide on the pattern you want for your lantern. It can be shapes, aboriginal art, random sketches or image printouts. If you are using a printout, bear in mind that it needs to have clear lines to follow and fairly simple details. Resize the images till they fit the can more or less and stick them onto the can by taping both sides.

Next, it's time to hammer away! Following the lines of your pattern, choose a nail of the appropriate size and punch holes accordingly. The smaller the size of the nail, the more holes you will need and the more detailed your work will be. Remember to gently tap the nail 4-5 times so that it is enough to just puncture the can; you do not need to go all the way or hit too hard.

Tip: If you find that your can is too malleable and punching too many holes causes it to be dented, you can insert a wooden block into the can to act as a support. Or, you can first fill the can with water and let it freeze before making the holes. Remember to put a towel underneath when hammering and once you are done, you can rinse the can and remove the ice block.

For me, I used the smallest sized nail I had for the outline of the angel and a slightly bigger nail for her eyes. For the mouth, I found it weird to be made up of holes (looks like bo gei!) so I punched enough holes till it formed a nice U-shape. (not shown in the below pic).

Once you are done with the holes, remove the picture and check that you are happy with your design. If you have time, you can make patterns all around the can and this will allow more light to shine too! Just so you know, the hammering gets easier once you get the hang of it and yes, it is a little time consuming but definitely worthwhile.

I wanted Angel to have a sense of participation in making her lantern too so we decided to add some colours using permanent markers. She was really thrilled and happy to see her one-of-a-kind angel lantern coming to life!

Just to personalise the lantern, I also got her to write her name on it.

To attach the lantern to the stick, punch holes in two opposite ends near the top of the can. Insert a ribbon into one of the holes, tie the middle part around the stick, insert the other end into the second hole and knot at the ends.

Tip: Since tin can lanterns can be a little heavier than paper lanterns, make sure your rattan stick is strong enough and to prevent drooping, let your child have a better grip by cutting the stick short.

Moving on, we didn't want the little sister to feel left out too so this was what I had in mind for her. Oh yeah, another round of hammering!

Ta-dah! We are done! This is how our DIY Tin Can Lanterns look! I say they are definitely unique and the best thing is they can't be bought anywhere else. To light up the lanterns, gently drop in a lit tealight and if you have a gas fire lighter at home, you can easily use that to relight the tealight when the flame goes off.

And when night falls, that is when their beauty shines through. I am in love with how the lights flicker in the darkness and I have never thought that plain, old tin cans can look this pretty.

Anyway, the kids were too excited over their newly made lanterns and couldn't wait to bring them out onto the street. Angel was really careful with her lantern and would protect it at all cost, whereas Ariel held it for awhile and then decided it was more fun to drag it along and hear the metal clink and clank against the ground.

Tips: Since it is made of metal, note that the lantern can get a little hot after awhile (but not burning hot). Also, if your kid likes to fling the lantern around, it will be better to stick the tealight to the base and be careful of the hot wax. Lastly, before giving the lantern to your child, make sure there are no sharp or prickly edges. As always with fire, do exercise caution when you are out with the kids. 

We are definitely loving our new 'old' lanterns!

How are you celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival this year?

For more ideas on kids' craft, visit my gallery here.


To fellow bloggers who have a fun craft session, DIY tip or creative idea to share, come join in the party! Highlight and press Ctrl + C to copy my button above, include it in your post/sidebar and add your link below. I will be hosting Creativity 521 on the 5th and 21st of every month, do hop over for more inspiration. Remember: The sky's the limit when it comes to creativity!


  1. Their personalised lanterns are beautiful! Definitely one of a kind and the glow it gives off in the night is so pretty.

    1. Thanks Susan! :) oh yeah, i like that they are personalised and unique. I love the glow too but Angel seems to prefer seeing the colours in the day (probably becos she was the one who coloured). Haha. Thanks for reading!

  2. Wow so much hard work! The lanterns are so beautiful!

  3. This is WONDERFUL! Lovin and sharing! : )

  4. That's a lot of work and they are so pretty!!


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