We were introduced to this concept by my Aunt Lag years ago, we’ve enjoyed tweaking it and have stumbled upon some great ways to keep them low budget and green!
Prepare your Lid
Depending on how your creativity flows, you may decide to collect your filler first and go from there or you may want to start with your jar and go from there…either way, you will need to prepare your lid. After you’ve got your wick kit, and lid(s) you’ll need to drill a hole in the center of your lid(s) that the wick tube will be able to fit through easily. Do not try to force the wick tube…it is glass and will shatter…be sure there’s a little wiggle room. (Update – if you choose the single-piece plastisol lids with holes you will not need to drill any holes in your lid.)
Although the Bamboo is optional, you will enjoy your lantern much more if you use something as a space holder for your wick. You could use scrap pvc or anything else that you create to maintain a tunnel for your wick. We chose bamboo…partly because we had a lot of it in our back yard, which meant it was free and renewable! I also love the organic look that it provides when the filler doesn’t “fill” entirely. It gives you more creative flexibility. If you notice in this Indian Corn lantern, the bamboo actually provides a backdrop that has the appearance of a faded old barn….love it!
Fill your Jar
I’ve found that little pieces always find their way down the bamboo (tube) so I usually try to place something large (like that tree nut shell one of my children brought me) over the hole as I pour or place my filler. There are endless options for what you can put in paraffin oil…and the dullest of things suddenly become shiny, bright & interesting! This would be a great way to use (without destroying) special rocks, shells, from trips or momentous occasions. Most of my filler was collected by our family…on our walks outside…a variety of acorns, nut shells, seed pods, pine cones, even grasses.
After you have your items placed, fill the jar with the paraffin leaving about ¾ inch to the top. Then, carefully thread your wick with the glass wick tube through the lid, place the wick in the bamboo and screw it in place. The wick doesn’t need to reach the bottom of the jar…in fact, the wick tube will sit flat more easily if the wick hangs freely and isn’t touching the bottom of the jar…plus, you’re probably not going to let your paraffin get that low.
Please note that decorative lids are not spill-proof! If you tip it over, it will spill. This is the reason for the regular canning lid. If you put your lantern away for the season; we’d suggest you carefully place the entire wick/lid combo into a Ziploc bag, replacing it with the canning lid so you don’t have leakage. This is how we package them for gift giving. You could actually just switch the jars around for seasonality if you’re not mixing citronella with paraffin.
Wick tip…keep it short…if it looks like its struggling, just tease off some of the hardened black soot with a pin and re-light it. If it’s dancing too much or smoking, try trimming it back a little. As always, practice flame safety!
We’d love to see what creative fillers you use. Post pictures of your finished products here, or share your ideas in a comment below.
Can you add fragrance oil to the lamp oil for scent? If so how much/what ratio?
You can try to add fragrance oil, but only if it is designed for a flammable product/process. We can not recommend ratios because we feel it is not very effective, and that the fragrance would be wasted with that application. In candles, most of the fragrance is actually released from the wax pool when it is melted, before it is burnt, but any excess is then consumed by the flame. In a lantern, there is no middle ground – either liquid or fire. The other reason we don’t add fragrance is because we often swap out the decorative fillers (pinecones, rosehips, stones) with the change of seasons and we don’t want to have cross contamination of the oils. You will also want to be careful as the fragrance oils may change the way the oil burns. It might not be as clean of a burn – which is especially important if indoors.
Thanks for your question.
Hi, I just stumbled across your blog and think it is amazing. Are there any other options for oil than paraffin oil for burning inside? I’m not a huge fan of paraffin oil but love the idea of these lanterns.
I understand your concern with paraffin– it is why we’ve opted to carry only soy wax for candlemakers. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any alternative that will provide as clean of a burn and is still in a clear liquid form. We use Lamplight Ultra-Pure and as long as we keep wicks properly trimmed, we get a smoke-free burn.
Could you use olive oil?