DIYdiy projects

diy project: karen’s coffee can lanterns

by Kate Pruitt

the nights are warming up here in northern ca, so i’m eager to tackle this lantern diy project from karen at maggiemakes. named after her adorable black lab, karen’s blog primarily focuses on crafts for around the home and provides great instructions and photos. i can’t wait to grab a hammer and a can and give it a go. thanks karen! -kate

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

summer may have skipped my part of the globe this year but that hasn’t stopped me from dreaming of those long warm summer nights outside relaxing with friends. when summer decides to come our way i will be ready to enjoy those nights with these rustic coffee can lanterns. inexpensive, fun, simple to make and customize, they add the perfect decoration for a late night BBQ with a group of friends or a night of gin and tonics with the one you love. try our three designs or create your own, with a variety of tools the possibilities are endless. -karen


– Coffee Cans
– Ball-peen hammer
– 2 x 4 (one foot length)
– 1 x 4 (two foot length)
– Clamps
– Nails, screwdrivers (variety)
– Votives


1. Prepare your workspace by attaching the 1×4 to the 2×4 as shown using wood screws or nails. Make sure the 1×4 extends the 2×4 on one end by the depth of your can and is attached with the 1inch edge upwards. This thin work area helps to prevent denting to your lantern when punching the design. Use the clamps to secure the 2×4 to a sturdy table.

2. Print out the design of your choice and tape it around your can.

3. Place the end of the 1×4 inside your can. Using a small nail, punch the corner dots in the design you choose. Turn the can as you go to make sure that the area you are punching is supported by the wood.

4. Remove the paper. Using your other tools finish punching the rest of the design following your guide holes. Experiment with a variety of nails and screwdrivers to create different shape and size punches.

5. For hanging, use the wire to create a simple hook by threading a length of wire through two holes on opposite sides of the can and secure.

6. To finish add 2-3 votives, light and enjoy!

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  • I have a walled in garden courtyard at my place and these are beyond perfect for it. I love that I can hang them up or disperse them through the garden itself. Excited!

  • my mom used to do these when i was a kid. you can fill the can up with water and freeze it, and use the ice as your support instead of the wood. might be better for those in small spaces :)

  • I have also tried this by freezing water inside the can to give it support and prevent bending. Just in case you don’t have access to clamps and wood.

  • I love this idea! I have been saving cans for a while hoping to come up with a cool idea for making some kind of lantern. I was going to maybe write a word or something, but these designs give so much more light. Thanks!

  • If you don’t have clamps on hand, you can also fill the cans with water and freeze them and then pound the holes and let the ice melt.

  • This is just too cool. We might have to use this for one of our projects. We love this. Thanks for sharing!

    -Dwell with Dignity – Inspiring Lives with Design, one household at a time…

  • I love the designs Karen has chosen. There are three cans full of ice waiting in my freezer- can’t wait to get started on the project today!

  • What a lovely idea!

    It says “try our three designs” but I’m not seeing design to download. Am I missing something?

    • louisa

      i think that just meant that you could replicate their look if you liked that style, but i don’t think there’s a template, etc. just a suggestion to feel free to try that look :) but i’ll ask to double check there’s no template.

      g :)

  • My boss just told me that if you fill the can with water and freeze it then the can won’t go all denty when you punch holes in it. In lieu of having a 2×4 and some clamps laying around. Easy peasy!

  • I remember doing this when i was little.
    But i filled up the cans with water, put them in the freezer, waited for the water to freeze and then punch the can with holes. I’ll try it again this weekend!

  • Wicked excited to be trying this project out! I think they’d look gorgeous in my bedroom.

  • I cannot wait to make these- I’ve seen them done similarly with pumpkins and other Halloween icon. I love the versatility and many, many uses!

  • I’ve been saving up soup cans and really any tin can of any size to do this project. Instead of votives I was planning on stringing the cans along some christmas lights for something more permanent but basically the same ambiance. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • I’ve been saving up soup cans and really any tin can of any size to do this project. Instead of votives I was planning on stringing the cans along some christmas lights for something more permanent but basically the same ambiance. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Wow, so these are beautiful! I’ve seen a lot of projects for old coffee cans, but I’ve never seen these before. So original and beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you for the templates! Eventually maybe I’ll be inspired to make my own designs, but this will get me started in the meantime.

    I can’t wait to try this.

  • These are so lovely, and a great way to use old cans again. Thanks for posting this…Not a coffee drinker, but maybe I’ll hit up some neighbors for theirs and mix them with veggie cans!

  • these are so beautiful! I’m so going to try this! thank you so much 4 sharing this design!! =)

  • WOW! You did a fantastic job! I love lanterns very much. I have lots of exotic lanterns since I’m from South East Asia. I have never had coffee can one. I’ll give it a try! I’ve done DIY projects and posted on http://www.makemania.com Hop on and swap DIY ideas. Feel free to promote cool projects from your blog!

  • Hello everyone,
    I just made a couple of these for christmas gifts. the cans i used are very new and too shiny. any ideas on how to age them quickly? thanks :)

  • Lisa,
    You may be able to age the cans a bit by sanding them with a pretty fine grit sandpaper (somewhere around 600 to 200 grit). Using a fine sandpaper will knock the sheen off the cans without taking the labels off. Once you “rough” up the can you could wet it with salt water to get it to rust fairly quickly.

    There are undoubtedly better ideas to age your cans quickly, but this technique should help ya out.

  • I love your creativity.. I have made these lanterns .. an easier way is to transfer your pattern and then fill the cans with water and freeze them.. it’s so easy to then punch out the design with hammer & nail.. thanks again

  • Really cute idea! I can’t wait to make some for my patio/deck, and use citronella candles in them. Mosquito’s can be fierce in Michigan on those warm evenings!

  • For the dozen-or-so responses talking about how the trick of filling the can with water and freezing instead of using the wood: the let’s-use-wood-as-structural-support seems like a good plan, and a great way to avoid the unusable-for-my-purposes bulges that the ice expansion causes to my cans. :) Thanks for the tip!

    • This is a terribly belated reply, but to avoid blowing out the bottom of the can, freeze only an inch or two of water, THEN fill the can the rest of the way and allow to freeze again. =)

  • @Julie–this is probably not the best solution, but here’s what I’m doing. On the PDF toolbar for the template, go to “view” and scroll down to “rotate view.” Click on “counter clockwise.” Then look for a box ( a little to right and below “view”) that has a number in it like 100%. Use the + next to it to make it 200%. Move the template around a little bit to choose the pattern you want to print out. Voila!

  • This is a great idea! I love crafts of all kinds AND candles & holders. Im so excited to try this. My only question is, can I paint the can? if so, should I paint it before or after punching the holes?

  • I am thinking about making some of these tin lanterns and thought of using some of my Turkish tiles as pattern designs for the lanterns. I think it will be easy to scan the tiles, then, after sizing, print them out in black and white and tape to tin as a template. Will let you know how it works out. I think what drew me to these tins is the patterns used. I find them so romantic! Thanks so much for sharing, Lisa in Greece

  • May question is the same as Jamie’s…can you paint the cans? I think it would make more sense to paint them after as paint can cover a multitude of errors.

  • I fill the cans with water and freeze them,then do my design, they stay in SHAPE BETTER THAT WAY!!!!!

  • Does anyone know where to find the patterns mentioned on the blog? Suggested link does not work anymore. Thank you.

  • An easier way of doing it would be to freeze water in the can and then hammer out the pattern – it stops the can bending, but then you’ve got to thaw out the water!

  • Hi, Like Z Bakery I am also looking for the missing patterns… does anyone know where I can find them?? Very much appreciated.

  • I, too, would love if someone has the patterns & would share them with me– I’ve seen several canterns, but these are the cutest! :D

  • I can’t find the templates for these anywhere-the links are broken! Does anybody know where to find the PDF?

  • I’ve been trying to find the templates for these for ages, as the blog Maggie Makes is no longer up. The domain is for sale. I’ve tried putting the link into the wayback machine and looking for a cached version and I can’t find a darn thing. Is there anyone who can respond with a PDF of the templates? It seems I’m not the only one having this issue. Does the owner of this website monitor comments?

  • This is fabulous! Do you have a public workshop in Northern California? I am in Northern California too.I would love to be able to print the candle lantern designs or see more projects.


  • Having trouble getting enough cans? Go to a local school and ask the awesome lunchroom supervisor to save the vegetable cans(they have the ones that are larger than coffee cans)for you! In no time you will have as many cans as you need! I made these for Christmas Luminaries, they were soo pretty.

  • Ive made some of these & spray painted/decorated them but I was wondering if there was a heatproof paint you can apply to the inside so the decorations on the outside (glue, paint, glitter) do not overheat & melt?? Advise much appreciated :-)

  • I can’t seem to find the three lantern templates? When I click on the link, I get to a page of adverts for all sorts of templates. Anyone have this same problem??