How to Make Tin Can Solar Lights
How to Make Tin Can Solar Lights
1. Power Drill
2. Drill Bit Set
3. Thick Gauge Wire
4. Inexpensive Garden Solar Lights
5. 1 to 1 ½ inch PVC Pipe
6. Various Sized Tin Cans
7. Spray Paint
8. Waterproof Caulking
9. Optional marker and nail polish remover
10. Optional Candles
- Step 1: Clean and Dry Cans
- Step 2: Draw on Designs
- Step 3: Create Drain Holes and Handle Holes
- Step 4: Drill Holes
- Step 5: Paint Cans
- Step 6: Attach Handle
- Step 7: Measure PVC and Cut
- Step 8: Attach PVC and Solar Light Head
- Step 9: Let Dry 24 Hours
- Step 10: Add to Your Garden
- Step 11: Enjoy!
- Power Drill
- Drill Bit Set
- Thick Gauge Wire
- Inexpensive Garden Solar Lights
- 1 to 1 ½ inch PVC Pipe
- Various Sized Tin Cans
- Spray Paint
- Waterproof Caulking
- Optional marker and nail polish remover
- Optional Candles
A pointed Brad point wood bit was the perfect size to punch holes, Using metal bits you can widen the holes for handles or to allow more light out.
What to rememberMake sure the labels are removed before placing in dishwasher, and any loose glue so it doesn’t clog up your machinery.
What to rememberIf you paint your can you won’t be able to see the marker lines anyway. If you do decide to leave them as is, then simply use a bit of nail polish to remove the lines as it will wipe clean.
I made this my first step once I picked up the drill because otherwise I would forget and have to go back to do it. I started a hole with a Brad point bit and then expanded the ones on the bottom and side for handles with a regular metal bit. I found that the metal bit put too much pressure on the aluminum can from the start and would buckle it, but the Brad bit had the perfectly sharp, pointed tip for punching through holes with very little effort.
Drain holes are important because if you plan on using these outside, they are eventually going to encounter some water. Rain happens and sprinklers are commonplace in gardens. Aluminum will rust and whether over time, so allowing that water to drain out for it to dry will keep your cans around for a lot longer than it takes for a bottom to rust out.
What to rememberHow you begin and widen holes really is a personal preference. I used what I had on hand, but I do suggest a pointed bit to at least get started. My method turned out to be very effective however.
What to rememberYou are using power tools on a smooth, yet rounded surface. Consistent pressure is a must to get a puncture and if you do not keep a firm grip on your tool and go straight in, you can cause the bit to slip. Be mindful of where your hand is, and if you are worried about this step, wearing protective gloves might be a good idea.
What to rememberPaint also helps protect the cans, so feel free to provide a coating to the inside as well, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of rainfall to keep the eventual rust from occurring too quickly.
Even if you want to simply place these lights around your yard, attaching a simply handle completes the look. It also makes it more versatile in case you change your mind. I happened to have a lot of wire sitting around from baling hay, and it happened to be the perfectly thick gauge I was looking for. Just make sure it is attached on well with a pair of pliers so you can twist and turn it to hang it how you want in the future.
What to rememberThin wire, ribbon, or string can also add a rustic touch but may not hold up as well outdoors. If you are planning on keeping them inside then you may not even want a handle, although make sure to create the holes in case you change your mind. Handles are easy to add at any point down the road
Most solar lights direct their beam down, and so if you place them in the bottom of these lanterns you won’t be able to see the detail of the designs located above the light. Creating your own light ‘stake’ out of PVC raises the light to where your design can be appreciated, plus makes the solar panel more open to energy collection throughout the day.
I measure out what it would take to get the solar light top just below the rim of the can and then took a sawzall and cut the PVC to length. When I ran out of battery I used a handsaw. The point is this stuff cuts really easily, is cheap, and nobody is going to see it anyway so this doesn’t have to be perfect, or pretty.
What to rememberPVC also provides a very sturdy base for the lights to sit within. You also want something that holds the light well so you can remove the solar tops to replace if you need to in time.
With an outdoor approved caulk, attach the PVC to the bottom of the can. Try to keep it as centered as possible so light will shine uniformly. You also want to make sure you don’t cover up your drain holes in case any water collects within the can.
Once you have it set where you want, attach your solar light heads to the PVC. I removed the solar tops before I did this so I could pull the little tab that activates the light and screw them back on when I was ready to start using them.
What to rememberIf your PVC wasn’t cut exactly level, you can use caulk to help level out the light. These lights are very lightweight and caulk is dense enough to build up and hold materials you are attaching it to very securely.
What to rememberEven though caulk is very strong when dry, it’s still a good idea to hold onto the light part of the solar housing if you can when screwing it on and off. The good thing is that it is very easy to fix your lights if the caulk comes loose, but you shouldn’t have to with a little care.
What to remember
The solar top does need to get either direct or indirect sunlight for the day to produce a good nighttime glow. Placing them in the shade of plants will be fine, but placing them under a decking eve may not work well.
What to remember
Make sure to place them where they can be enjoyed! They may be cute and eclectic by day, but by night become a main focal point amongst the soft shadows of your plants.
These lanterns are great used indoors or outdoors as well with electric candles or even real ones. They provide gentle lighting to decks and tables, and if you make the holes larger you can get even more illumination out of them.
Strings of solar lights can also be used and placed within the cans. If you hang them within a tree with a string of lights you have a simple set of unique fairy lights to provide garden lighting interest.
Garden lighting adds a finishing touch to your garden to enjoy by night, and even by day depending on what you choose to use. These tin can lanterns are a perfect addition to any landscaping plan as they can be personalized to fit your desired taste in decor. They are also incredibly easy to make and cost almost nothing.
Did you enjoy this tutorial? Let us know what you think in the comments below and also tell us how you would use your creations! And as always, please share!