Gardening Tips

Garden DIY: Make your own candleholders from recycled tin cans

December 13, 2011

Spending an evening in your garden is a most relaxing experience. You could, however, make it more delightful by adding light and warmth! Doing this is no big deal and you can do it yourself, armed with a few tin cans and some patience. Here is an elegant way to design your own tin-can lanterns that house candles and are sure to light up your evenings.

The tin-can candle holder

Difficulty level: Moderate

Time required: 2-3 hours

Resources required

  1. Leaves
  2. Few sheets of vellum paper
  3. Permanent black marker pen
  4. Masking tape
  5. Metal cans (with labels removed)
  6. Sand
  7. Water
  8. Towel
  9. Hammer and nails
  10. Spray paint (you can get colors of your choice, but a white paint is compulsory)
  11. Copper wire
  12. Votive candles


  1. The first step is to prepare the can for further work. To do this, fill the can half with sand and half with water and place it in the freezer. Allow for the contents to freeze completely. As the mixture is set to freeze, do the other steps in the meanwhile.
  2. Make the template of the leaf design that you want to put on the can. For this, select leaves which have a bold shape ( like the ginkgo leaf for instance). Trace their shapes over rectangular sheets of vellum paper. Use a photocopy machine to blow up the shape and get a large-sized print of the leaves.
  3. Take the can out of the freezer after its contents have solidified. Now, wrap the sheet of paper with the leaf design around the can. Fix the paper to the can using tape.
  4. Place the can sideways on a towel. The towel will offer better grip. Place it in a way so that the leaf design faces you. Take a hammer and a nail and start punching holes along the outline of the leaf design. Vary the hole spacing to get better impact.
  5. Once the design is complete, take out the vellum sheet from over the can. Place the can upside down to allow it to thaw. Once that happens, clean the can completely and ensure all the sand is out. Clean the can thoroughly and place it for drying.
  6. Its time now to make use of your artistic skills. Spray the insides of the can with white paint which will aid in the diffusion of light. Now, start spray painting the exteriors of the can. Remember that this paint serves two purposes – decorative and protective. So be careful in your choice of colors. And ensure that you make at least three coats of paint to protect the can from the elements.
  7. Measure and cut the required length of wire that you will need to hang your lantern. Insert the ends of the wire into the twisting holes that are provided on the sides of the can. Secure both ends to ensure that the wires don’t give way.
  8. Choose an appropriate candle to place inside our newly made lantern. The best would be to make use of votive candles or tealight candles. Your lantern is now ready for use.


  • Select leaves that will fit completely on the can and can be seen without having to rotate the can. If the leaf wraps too much around the can, it will not be that good in looks.
  • When you use leaves for tracing, you need not include too many details. These will anyway not show in the final product.
  • Using a photocopy machine for blowing up sizes will give you the option of even making use of small leaves with elegant shapes.
  • You could punch larger sized holes for the region of the stalk, intersection of the veins and the apex of the leaf. This will improve the looks of the lantern.

Things to watch out for

  • Do not forget to fill sand at least till the halfway level in the can. Water expands when it freezes. So if the proportion of water is high compared to sand, there is a chance that your tin cans will become misshapen.
  • In case the paper with the leaf design is not long enough to go around the can, tape both its ends firmly to ensure that it does not come out.
  • When you punch holes in the can, keep changing the nails frequently, for the nails wear and get blunt soon.
  • If you choose to decorate your can with other accents and effects without painting, it will rust and get ruined over time.
  • If you are making use of a normal wax candle inside your lantern, make sure to place some sand inside so that it becomes easy to remove the molten wax after the candle has burned out.

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