Camping homemade DIY candle lantern

Here’s my quick and easy version of a home made DIY baby food jar candle lantern for all you MYOG (make your own gear) types.

easy home made DIY candle lantern

easy home made DIY candle lantern: done!

This was a 5 min. project from start to finish.

Supply list:

  • a clean, empty baby food jar, lid optional, but recommended.
  • about 24 inches of wire. I used #5 acoustic guitar string
  • needle nose pliers / wire cutters
  • a votive candle

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 it to stay in place better when I wrap it on itself.

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:

homemade DIY candle lantern from a Baby food jar

homemade DIY candle lantern from a Baby food jar: jar neck wire detail

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

homemade DIY candle lantern from a Baby food jar

homemade DIY candle lantern from a Baby food jar: hanger wire attachment

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.

homemade DIY candle lantern from a Baby food jar

homemade DIY candle lantern from a Baby food jar complete

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.

To use the 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 show while it is warm).
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.

Edit: 13Dec10
Here are the “Tealight” candles that I am using. I got them at Walmart for about $2.50 for a 50 pack.

homemade diy candle lantern tealight candles

homemade diy candle lantern tealight candles

Don’t want to make it yourself? Send me a note using the contact form. For $10 I’ll make one for you. You’ll have to pay shipping though. 🙂

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.

About Jeff

Jeff is the Editor in Chief of Gear Report and a National Shooting Sports Foundation Media member. He reports on the outdoor industry, reviews gear for camping, hiking, shooting, hunting, paddling, backpacking and other active pursuits. A USAF veteran, Jeff earned a MBA in Marketing and Health Services. He specializes in consultative selling and internet marketing. As the VP of BD & Marketing, Jeff provides sales and marketing leadership to MGECOM, Inc. and helps acquire new clients in need of solutions for online merchants in need of Affiliate Marketing program management. Jeff founded and manages Cress Sales & Marketing LLC, offering online sales and marketing consulting and services to online merchants and service providers.