Build Project: Tin Can Lanterns

If there is a list for good makerspace projects that are also cheap to run and environmentally friendly, tin can lanterns would be on the list. There’s not much else needed except a hammer, a nail, a pair of pliers (in case the nail gets stuck), an empty tin can, and a thick towel (or an old pair of jeans). I also like tin can lanterns because it feels like a stereotypical hammering, banging, rattling, get-your-hands-dirty (but without any real mess) makerspace project. It’s a real good project to get into the making spirit (and to work on some hammering skills). And, because cool outlines and stencils (think Millenium Falcon! Darth Vader! even Hello Kitty?) can be found online, students don’t really have to wait until Hallowe’en to make a lantern that they’ll probably display proudly year-round.


Here was our setup


Materials: used soup cans, hammers, towels/jeans, nails, pliers, elastic bands, printouts of stencils (we had stars, flowers, Darth Vader, Hello Kitty, Stormtrooper, Death Star, R2D2)


Before the event, fill soup cans with water until cans are ¾ full and place cans in freezer. The water must freeze so that the tin can will not flatten when nails are hammered through them. The ice holds the shape of the can nicely.


During the event, we set up four work stations per table. Each workstation had a hammer, towel, nail, and frozen can. Each table also had a variety of stencils for students to chose from and a pair of pliers. The pliers were used in case the nails got stuck in the ice when the nails were hammered in.


Quick procedure


1. When ready, take a stencil or outline. Place it on the surface of the can and use an elastic band to keep it in place.


2. Take a hammer and nail, and start hammering holes into the outline. I like to punch holes about 5mm to 10mm apart.


3. When you’re finished punching holes, run cans under hot water so the ice melts and, quola, the lantern is finished.


4. Put candle in lantern, light candle, and prepare for your mind to be blown (and your friends’ too).


NOTE: from our experience, the pattern must be punched out during one continuous session. Cans cannot be refrozen when holes have already been punched into them.


That’s it! When you create your awesome tin can lantern, please send Rebels Makerspace the pictures.

Posted on April 14, 2017 in Projects

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About the Author

Kent is one of the creators of the Rebels Makerspace, a design and science educator, and Science Department head at Burnaby South Secondary.
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