Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tin Can Luminaries

Are you looking for a fun project to do with your kids over Christmas break? I might have something for you. My kids are addicted to these luminaries. They gather up the tin cans while I am cooking, wash them out and haul them down to the dark, scary basement for safe keeping until I am ready to have a tin can luminary marathon with them. They are really quite cute and it is recycling at it's best.

You need a few things for this project. An assortment of empty tin cans, acrylic paint, hammer, nails of various sizes, a towel, a pencil, a small paint brush, and some sort of votive candle or tea lights.

I am going to use these battery operated tea lights since I am allergic to some candle scents.

I am going to make a whole bunch of snowflake luminaries for our bookcase. The bookcase holds a lot of family photos from a photo session when we all wore light blue. So I am going to match my luminaries to the photos. I choose a new Extreme Glitter paint in turquoise. The other paints have a metallic finish. I choose silver, pearl and periwinkle to coordinate with the bookcase. There is a whole rainbow of acrylic paint colors in metallic finishes that you can choose from.

Now to get started, remove the label from your tin can. Fill the can with water and freeze it overnight until the ice is rock hard. Where we live it is freezing cold so we just put the cans outside.

Then put your frozen can on a towel to keep it from rolling all over while you are working on it. I draw a pattern in the frost so I have a guide to follow.

Punching the holes in your cans is not hard, but it takes time. Start at the top of the can. Put your nail in the spot you want a hole and then pound the nail through the can with the hammer. Punching the holes is easy, but I would recommend that you use a lighter hammer. My arm got tired after the third or forth can when I used my husbands hammer. Just take your time and be careful with your little fingers.

When you have your design punched out you can smile like crazy. I do. :-) The the next step is very important. Take you can to the sink to let the ice melt out of it. Speaking from experience, those cans hold more ice than you want melting all over your table!

Most of the time, the bottom of the can will warp in the freezing process. When the ice has melted away, just flip you can upside down and use your hammer to pound it back into shape. It does not have to be perfect.

My favorite part is painting the little cans. Start with a dry tin can. I usually plan on giving each can about three coats of paint. The extreme glitter paint might need even a few more coats than that depending on what you like.

An important step is using a toothpick, or a piece of wire to poke the holes open when they get filled with paint. You need to get those holes open immediately after painting. Do not wait to open them after the the paint has already dried.

Finally, display your mini works of art. I could fill my house with these little things if I had an unlimited supply time and paint.

We started making these for the Halloween party that we had this fall. We made a sea of pumpkin faces in fall colors.

I used metallic black paint to fill in the shapes of their little faces. I loved the way these guys turned out.

We made a bunch of them for Christmas as well. This project is only limited by your imagination.


  1. These are great Heather! I cannot wait for Ceci to get big enough to help with projects like this!

  2. I wish I would have known the frozen ice technique for punching holes in can when I made a caterpillar! I featured these awesome luminaries as part of a tin can round up - for the holidays :)

  3. To keep the bottom of the can from warping, let an inch or two of water freeze, then fill the can and freeze again. =)

  4. To keep the bottom of the can from warping, let an inch or two of water freeze, then fill the can and freeze again. =)