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How to Make a Recycled Lantern

written by: Chrissy Dean•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 5/20/2011

Step by step instructions on how to make a recycled lantern out of can or glass. These can be hung or displayed anywhere, and they make thoughtful and eco-friendly gifts.

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    The Supplies Needed for Making Recycled Lanterns

    Recycled lanterns can be made many ways, and match any decor you wish. It simply takes a few supplies and your own creativity. To get started, you will need:

    *a 3-6 inch tall jar or can (like those used for canned food.)

    *a tea light candle

    *Elmers glue

    *a wire hanger

    *smaller gauge wire

    *paint brushes

    *tissue paper in any colors desired

    *needle nose pliers (optional but helpful)

    *waterproof fixative (optional)

    *any oher decorations you wish, some possibilities are bead, bells, sequins, etc..

    *if using a can, you will also need a small nail and hammer.

    When you've gathered all of the supplies needed, follow these steps for how to make a recycled lantern.

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    Step 1: Prepare Your Can or Jar for the Lantern

    Begin by washing and drying your can or jar. If you are using a can, you need to fill it with water and freeze over night. This is so you can use the small nail and hammer to punch holes in the can for the light to shine through without the can bending or denting. Many people draw designs and then follow them with this method. Once you've completed this step, thaw out the ice, and dry the can.

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    Step 2: Prepare Your Paper

    Cut or tear strips and sections of your tissue paper. Be sure you have enough to cover the jar, and if you are following a specific design, cut your paper accordingly. Remember, small to medium size pieces of the paper work best, as bigger sections tend to wrinkle or bubble when applied to a rounded surface.

    Place the paper off to the side when you are finished. The following steps in how to make a recycled lantern teach you about applying the decorations.

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    Step 3: Begin Decorating the Homemade Lantern

    Recycled Jar Lantern 

    Now you can start decorating your can or jar. To do so, mix a solution of 50/50 glue and water in a bowl. Use a paintbrush to lay down a thin layer of glue on the jar, and then place tissue over it and smooth with your fingers. Do the same if using a can, but be sure not to use a lot of glue that will drip through the holes. Repeat this process following your personal design until the whole surface is covered, and don't worry too much if the pieces overlap each other. That creates even more interest to the light the lantern produces.

    When the surface is covered with paper, let the glue dry. Once dry, use the brush again to apply a thin layer of the glue over the paper and seal it. This will not make the lantern waterproof, so if you plan on hanging your lantern outdoors, you should use a waterproof fixative. Spray a thin layer over the lantern, let it dry, and then repeat to create a good seal.

    *Note: you can also use decoupage glue for this step, but Elmer's glue is usually cheaper.

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    Step 4: Customize the Recycled Lantern

    Follow these easy steps to customize the lantern. After your second layer of glue or fixative has dried, begin decorating the lantern using sequins, beads, buttons, glitter, or anything you want. Use string or wire to hang decorations from the lantern or glue the pieces right onto it. The customization is up to you. Many popular designs are wings and antenna. Be sure not to make your lantern too heavy for the hanger, if you plan to hang it.

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    Step 5: Create a Hanger for the Lantern

    When you have completed your art, it is time to bend the wire hanger around the lip of the jar or top of the can. Skip this step if you do not plan to hang the lantern. A bit of glue works well to hold it in place, and then cut the hanger to the desired length and bend the end into a hook shape for hanging.

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    Step 6: Add Light and Enjoy!

    Jar lantern Now use the lighter gauge wire and bend it around a tealight. Measure and cut the length need to reach the bottom of the jar, plus two inches. Bend the last two inches into a slight curve which will be easy to grab and hold. When the decorations on the lantern are set and the glue dry, light a tealight candle and lower it in.

    The tissue diffuses the light to create a soft colored glow. This can be very fun, especially if using more than one color. You can also use bits of construction paper to block out sections of light and create interest. Using lanterns of several different colors in the garden at night creates a special effect. There are many methods teaching one how to make a recycled lantern, but these directions enable you to customize crafts suchas lanterns as much as you please to suit personal preferences and individual decors.