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Make a can lantern

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

Put a used coffee or food can to good use by making this rustic lantern.



  • 13 oz. metal coffee can or large food can. The food can should be no smaller than about 20 oz.
  • Can opener (if needed)
  • Paper and pencil for drawing your design
  • Transparent tape
  • Common wood nail, the right size to punch the holes in the can. If you create a complicated design, it helps to use a smaller nail.
  • Hammer
  • 2-3 votive candles
  • 1″ x 3″ x 3′ board (narrow enough to fit into the can)

There are two ways to secure the 1″ x 3″ board. You can use the vise method or wood-clamp method.

The wood-clamp method

  • 2″ x 4″ x 2′ board
  • 4 2″ wood screws
  • Screwdriver
  • 2 wood clamps
  • Sturdy bench or table

The vise method

  • Vise
  • Workbench


lantern-11. Remove the paper label from your can. If the can has a shelf, remove it with a can opener.

lantern-22. If you’re using the wood-clamp method, screw the 1″ x 3″ board onto the 2″ x 4″ board as shown. Clamp the boards to a sturdy bench or table.

lantern-33. If you’re using the vise method, clamp the 1″ x 3″ board into the vise.

4. Draw a design on paper that fits the size of the can, or click here to download a sample template (may need to be resized to fit can). Tape the design to the can. Slide the can over the 1″ x 3″ board.


5. Follow your design and punch out the holes. Do one or both sides of the can.

6. Place the candles inside the can. The inside of the can will be rough and jagged, so use caution when putting the candles inside.

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19 Comments on Make a can lantern

  1. Troop 254 πŸ† // April 16, 2016 at 11:56 pm // Reply

    Try taking half of a sphere and poke holes in it this creates stars everywhere in enclosed spaces if you have a light below the half sphere this will teach scouts about star constellations even during day so nobody’s asleepπŸ˜€

  2. We filled the cans with frozen water

  3. aborigines scoutmaster // July 13, 2014 at 9:19 pm // Reply

    good idea

  4. Cool idea

  5. Looks fun

  6. You could put a light bulb inside it instead of a candle.

  7. hmmmm not to shabby

  8. We have a annual summer campout for all cubs, this is one of our activites! And then they can use them during the camp out! A great idea

  9. An electric drill with a metal boring bit might make things go a little faster than tapping out the holes with a hammer and nail.

  10. I want to make one!!!!!

  11. If you fill can with water and freeze it, the can will retain its shape when hammering.

  12. scout 3000 // August 1, 2013 at 6:46 pm // Reply

    cool idea

  13. this is such a fun project to do at friends houses. try it next time your over at some ones house!!

  14. Good idea….. To keep kids busy this summer

  15. To facilitate doing this with a larger group of Scouts, we fill the cans about 3/4 full with water and freeze them. No board or vice needed and the cans don’t dent.

  16. this is such a fun project to do at friends houses. try it next time your over at some ones house!!

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