How to make a moon lantern

28 October 2022

Materials required to make a moon lantern

Other useful items

  • Scissors
  • Small sponge
  • Plastic bowl or bucket
  • Side cutters or pliers
  • A bamboo cane (to hang the lantern from)
  • LED lights (and batteries)
  • Tape measure
  • String
  • Floristry wire
  • Water

Buy a lantern kit

How to make a moon lantern – Step 1

The first task is to soak the willow rods. This will make them easy to bend and less likely to snap. Put the willow rods into a soaking bag (or other vessel such as an old bath or paddling pool) and add water. (Read our tips on using a soaking bag and the correct amount of water to add.) The willow will need to soak for 1 hour. After an hour, carefully drain the water and leave the rods in the bag for a further hour to mellow. Mellowing is a really important part of the soaking process as it enables the inner parts of the rod to become fully pliable. The soaking bag can be reused. If you aren’t using a soaking bag, wrap the rods in hessian or an old blanket to mellow.

Working with willow

  • Pairing the rods will make the lantern stronger
  • To pair the rods, select two and place them tip to butt (top to bottom). Tape them together every 20cms to create an even length to work with (see diagram A below)
  • The pairs can be made to a specific length by pulling the two butts away or towards each other before taping them together
  • If a willow rod snaps, breaks or is too short, offcuts can be used to splint or extend. Keep all your trimmings as they will come in handy to make struts!

How to make a pyramid lantern

Next steps

Use 8 willow rods to create 4 pairs (Diagram A).

Select the longest two pairs and cut to a length of 120cm. Tape together at each end. Tie a piece of string to one end of a pair of the 120cm long rods and bend into a C shape. Fasten the string to the other end to hold in place (D1).

Tape one end of the other 120cm long pair to the first pair. These rods should fit inside the first pair to create a moon shape (D2). Tape at the other end and cut off any excess.

Select a third pair of willow rods and bend to form another C shape (D3). The remaining pair of rods (together with any off-cuts) should be used as struts.

Tape the struts between the C shapes to make the structure rigid (D4). Remove the string.

How to make a moon lantern

Inserting LED lights

If you wish to insert LED lights in your lantern remember to make an access point. To do this, take a willow rod and make a small ring (F1). Simply attach it to the lantern in the area required. If the lantern needs to be hung from a bamboo pole, use floristry wire to create a loop at the top of the lantern before covering. This will help to create a neat finish.

Making an access point for LED lights

Covering your moon lantern

  • White wet strength tissue should be used to cover the lantern. Run resistant coloured tissue is for decoration only. Once dry, white wet strength tissue gives the lantern strength
  • Wet strength tissue can be used in strips, squares, part or whole. Strips work well on a moon shape
  • Tear or cut the tissue to size before you begin covering. Wet sticky hands can make manipulating dry tissue very difficult
  • Wear appropriate clothing and ensure work surfaces are easy to wipe. The covering process can get messy!

Read our comprehensive guide to using tissue papers and different PVA glues

Using PVA glue

Dilute the PVA glue with water in a bowl or bucket. The end mixture should be similar to single cream and run off a stick easily. Try 1 part glue to approximately 1.5 – 2 parts water.

Take a sheet of torn-to-size white wet strength tissue, crumple it up and dunk in the glue mixture so that it is completely covered. Remove the tissue and squeeze out as much glue as possible. You will be left with a lump of soggy paper. Carefully tease the paper open into a flat sheet and gently stretch over and around your lantern. Smooth out any creases with your fingers or use a sponge which has been dipped in the glue mixture. Continue in this fashion until the lantern has been covered with two layers of the wet strength tissue.

If an access ring has been added, simply cut the wet tissue paper from the centre of the ring out and glue the flaps back over the ring to the inside of the lantern. Leave your lantern to dry before decorating.

Decoration tips

  • Run resistant coloured tissue is designed to be stuck to (dry) wet strength tissue paper. To apply, dampen the area you wish to decorate, (do not wet the coloured tissue) and put in place. Once dry, paint over with the diluted glue mixture
  • Use paint, pens, wool, string, foil, glitter and/or streamers to customize your pyramid lantern
  • When lit, anything that is not translucent, (e.g. card, string or foil) will appear in silhouette
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