Craft a 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:
  • 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 can cause the bottom to bulge, making it unusable as a luminary. 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.
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.

© 1997 Marilyn J. Brackney. Used with permission.

More about The Imagination Factory:

The Imagination Factory shows visitors how to reuse and recycle solid waste to make art. Created by artist and teacher Marilyn J. Brackney, the award-winning site is listed by the American Library Association as one of the best online resources for kids. Since its launch in 1996, millions of people have visited, looking for inexpensive art lessons or ways to encourage kids to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Featuring dozens of free, art/reuse activities, The Imagination Factory includes lessons in drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, paper mache, marbling, and crafts. A Trash Matcher links visitors with appropriate art activities that use the solid waste they have available, and a feature called The Badge Matcher allows Brownies and Girl Scouts to quickly locate projects that help satisfy badge requirements.

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