Friday, 2 March 2012

Elephant No. 152: Tin Can Lantern

This has been a crazy work day, so I thought I'd do something relatively simple for today's elephant. Although I made an aluminum can luminaire for an earlier blog post, I don't think I've ever tried using a tin can and a nail to make a lantern, so this promised novelty at the very least. I like novelty.

The process is simple enough that a child can do it. All you do is mark the places you want the holes to go, knock a nail through each spot with a hammer, add wire for hanging if desired, stick a candle inside, and you're done.

Some people make incredibly elaborate tin can lanterns, with cut-outs in the shape of stars and other figures, pierced designs on all sides, and so forth. But my brain is pretty tired today, so I'm just doing the kiddie version: nail, hammer, holes in sides, maybe a wire to hang it up.

Elaborate tin lanterns.

I started with this smallish can that probably contained baked beans or soup at some point. Obviously, the tin can should be clean inside, and any labels or glue removed from the outside.

For the design, I drew a simple outline on the outside with a china marker. You could also use a grease pencil or permanent marker. I used a china marker because it was sticky enough to stay put while I worked, but would rub off easily when I was done.

I pulled out three sizes of nail, thinking that I might need the different sizes, but I actually only used the middle size, which is closest to the foreground in the photograph below. For the hammer, I just used my trusty 16-ounce claw hammer.

After this, I simply banged holes in the tin can with nail and hammer. A few tips for this part:

1. You don't need to hammer the nail all the way into the tin can. If you vary the depth, you can achieve a wide range of hole sizes, from tiny to large. To get really large holes, rotate the nail in the hole.

2. It's not a bad idea to use an awl or something to give your nail a starting point. I found that the nails slid around a bit—which wasn't disastrous for this particular lantern, but if you want extra precision, an awl wouldn't be a bad idea.

3. It's a lot easier to nail into the valleys of the grooved section.

4. It doesn't take a lot of force to create the holes, depending on the thickness of the tin, so you can pretty much do this with only a light padding between your surface and the tin can. I did this whole thing on a small table covered with a piece of cardboard from the back of a sketchbook.

To finish, I punched a hole near the top of the can on each side, to add a wire for hanging. I then looped the wire through and secured it on each side.

As my light source, I used a tealight. 

The pictures aren't great because my camera had a bit of a hissy fit. The flickering tealight didn't help. But you get the general idea.

If I hadn't been so tired today, I would have enjoyed this more, but it wasn't nearly as hard as I expected it to be, and it only took about an hour from drawing the design to making all the holes, adding wire, and lighting it. It's not as detailed as my aluminum can luminaire, but it has its own charm, and will definitely make it to my back garden this summer.

Elephant Lore of the Day
According to recent research, elephants often use their trunks to express emotion.

Baby elephants, for example, sometimes suck their trunks when needing reassurance, much as human babies might suck their thumbs. Adult elephants are even more eloquent when it comes to "trunk language". To say hello, elephants will often sidle up to one another and entwine their trunks in greeting. Captive elephants will frequently extend this courtesy to humans and other species, entwining their trunks around a human's waist, or patting a dog or sheep on the back.

A trunk raised in an S-shaped "periscope" means the elephant is alert, expecting something to happen. And a trunk folded or curled below the tusks is an invitation to play.

Alert African elephant waiting for something interesting to happen.
Photo: godutchbaby

Elephant's World (Thailand)

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