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When I was a kid there was a house near our neighborhood that was built to look kind of like a castle. We went trick or treating there one year and they had the whole place decked out with torches along the walkways and people dressed like monks wandering around with torches. For an 8yr old kid it was jaw-dropping. And they gave out huge Nestles Crunch bars! I have never forgotten that night and have used that house as an inspiration for some of the things we have done for our haunt which is a graveyard theme.

As far as lighting goes for our yard we have always used a combination of colored flood lights, led "flame" bulbs and even some real tiki torches. I loved the atmosphere that the real torches create but they are problematic. You have to light them (and un-light them) every night, the wind frequently blows them out and I am always wary of open flame around kids with costumes on. So for years I had in the back of my mind that I wanted medieval-looking lanterns of some kind along the walkway to our front door. I looked and looked online but you just can’t find "castle-themed" lighting that fit my criteria. So when these led "flame"bulbs came on the market I finally decided I would attempt to make some lanterns that fit my vision. I wanted them to look like they came from medieval times with amber colored glass and rusty metal.

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This is what I came up with. The one on the left was my first attempt and I made 2 of them.
The glass for the small one was a candle "cylinder" (no bottom) roughly 4” x 7” and since every step was a learning experience they took a ridiculous amount of time to create. The "rings" were made from pvc pipe and the "rails" were 1/8" x 3/4" aluminum bar. The post is pvc pipe. In the end, they came out better than I hoped, and I absolutely loved them. They produced a realistic glow and the light created these wonderful moving shadows on the stone on the front of our house.

But it was immediately obvious that they were too small for what I was looking for. I wanted something much larger that perhaps could use more than one flame bulb and gave off much more light. Something that really grabbed your attention and added to the “old world” atmosphere I was looking for. So off I went the next year and built another one based on a glass vase that was 7” x 12”. This time I created jigs when I made the first one so it was much faster to make additional lanterns and ended up making 4 of the large ones. For the large lanterns both the rings and the rails were made from 1/8" x 1" aluminum bar. The design of the 2 sizes is basically identical so it really doesn’t matter what size you choose.

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PART 1: The glass

Determine what size glass you are going to use…which also determines how large the “rings” for the frame need to be. For the small lantern I used a glass cylinder that was 3.5” x 7” and I made the rings out of 4” pvc pipe and the rails out of 3/4” wide aluminum bar stock. For the larger lantern I used a vase that was 7” x 11” and 1” wide aluminum bar stock to make the rings and rails. In order to make the rings from aluminum you have to have a ring roller which is a tool for bending metal into a ring that costs about $120. If you can find PVC pipe that is the correct size then it makes this part of the process much easier. However, PVC pipe only comes in certain sizes and if you are making a larger lantern you may not be able to find pipe that is large enough. So you may end up purchasing PVC pipe first and then finding glass that fits or vice versa. Keep in mind that the rings need to be a little bit larger in diameter than the glass to leave room for the screw heads that you will be using to attach the rings to the rails. I left ¼” continuous clearance between the glass and the rings so the inside diameter of the ring ends up being ½” larger than the diameter than the glass.

Drilling the hole in the glass

If you are using a vase rather than a glass cylinder you need to drill a hole in the bottom for the wires and post to come though. Having the hole drilled also makes it much easier to deal with when you are doing the painting. This is not as scary as it sounds. If you use a diamond tipped hole saw it is actually quite easy. I used a 60mm hole saw as it fit the pvc “flange” that I used at the top of the pole. When using one of these diamond tip hole saws there are a few things you need to remember:

1) use a slow speed with the drill. My drill has 2 speeds so I just used the slower one.

2) Since this type of bit grinds instead of cuts, you MUST use water as a lubricant.

3) Don’t press too hard – just take your time and let the bit do its job. The large vase I used had glass about ¼” thick on the bottom and it took about 2 minutes to go all the way through.

4) The hardest part with these bits is getting the hole started – I found that if you tilt the bit and hold the bit with your hand until it starts creating the groove then you can slowly tilt the bit back to the normal position.

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Painting the glass

There are numerous ways to paint the glass – do a google search and you will find tons of articles and videos on how to achieve all sorts of effects. I wanted the glass to look really old and grungy and I wanted it to be permanent so if it rained I didn’t need to worry about it. So I chose to use Pebeo 160 paint which is made specifically for glass and you bake it to make it permanent. It is expensive but I was able to achieve the effect I was looking for and it has not been affected by the rain so I am happy.

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I did the painting in 2 steps. The first step was to produce a “mottled” amber color over the whole outside of the vase. They don’t make exactly the color I was looking for so I mixed yellow and orange. I used a sea sponge to blot it on. If I was feeling artistic, I would occasionally add in some more red. If you put the paint on heavy like I did you may start to see drips as the paint dries. I would come back every 10 minutes or so and check on it and if I saw drips I would go over them with the sponge again.

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After this step I let it dry overnight. At this point you can clearly see through the glass and because I am going to be use using an LED bulb I don’t want you to see that. I want to use a darker color to not only add depth and “grunge” to the glass but I also want to make it harder to see the bulb inside. So here I use the amber brown color and I make the bottom part of the vase much darker than the top and I try to create some “organic” look to the thing. The amber brown color is dark enough that it will also help obscure the led bulb inside.

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When you are happy with the paint bake it at 350 degrees for 40 minutes in the oven. Peobo does not mention this, but I did get quite a bit of smoke coming out of the oven for about the first 20 minutes. When the time is up crack the oven door and let the vase cool slowly to prevent it from cracking from thermal shock.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Part 2: Making the frame

As shown in the photo in the previous post the frame is made from "rings" and "rails" with bolts and nuts holding them together.

Making the rails

To make the rails for the large lanterns I used 1/8” x 1” aluminum bar stock ( I used 1/8" x 3/4" for the small lanterns) that you can get at any hardware store. The first thing I did was create a template so I knew the overall length of the rails and where the holes for the bolts would go. It is very important that all the holes in the rails (and in the rings) are in exactly the same position on each piece or you are going to have problems at assembly time. Take your time and be accurate. I cut the rails to length and then carefully used a scribe to mark my “master” for the places where the holes for the rings need to be drilled and where the “bend” to support the glass will be and for the pointy end. Then I carefully drilled the holes with my drill press on my master. I then used the master to drill the holes on all the other pieces.

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I made a jig to help me cut the pointy ends with my chop saw.
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The pointy ends are bent slightly out. This was done using a vise and a small sledge. I also wanted the pointed ends of the rails to have the authentic “hammered” look so I heated the end up with the blowtorch for about 1 minute and hammered it with a small sledge until I had the look I wanted.


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So now we need to make the first bend in the rail which will act as the support for the glass. It’s a 90 degree bend so its not so difficult. You don’t have to do this but I heat up the rail with a blow torch for about 1 minute and then stick it in a vice and using the mark I scribed before use a hammer to create the 90 degree bend. The heat makes it easier to bend. I used a piece of metal to help me get a smooth bend. Also make SURE the rail is in the vice upside down when you make this bend. If not, it will bend where the hole is drilled (because the metal is weaker here) instead of where you want it to bend.

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As part of my template, I also laid out in full size what I wanted the curved part of the rail to look like and how tight the curve needed to be in order to match the diameter of the pvc pipe I was using as the post for the lantern.


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From this template I used a couple of scrap pieces of lumber to make myself a jig that helped me make this bend and ensure that each piece ended up the same. You definitely need to use the blow torch on this part. Give it at least a minute of heat and it bends pretty easily. I suggest you take a scrap piece of metal and do a trial run before you try this for real. I used additional pieces of wood to smush the rail into the jig.

For the bottom end of the rail I also wanted the “hammered fish-tail" look that I used for the pointed tops so I used the same process here. Heat it up and use the sledge at a 45 degree angle on the very tips and it as you smush the metal you will create the “whale fin” look.

I created another jig to make the final curl. Heat the metal again and use the jig to make the shape. Some times I used a pair of pliers to help get the final shape while it was still hot.






Making the rings

If you were lucky enough to find pvc pipe in the correct diameter you can skip this step. If you are unable to find pvc rings that work then you can make the rings from aluminum using a ring roller.

You can find several on Amazon that to me all appear to be exactly the same thing. My guess is they are all coming out of the same factory in China. Since I did not see myself using a ring roller on a daily basis I chose the cheapest one I could find which was about $110. The learning curve on these things is not steep. See what I did there? You basically loosen the knob on the roller until a flat piece of stock barely goes in. Roll the stock all the way through. Tighten the knob a little. Roll it again. Repeat both steps until you have the ring in the diameter you need. When you start to get close to the finished diameter turn the knob just a tiny bit each time. It is important that the two ends of the ring press against each other when you are done.

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But I digress. If you are going to make the rings yourself (rather than using pvc pipe) there are some things to think about. First, drilling the holes that will hold the rails is infinitely easier if you drill them before you make the ring. However, in order to get the holes in the right places on each ring you need to create a template and it needs to be really really accurate. Based on the diameter of my vase I determined how large my rings needed to be and then calculated exactly how far apart they needed to be. From that I cut a piece of aluminum to act as my “spacer” and used this to mark the positions of the holes on my “master” rail piece which I would then use as a template to drill the holes in all the other ring pieces. You can see my aluminum "spacer" marked "Master" in the photo above on the right. You will note that I also drilled two small holes on each end of the ring pieces. I will get to this in a minute.

I created a holder from scrap wood that would hold several of my ring pieces and then the master was placed on top and used as a guide with the drill press so all the holes in all the pieces ended up exactly the same. This was a huge time saver.

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Ok so getting back to those small holes I drilled in the ends. The question is “how do I keep the two ends of the rings together?” which is a very good question. I tried several methods but finally settled drilling small holes and using stainless steel thread through the holes to hold the 2 ends together. If you get at least 5 loops through the holes and then a few drops of super glue to keep the thread from unraveling it works pretty well. This is what a finished one looks like. If you come up with a better idea I would love to hear it.

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Assembling the frame

Start with a single rail and a single ring. I highly suggest the use of an impact driver to get the bolts tight. I used 8-32 x 3/8” bolts as they were exactly the right length. Attach all the rings to the first rail.

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Then go to the opposite rail and fasten all the bolts. Here is a finished frame.
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PART 3: Making the bolt covers

Since I was looking for a lantern that looked Medieval, it was not going to work with modern day bolts showing. So I had to come up with something to cover them. A basic pyramid shape looked pretty medieval to me so that's what I went with. Of course you can't purchase medieval looking bolt covers on Amazon so these had to be hand made. For the first lanterns I made I used polymer clay. I shaped them using a razor knife and then you bake them in an oven for about 40 minutes to make them set. Once baked you can sand, drill and shape them just like a piece of solid plastic. It worked fine, but it was extremely time consuming so I started looking for alternatives and discovered that you can purchase silicon molds to make something like this using epoxy resin.

The nice thing about using the resin and molds is that each one comes out exactly like the other which is definitely not the case when you make them out of clay. You can purchase molds in hundreds of shapes so if you don’t like the pyramid shape, you can choose something else like a cross or a skull or even make your own mold.

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I started out using the single pyramid molds making one at a time and then eventually made my own mold so I could make 12 of the pyramids at a time. If you get the resin that cures in about 20 minutes you can make a lot of these in a single day. Regardless of how you make them you will most likely need to do some sanding with a belt sander to get the bottom of the pyramids flat. In order to drill the holes in the bottom of the pyramids to accept the screw heads I made a jig for my drill press with a square hole that would align the bit and help get a uniform depth for the hole.

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I used super glue to attach them over the screws – it dries in like 10 seconds and so far has worked very well for me.

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PART 4: Making the post


The post I made was from 1.5” pvc pipe which has an outside diameter of 1 7/8”. I found this coupler that had a “flange”on it that worked perfectly on the underside of the vase. Then in order to make the light socket fit properly I used another small piece of the pvc pipe on the top of the flange. Here is the whole assembly. You don’t need to worry about the socket at this point – we come come back and do that when the painting is done.
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Mounting the frame to the post

After you have assembled the entire frame, you need to drill the holes to mount the frame into the pvc post. I do not drill these holes ahead of time as their position is somewhat dependent on how the curves in the bottom part of the rails are done. I want to make sure that the holes are accessible by my drill and driver after the final bends are done.
In order to do this, I first mark the screw positions on each rail that will allow me space for a drill/driver and then drill the holes larger than the screws I will be using. Then I mount the frame on the pole with the glass in place and align the glass so it is sitting on the flange AND touching the lip of the frame pieces at the same time. This is not an easy task, so you might want to take a few swigs of wine before you do this part. After you have everything lined up, use a Sharpie to mark one hole position through a rail onto the pvc pipe for the screw.

After the hole is drilled into the pvc, I used a short regular wood screw to attach the frame to the pipe as it was shorter and left more room for the electrical cable to come up through the pipe. Once I got one screw in I would move to the opposite side and repeat the process until I had all four screws in.

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After the screws are all in and you are satisfied that it is straight then put bolt covers over the mounting screws.

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Part 5: Painting the frame and post

Step one for the painting process is to prime every inch of everything. I used this gray primer – it makes it very easy to see places you missed, and it dries quickly. You have to spray, wait 60 minutes and then roll it over to get every spot. This step is very important so take your time. Make sure you get into every nook and cranny. This stuff will be dry in an hour.


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Step 2 is to create some texture. I do this by spraying with “Stone look” paint. It doesn’t matter what color you choose as it will be covered up – it is just for texture. You need to stand back a bit when you spray this stuff – like two feet. Same as with the primer – make sure you get into every nook and cranny. This stuff takes a long time to dry – let it sit overnight at least.


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Step 3 is to create the “wrought iron” effect. Get yourself some of the “hammered metal” spray paint. Either of these paints is fine. The one on the right seems to create a heavier coat but the spray mechanism on this type of can is horrible. It will drip all over everywhere and tends to clog. Same as with the other coats – make sure you get into every nook and cranny. Let it sit for a few hours and then turn it over to make sue you get every spot covered. Let it dry overnight. Then go and stare at your wonderful creation. I can almost assure you that you will find spots you missed so give it a good look again before going on.

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Step 4 (optional). At the moment, your lantern should look like it just rolled off the medieval factory floor. You may like it as is. Either way, have a glass of wine to celebrate. Most likely, you are completely sick of this project by now and want to be done with it. If so – great! I get it. If you are a glutton for punishment, I urge you to explore methods of making stuff look old…and rusty. I used a set of paints from Prima called “Art Extravagance Rust Paste Set” which come with 3 colors (black, orange and yellow) you can mix to create the “rusty” effect.

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Watch some videos on how to use these and have some fun. I mostly used the orange and just picked places where I thought rust would form. Use the yellow very sparingly. I essentially blotted spots with my brush and then used “dry brushing” to smooth it out. If you think there is too much orange or yellow in a spot then use the black to knock it down. Afterwards spray the “rusty” spots with some spray polyurethane to rain-proof the whole thing. Here is the finished product.

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PART 6: Electrical

The electrical part is not difficult. I used a “weather proof” lamp socket from Home Depot and a 15 foot indoor extension cord. Cut the socket end off the cord and feed it up through the pipe. Strip the black and white wires. I did not use the ground wire so I just snipped it. THREAD THE EXTENSION CORD THROUGH THE POST BEFORE YOU CONNECT IT TO THE SOCKET! I used wire nuts to attach the extension wires to the socket.


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Then I used electrical tape to bundle the whole thing and make it more likely to go back into the pipe without catching on the screws that are holding the frame to the post. On the right is what it looks like when the cord is pulled the the socket is seated into the pvc pipe. It fight tight enough for me that I did not even use glue to hold the socket in place.

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Go get yourself an LED flame bulb and Ta da! You're done!
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Here is a walk-through video from our yard. Jump to about 2:40 and you will get a good look at the lanterns in action. I used the 2 small ones at the entry to the stairs and then 2 large ones at the bottom of the stairs and the other 2 large ones against the house. Enjoy!

 

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Love, love, love these lanterns, what a great look! The tutorial is easy to follow, with clear pics, thank you so much!
 

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I’ve been thinking about this prop all day and have a question. Rather than drilling a hole in the glass could you just put the glass in the holder upside down? You could leave the top clear and only paint the sides and it seems like that would make it more weatherproof as well. With the heights you used it seems like no one could see the top. I’m not sure if the curved pieces at the bottom would keep the glass from falling out though. Would that work or am I missing something?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
@Daphne you certainly could do it that way. I did it with the hole in the bottom because my house is situated lower than the sidewalk and people would be able to see the top of the lantern. If this is not a concern for you then go for it. I have not had an issue so far with rain but it has been a concern and this would certainly solve that problem. Make sure you post pics if you make some lanterns!
 

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I just realized that I left off an important part of the tutorial - using some kind of "diffuser" for the flame bulb. Even though the led flame bulbs come with a white plastic diffuser over the bulb, you can usually still see the individual leds in the bulb. Painting the glass for the lanterns helped but I still used plastic diffuser film taped to the inside of the lanterns. You should do some experimenting with different materials to see what works best for you.

Just to give you an idea how dramatic the diffuser can be, here is a video I did when I was using some led strips to create a simulated candle. Without a diffuser it looks like blinking lights - but add the diffuser and it looks like a real candle. I have found that toilet paper (not making this up) is a great diffuser and regular candle wax also does a great job.


When I first started the lantern project I found plastic diffuser films from a place called Instructables. You could get it in different thicknesses and with the matte finish on one or both sides. Unfortunately, shortly after I bought them they stopped carrying them and I have yet to locate another place that sells the exact same thing. For what its worth, this is what I bought:
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Here are side-by-side images of the small lantern with the glass removed that shows what the light looks like with and without a piece of the diffuser over the bulb. It does not photograph well but you can see how well it softens the light from the flame bulb.

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Here is a YouTube video that shows a guy using stencil film from an art supply store to do the same thing. It is very possible that the "light diffuser film" that I bought is nothing more than a thick piece of this stencil film - I just have not taken the time to investigate yet.


If you just google "light diffuser film" you will find more videos and possible materials.
 

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This is a wonderful look! Thank you for sharing your tutorial. Your pictures and explanations are easy to follow. My husband is going to be making these for our new house this year. Love it!
 
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