Hanging lanterns can be a great decorative addition to any garden, adding a cosy feeling as well as a functional use. In terms of how to make a lantern, you can adapt the design to your own preference – in colour, stain, design, size, but also in usage. This DIY could easily be done as an indoor lantern, to work as a decorative piece over candles. For this, just stop at step 5 and add candles. We’d recommend using electric candles, as real candles and wood don’t tend to be a good mix!
Tools and materials
Photo frames x 4
Varnish or stain or paint (optional)
Flower basket chain (or miscellaneous fixing)
Elastic or hinges and hook and eye
Hot glue gun
Stained glass window film or spray
Cost, time and difficulty
Depending on what tools and materials you already have, we estimate this project will cost around £25. This link will take you to a guideline ManoMano shopping basket where you can find some of the materials used. Although there seems like a lot of steps – this project is pretty easy, we promise. It should take from around 3-6 hours to make (spread over a few days to include dying time). This is definitely suitable for beginners, so anyone can have a go!
How to make a lantern: step by step
Step 1: Glue your frames
Take your photo frames and remove all the backs, then take out the glass. Note – if your glass is real, it may be an idea to frost it now (see step 4) and reinsert. Ours was plexiglass, so it could bend easily into place when needed.
Next, glue your frames into a cube shape. Start with two, and squeeze a line of glue onto the longer side. Attach this to another photo frame, and clamp in place. Repeat this process for the other three corners of your lantern.
Step 2: Prepare the top and bottom
For the top and bottom of your lantern, you’ll need to cut down wood to size. You can use the backs of your photo frames, or alternatively, thin sheets of wood (this will end up fitting better than the backs of your frames – however, for indoor use especially, the photo frame backs will work fine). Measure how big you’ll need the squares to be, and mark this onto the wood. Cut down to size.
We left ours for 24 hours – but we recommend double checking the instructions on your wood glue to see how long it needs.
Step 3: Paint and glue
We chose to paint ours using black paint. If you’d prefer a stained finish, and your frames are raw wood, then sand lightly and apply your chosen stain. If your frames are already coloured, you may have to spend a little time sanding down to the wood before applying your chosen varnish or stain.
Step 4: Frost your glass
This is totally optional, but we decided to stain our glass. We did this using contact paper, but you could also use a frosting spray, or paint on a decorative design with glass paint.
Step 5: Insert glass and lights
Reinsert your ‘glass’ into the lantern, then put in your lights. Glue your battery pack to the upper part of the lantern, so its weight is supported.
Step 6: Attach the bottom
You’ll want the bottom of your lantern to be semi removable, so you can access the batteries and lights if need be. We chose to do this using some nails and elastic. If you choose to do it this way, hammer a nail into one corner, and glue a small piece of elastic to the corner opposite. Hammer another nail in the side of your lantern, so the elastic can hook over this nail and keep the bottom of your lantern closed.
Alternatively, you can use hinges, attaching these to the wood and the lantern. Then attach a hook and eye closure to the side opposite the hinges, to ensure it stays closed.
Step 7: Attach the fixing at the top
We hung the lantern using a chain for flower pots, and the ‘U’ piece of an extending mirror. If you can’t get hold of this, just attach the flower pot chain directly to the lantern.
Flower pot holders tend to come with three chains, so we used pliers to remove two of these, and then to remove a link from the remaining chain in order to shorten it. We then glued this chain into our ‘U’ shaped fixing. To attach this to the lantern, we drilled holes on the top, and then threaded twine out of the lantern, through the fixing, and back into the lantern, tying it securely on the inside.
If you’re attaching the chain directly to the lantern, keep it as two or three links, and do the same process as above, but instead of threading the twine through a fixing, thread it directly through the links on the chain.
Now all that’s left is to hang it!
And wait for the sun to set…
If you liked this DIY, why not check out our other projects for around the house: