How to Make Your Own Coffee Can Camping Lantern

This is a great craft to do with kids at a summer camp or any other time you need a fun activity to do with older kids. Recycled tin coffee cans make really neat lanterns to leave on the tables around your camp site. This project will be best for older campers or adults since you will be using sharp nails and the tin may leave sharp edges.

You will need the following supplies:

Large tin coffee cans

Black paint

Paint brushes

Long nails


Tea light candles

The first thing you will need to do is clean out the coffee cans with soap and water and dry them completely. Then use the black paint, preferably a matte finish, to paint the outside of each can, covering it completely. When doing this you should cover your work surface with newspaper to prevent painting on your table.

While the paint is drying, allow each camper to draw their design on a piece of paper and remind them that the sometimes the simpler the design, the nicer the finished product will be. Since you will be making holes in the can to outline the design, you do not want something extremely complex.

After the paint is dry the campers then have the choice to either draw their design on the coffee can with a pencil or freehand the hole punching. If the pattern they create is simple, it will look better in the end to freehand it or else you may see the pencil lines when you are finished.

Now they will need to take their time as this is the time consuming part of the project and use the hammer and nail to outline their design with holes. You want to leave some space between the holes so you can see the individual rays of light showing through but you also want them close enough to see the design as a whole image. Some of the more easy patterns you can suggest are stars, hearts, or other simple shapes but if they want to be more complex, don’t hinder their creativity.

Next light a candle on a flat surface, you can put a plate under it if you want to protect the surface from melted wax, and place your coffee can on top. You never want to rub the inside of these cans because when you poke the holes into them it will create jagged and sharp edges that will easily cut you.

These lanterns look really neat at night when you have the candle light showing through each hole and make great decorations, both when camping or just at home. As with any other lit candle, you should never leave it unattended and if you use a larger candle, be careful because your coffee tin may get hot from the flame.

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