Bright Ideas: How to Make Aluminum Lanterns

Create your own unique, Moroccan-style luminarias in just a few simple steps.
James Worrell

A display of decorative aluminum sheets caught my eye while I was cruising the building materials aisle of Home Depot. The pretty lacy patterns reminded me of Moroccan lanterns. I bought a few and took them home to play with, cutting and fastening the metal pieces together until I'd created unique luminarias. My tools, aside from tin snips and wire, included a round oatmeal box and a can of soup that I used to shape the cylinders. Black primer gave the lanterns a unified matte, vintage finish that doesn't require a top coat, and lets the candlelight really shine through.


  • Decorative aluminum sheets
  • Tin snips, scissors (to cut metal)
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • 20-gauge wire, cut into 6-inch lengths
  • Emery cloth (sandpaper for metal)
  • Krylon black primer (optional)

Step 1: Cut sheeting to desired size strips using tin snips. Use household containers like cylindrical oatmeal boxes and soup cans to figure out the dimensions you want. A 10 x 17-inch piece makes a large lantern; a 4 x 10-inch strip a votive size. Lightly sand any rough edges with emery cloth.

Step 2: Roll the metal strip into a cylinder, using food containers as a mold and overlapping the cut ends slightly. To secure, twist wire through openings in the mesh evenly spaced at the top, bottom and middle along the seam. Depending on size, each lantern will require from two to six pieces of wire. Turn edges of wire to inside of lamp and trim any excess.

Step 3: To finish, spray surface with two coats of black primer, letting it dry in between applications. Or spray primer followed by a coat or two of spray paint in the color of your choice.

Originally published in the November 1, 2011, issue of Family Circle magazine.