Craft a Luminary

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can light luminary
With Americans using more than 200 million metal cans each day, manufacturing this simple container plays a very important part in our economy. Only the automobile and construction industries use more steel. Cans are among the easiest materials to recycle commercially, but making something from them is recycling, too.

Empty metal food containers are perfect for creating pierced lanterns, small luminaries which hold votive candles. Make this a family project, and you'll have plenty to decorate the patio or line the sidewalk for the 4th of July and other holidays.



You Will Need:

  • can luminary Paper
  • Pencil
  • Nail
  • Hammer
  • Metal can
  • Throw rug
  • Masking tape
  • Rubber bands

How to:

It's possible to make a luminary from any kind of heavy, metal can, but use a smooth one to allow you to do more with the design. In addition, select a paper-wrapped container, so that the imprinting found on some metal cans will not detract from your work.

The luminary is made by tapping holes into the sides of the can with a hammer and nail. If you wish, plan a design with paper and pencil, and follow it as you make the lantern. It's also possible to create the luminary as you go by just piercing it along the edges and making simple patterns.

To start, rinse the empty food can and remove the paper label. If there are any sharp edges left on the inside, hammer them flat.

Fill the can with cold water, leaving at least 1.5" to 2" of space at the top. Place it in the freezer. Allowing room at the top is necessary, because the water will expand as it freezes. This could cause the bottom to bulge, making it necessary to reflatten the bottom. Leave the can in the freezer until it's solid.

Remove the can, and use rubber bands to hold the plan in place or tape your drawing to the container. Place it on some form of cushioning such as an old throw rug or pillow.

Use the hammer and nail to tap holes into the can and ice. Simply follow the lines, leaving spaces between the holes. Or, if you wish, make up the design as you go. When finished, allow the ice to melt and empty the can.

Place a votive candle in the bottom, and have an adult help light it. Never use candles without adult supervision.

can with frozen water

Can with frozen water.

Ice level in can

Ice level in the can.

bottom bulge on can bottom

Bottom bulge on can bottom.

a star pattern for the luminary

A star pattern for the luminary.

wrapping the pattern on the can

Wrapping the pattern on the can.

tools for punching the holes

Tools for punching holes.

punching the first holes

Punching the first holes.

even spacing of the holes

Even spacing of the holes.

finished punching, remove the pattern

Finished punching, remove the pattern.

can with holes still frozen

Can with holes is still frozen.

flatten the bottom with a hammer

Flatten the bottom with a hammer.

flattened bottom on can

Now the can will sit flat.

votive light in the luminary

Tips and Tricks:

Vary your designs or motifs according to the holiday you're celebrating. Pick simple shapes such as stars for the 4th of July and Christmas, or make a jack-o-lantern for Halloween.

Visit the Can Manufacturers Institute to learn more about beverage and food cans and how there recycled.