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DIY Tin Can Garden Lanterns

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Looking for a way to spruce up the patio or garden area for cheap? These DIY tin can lanterns are just the thing to bring a bit of ambiance to your space.

All you need to create these fun patio lanterns is probably laying around your house already. Find out how to make DIY Tin Can Lanterns!

easy patio tin can lanterns
Tin Can Lanterns on Patio Table

Easy Tin Lanterns

Beauty in the garden and patio. This is something I’ve been working on. I’m a pretty simplistic and functional gardener, but I also enjoy having guests over, and our backyard is the hotspot of activity.

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This is for a variety of reasons, but one is our driveway. Our driveway is actually behind the house, off of an alley that runs between our street and the one behind us. While this makes the front yard look uncluttered, it also means that the driveway and all of the toys that come with three kids, are in the backyard.

Add a chicken coop, one large kitchen garden, a clothesline, trampoline, and a dog to the mix, and our backyard is a pretty busy (i.e. messy) place. For the past few months, I’ve been trying to declutter our large backyard and make it more entertainment friendly. So when I was trying to think up ideas of how to add some fun and function to our patio space, I had these requirements:

  1. Didn’t add to the backyard clutter
  2. I would actually use it
  3. Costs little to no money 

DIY Tin Can Lanterns

String garden lights have always appealed to me. Our neighbor has them hanging in her screened-in porch, and it feels like Christmas year-round (in a non-tacky way, of course).

Pinterest and HGTV use lights and lanterns to create elegant outdoor spaces. While I love the ambiance outdoor lighting provides, I have not been willing to use electric lights outside since we have no porch or railings, only a patio. So, what could add some light and sparkle to our outdoor entertaining space? Garden lanterns or votives!

A simple metal can gives a sturdy shape to a burning citronella candle and comes in a variety of sizes. I chose the large (28oz) cans. The larger surface area gave me more space to work with and fits a variety of candle sizes.

While I plan to use these on my glass patio table, these same cans could easily line a walkway or brighten up porch steps for an evening party. The possibilities are endless!

Supplies for Tin Can Lanterns

  • Tin/Aluminum Cans (28oz or whatever size you want to work with)
  • Sharpie
  • Hammer
  • Nail (short and thick are best)
  • Spray Paint (whatever colors you like or have on hand!)
  • Citronella Candles or tea lights

How-To Make Patio Lanterns

  1. Wash out your tin (or aluminum cans) and dry. Consider what design you’d like on your cans. Even something as simple as dots will be beautiful once a candle is lit inside, so don’t worry about using anything complicated. I used a diamond pattern and then a flower outline on my cans. Using your sharpie, dot out your shapes on your tin cans. Don’t worry about being perfect.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Tin Can Garden Lights
  2. Fill cans up with water, leaving at inch of space at the top of your can. Water expands, so you want to leave room for this. Place cans in the freezer and freeze overnight or longer. Once you’re ready to make the holes, take can out of freezer. On a cutting board (if inside), place can on its side and using a thick nail, firmly hammer nail into the dots you created. Once you find a rhythm, it should only take you one or two taps to pierce the metal. Then move on to the next dot until each one is a small hole.               Tin Can Garden Lights
  3. Rinse your can in warm water to remove the ice, then let can dry. Pick through your stash of spray paint (you won’t need much for this project) or grab a can from your local hardware store in your favorite color. Set your can on an empty flower pot or a block of wood and evenly coat with paint.                                                                           Tin Can Garden Lights
  4. Allow paint to dry and then apply a second coat. Let dry.
  5. Once cans are dry, they are ready to use. Grab a pack of small citronella candles (I found 3 for $3 at Big Lots) or make your own if you use essential oils (instructions here). Strike up your new garden lights, relax in an outdoor chair, and take in the glory of an evening outdoors (hopefully mosquito-free).
Tin Can Garden Lanterns

Using what is on hand to make something beautiful is a joy in a number of ways. First, you’re avoiding the temptation to go out and purchase something new.

There are plenty of things we should all buy new (underwear, anyone?), but I can tell you countless stories of things I didn’t need because I could have used something I already had. Secondly, using each item that comes into our homes to its fullest extent is a great way to reduce waste.

Not only did we really use these cans of tomato sauce for dinner, but the cans became lanterns, and the lids (if they retained their shape) are super outdoor coasters or can be painted for DIY Garden Markers.

I hope you enjoy all of the ways these talented bloggers have put tin cans to use this week. See all of their links below!  And I’d love to know if you’ve ever used a can in a creative way. Have a great week, and enjoy your garden!

 

Yield: 2 Lanterns

DIY Tin Can Lanterns

tin can lanterns

Repurpose those tin cans into beautiful, colorful lanterns! Use items you already have on hand to create these DIY Tin Can Lanterns!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Active Time 1 hour
Additional Time 4 hours
Total Time 5 hours 10 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $5

Materials

  • Tin/Aluminum Cans (28oz or whatever size you want to work with)
  • Sharpie
  • Nail (short and thick are best)
  • Spray Paint (whatever colors you like or have on hand!)
  • Citronella Candles or tea lights

Tools

  • Hammer

Instructions

  1. Wash out your tin (or aluminum cans) and dry. Consider what design you'd like on your cans. Even something as simple as dots will be beautiful once a candle is lit inside, so don't worry about using anything complicated. I used a diamond pattern and then a flower outline on my cans. Using your sharpie, dot out your shapes on your tin cans. Don't worry about being perfect. 
  2. Fill cans up with water, leaving at inch of space at the top of your can. Water expands, so you want to leave room for this. Place cans in the freezer and freeze overnight or longer. Once you're ready to make the holes, take can out of freezer. On a cutting board (if inside), place can on its side and using a thick nail, firmly hammer nail into the dots you created. Once you find a rhythm, it should only take you one or two taps to pierce the metal. Then move on to the next dot until each one is a small hole.   
  3. Rinse your can in warm water to remove the ice, then let can dry. Pick through your stash of spray paint (you won't need much for this project) or grab a can from your local hardware store in your favorite color. Set your can on an empty flower pot or a block of wood and evenly coat with paint.   
  4. Allow paint to dry and then apply a second coat. Let dry.
  5. Once cans are dry, they are ready to use. Grab a pack of small citronella candles (I found 3 for $3 at Big Lots) or make your own if you using citronella oil. Strike up your new garden lights, relax in an outdoor chair, and take in the glory of an evening outdoors (hopefully mosquito-free).

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I'd love to hear from you

3 DIY Tin Can Styles

Sunday 6th of August 2017

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Carole West, Garden Up Green

Wednesday 21st of June 2017

Neat idea and I almost made garden light too until those sunflowers took over my brain. Love these colors and I bet they look great with everything else you've established outside.

Susan @ Momcrieff

Tuesday 20th of June 2017

Brilliant! I've been wanting to make something similar but wasn't able to figure out how not to squish the can. Such a simple and logical solution! Your garden lanterns look beautiful!

Carolyn sullivan

Saturday 22nd of September 2018

Ck out the crop-o-dile. Easily punches through metal, paper, leather etc. I couldn’t do without mine

farmhouse40

Tuesday 20th of June 2017

These are beautiful. I am a big time fan of evenings outdoors and these make the perfect lighting idea and are so pretty. Thanks for sharing. Great job!

not a trophy wife

Tuesday 20th of June 2017

Hi Courtney! These look great. I love the suggestion to place on the front steps for additional lighting to greet friends and family! laura

I'd love to hear from you

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