How to Make an Easy & Enchanting Tin Can Lantern for Fall

Today I'm going to show you how to make tin can lanterns in a few easy steps. We're going to upcycle those old tin cans into festive fall luminaries. So go ahead and go raid your recycle bin and let's get started.

This post was transcribed by a member of the Hometalk editorial team from the original HometalkTV episode.

Tools and materials

  • Tin cans
  • Marker
  • Clamp
  • Drill
  • Sandpaper
  • Spray paint
  • Candles
Peeling the labels off the cans

1. Clean the cans and peel the labels off

For this project, you're going to want to have a variety of sizes of tin cans. I have regular tomato cans from my kitchen and an industrial size can, which I think is going to make a great focal point for our fall centerpiece. The first thing I did was clean these, then peel off the labels.

Now, the thing I've noticed is that there's really only glue in one section, so as long as you can get it peeled up, it's clean all the way around. So you'll see it actually comes off really easily. If you find that yours has a lot of glue stuck on the back, you can get some Goo Gone and clean it off.

Drawing a leaf design on the tin can

2. Draw your design

Once the labels are removed and the cans are nice and clean, you're ready for the designs. I'm going to just freehand draw a leaf shape on there. You could also use graph paper to kind of make it very precise and exact. You also could print something from the computer, tape it on, and then use that as a guide.

For a leaf, I'm just going to draw sort of a round design, and then I'll add in the little corners on the inside. You could do some other great ideas: maybe your last name or even, as these are for autumn, maybe you spell out the word FALL. There are so many ideas you can do with this.

Clamping the tin can to the table

3. Clamp the can to the table

These cans roll around, so, for safety, we need to attach this to the table while we do our drilling. The safest way I've found to hold this in place is just using a woodworking clamp.

If you don't have one, you can also try putting some heavy books or something that'll hold it in place. You could have someone hold it for you, but that's not a safe option because you don't want the drill to slip.

Choosing a drill bit size

4. Choose a drill bit

Once you've got your can secure, you can go ahead and choose a drill bit. For this project, I'm going to use what I'm considering a medium size. If you go too small, I feel like the holes don't let enough light out. But if they're too big, it lets too much of the light through and washes out the design. So something right in the middle should be good.

To create the holes, we're going to use a drill. I found that is the fastest method. You can also use just a hammer and a nail. If maybe you're working with kids (older kids, of course) and you want the kids to just have some sort of activity that they can participate in and they're not quite ready to use a power drill, a hammer and nail are pretty safe.

Drilling holes in the tin can

5. Drill holes

I've already got my drill loaded and we're ready to just start making holes. Now, I'm not a perfectionist, so I did not measure and mark precise holes. It's best to go between the ridges on the can, otherwise it sort of slips around. It's ok if the holes are not too close together, you want them spaced just a little bit.

You'll also notice that I'm not exactly hitting the exact lines of my design. That's ok because we're going to paint these.

Tip: You want to be very careful where you're working and make sure you're kind of cleaning up the little pieces of metal that are coming off as you go. But don't use your hand because these pieces can be really sharp. Use sandpaper instead.

DIY tin can lanterns for fall

DIY tin can lanterns for fall

To finish off these tin can lanterns, I sanded them down, added a coat of spray paint, then set the candles inside. I hope this project inspires you to upcycle cans for fall decor in your tablescape this season. Let me know what you think of this project in the comments below.

DIY fall lanterns

For more creative autumnal decor projects, discover Hometalk's best fall lantern idea, light-up fall decor, and other rustic DIY fall decor inspiration.

Amber Oliver
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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