Camping Homemade DIY Candle Lantern MYOG
An easy portable light for camping or when the power goes out?
Quick and easy version of a home made DIY baby food jar candle lantern for all you MYOG (make your own gear) types. You may even have all the supplies around the house.
This was a 5 minute project from start to finish.
*Updated March, 2017
Supply list (with Amazon links):
- A clean, empty baby food jar, lid optional, but recommended
- About 24 inches of wire. I used #5 acoustic guitar string. You might also use safety wire or picture hanging wire
- Needle nose pliers
- Wire cutters
- Votive candles. I prefer to use Beeswax votive candles
- Tealight candles. They are shorter and fit down in the jar well, so the flame is protected.
I liberated the jar from the kids’s craft cabinet. It was previously used as a water jar for washing paint brushes (we reuse and recycle). As such, the lid was lost years ago.
I changed guitar strings recently, but since I’m trying to cut down on my pack-rat-ness, I only kept 2 strings (the low A and E, or #5 and #6) which are wrapped strings. I used the #5 string for this, as it is slightly thinner. The copper wrapping around the steel wire core gives it some texture, which feels like a good thing, as it allows the wire to stay in place better when I wrap it on itself.
Don’t want to make it yourself?
12 steps to success…
Since calling anything a 12 step process makes it seem more… uh… interesting, here goes…
Instructions for making your DIY candle lantern*:
1) Wipe some of the paint off of the jar (but not all, it ads character). If using a new jar, empty the contents and clean the jar.
2) Wrap a tiny loop in one end of the wire
3) Wrap the wire around the neck of the jar to mark the length, leaving about 1/2 inch additional length
4) Cut the wire
5) Wrap the cut wire around the neck of the jar and feed the unlooped end through the loop.
6) Bend the unlooped end back on itself so that it secures the whole wrap around the neck of the jar. Here is what it will look like when assembled:
7) Cut another length of wire about 12 inches long to make the hanger
8) Wrap a tiny loop at each end
9) Remove the neck wire from the jar
10) Thread the neck wire through the two loops on the end of the hanger wire
11) Re-secure the neck wire
12) Slide the loops on the hanger wire around the neck wire so that the hanger wire loops are across from each other, at points which bisect the mouth of the jar.
If you care to use the lid, make a small hole in the center and thread the 12 inch wire through such that the lid is a few inches above the mouth of the jar. If the lid won’t stay in place on its own, you may wish to add something below it to hold it in place, like a loop of wire pinched around the hanger wire, a bread tie, etc.
I’ve also read that stainless fishing dual leaders with swivels on each end can be used for a detachable hanger wire. I prefer to have only one clasp (on the jar neck wire) instead of two, so I did not make my hanger wire detachable.
How to use a candle lantern:
Place a small votive candle in the bottom of the jar and light the wick.
Reports vary, but it looks like you might expect about 2 hours burn time and reasonably good wind resistance from this lantern.
My experience is that the wick length is critical. If the candle is bumped while the votive wax is hot, and some wax is spilled or sticks to the sides of the candle holder, the wick can burn down too low and have trouble staying lit.
How to carry your candle lantern in your backpack:
Since the whole setup weights around 3 oz, it is light enough that some might consider carrying it in their backpack while hiking, kayaking, canoeing, etc. The jar is glass, so protect it from impact or it might break. During use the glass may get warm, or even a bit hot. Make sure it is sufficiently cooled before putting it in your pack. Avoid shock cooling that might make the glass crack (ie. don’t set your warm candle lantern in the snow).
Spare votive candles can be stacked inside the unlit candle lantern for transport.
Other uses for the DIY Candle Lantern:
- Use your DIY candle lantern to provide a bit of warmth. It makes a nice hand warmer.
- Use your DIY candle lantern for a bit of a morale boost. A flame can help raise spirits when it is cold and dark.
- Keep a few DIY candle lanterns around the house for use during power outages, natural disasters, etc.
- Make KIY candle lanterns as a project with your local Scout troop.
- Sell DIY candle lanterns to raise money for you local Scout troop.
- Set a mug on a stand over your DIY candle lantern to keep your coffee/hot cocoa warm.
- Make a DIY candle lantern to impress your friends with your mad fabrication skillz.
- Give DIY candle lanterns to your friends as gifts. Nothing says you care like a used baby food jar and some old guitar string. 🙂
- Hang your DIY candle lanterns along a path to light the way for a special event.
- I’ve heard of folks using the lid as a heat reflector and hanging their candle lantern from the ridgeline of a camping hammock. I’m not comfortable with taking flame into a tent or hammock, but it has been done.
- Mood lighting ;^)
- Work light for night fishing.
- Shore light to mark you campsite when night canoeing or kayaking.
Please leave a comment and let us know:
- What ideas do you have?
- Have you made one?
- How would you make this differently?
*Attempt this, or any other DIY project at your own risk. These instructions are an accounting of the way I did this project are not meant to suggest that this is correct or safe. The completed lantern will have a lit flame when operating. Use caution when around anything flammable.