Tin Can Lanterns

Tin can lanterns make a very versatile craft project for Cub Scouts. You can make the holes in any pattern you like – a star for Christmas, a snowflake for winter, a ghost for Halloween, a heart for Valentine’s day.

Webelos and Bears can probably do this project themselves with some adult supervision. Younger scouts will need more direct help from the adults.

If you are not sure what a tin can lantern is, see the printable copy of the instructions for a diagram.

Tin Can Lanterns


  • clean empty can
  • black marker
  • hammer
  • nail
  • votive candle


  1. Using the marker, draw a pattern on the can in dots.
  2. Hammer through every dot
  3. Place the votive candle inside the can.
  4. With an adult, light the candle.


  • It might help to draw a practice design on paper first.
  • Remind the Scouts that they should only light the candle with adult supervision
  • Use different sized nails to get a more complex design.


10 Responses to Tin Can Lanterns

  1. LIScouter September 25, 2011 at 10:12 AM #

    The best way to do this project is to fill the cans 2/3 with water and freeze them overnight. The ice prevents the cans from denting when the boys are hammering.

    • Linda September 25, 2011 at 1:42 PM #

      Great suggestion! I’m going to have to try this out.

  2. Linda October 6, 2011 at 6:10 AM #

    Does it make a difference what size the can is? Are the bigger coffee cans better?

    • Scouter Mom October 6, 2011 at 6:41 AM #

      I just use the regular sized cans and put votive candles in them, but you could probably use a bigger can and even a bigger candle with it. If you give it a try, comment back here an let us know how it turned out.

  3. Robin October 25, 2011 at 5:57 PM #

    Our pack tried this during our fall camping trip. The children loved using hammer and nails but yes you need something in the can or the nail just jumps along the tin. Really cute with a hanger and candle inside.

  4. Susan Fontenot December 15, 2011 at 8:08 PM #

    May also work for Boy Scout Metalworking Merit Badge.

  5. Patti February 21, 2012 at 12:46 PM #

    any other suggestin of something to place inside to give stability. If I freeze them they would melt before I could get them to my meeting .

    • Scouter Mom February 21, 2012 at 2:34 PM #

      You can try using a lighter weight can – like a soda can. Take off the top and cover the edge with duct tape so they don’t cut themselves. This will be much easier for them to hammer through. I’ve done this before without anything inside and it worked OK.

  6. Proud2BScout Parents April 15, 2012 at 3:37 AM #

    Hi has anyone taken a picture of this. I am sorry I am a visual learner!

  7. CrystalPack25 April 10, 2014 at 10:38 AM #

    Hello I did the pinhole planetarium witch can take the place of this and the bear boys get an elective. It was easy just an empty clean can and a hammer and nail. have them punch holes for a design and use a candle or flash light to shine through.

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