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These DIY lanterns will last until Halloween

It’s spooky decorating season. And if there’s one decoration that screams Halloween season is here, it’s the jack-o’-lantern. Unfortunately, many animals find pumpkins tasty, and if by the end of the season your species has not turned into a dinner for rodents, it will at least be spoiled and destructive.

to avoid The smell of a piece of decaying fruit On my balcony, this year I made jack-o’-lanterns out of wood. This is a relatively straightforward build and still provides plenty of opportunities to show off your creativity.

Regardless of the age and versatility of the people who live with you in the house, you can make this project a family affair – I built three in the first batch, and had both my children and wife model the faces. My kids are only seven years old and I don’t trust them yet for a jigsaw game, but they still help put together the boxes and the tops. We also got to scour the woods together in search of the perfect stick for making stems.

There’s also no reason these boxes should be limited to Halloween. Carve out any symbols that speak of your favorite seasons or holidays, and you’ll have decorations that will make your home festive all year long.


Time: 2-4 hours

Cost: $15 to $30

Difficulty level: medium


1. Cut the panels to size. Usually, carpentry projects start Whole wood milling, but sometimes, fine grinding is not necessary. In this case, as long as the boards are reasonably flat, you can use them for this project, which makes this a perfect opportunity to reuse some of those scraps that may be lying around your work area.

All I did to trim the panels was Hook the long edges down to size on my table saw. Then I squared off and clipped the ends to length using my cross sled. This process was more than enough to create a beautiful and airtight box. You will be able to mask any gaps later with a coat of paint.

These are the size boards I cut, but you can adjust these measurements to match your design and whatever type of wood you have on hand.

  • 3 (5″ by 12″) front and sides
  • 1 (5″ by 9″) for the back
  • 1 (7 x 6 inches) for the base
  • 1 (8″ x 7″) top base
  • 1 (6 inches by 5 inches for the top

Pro tip: If you are buying your own lumber, take your time at the store to sort the lumber and find flat planks. Instead of just looking at it directly, look down the entire length of the board on all four sides, but especially along each long edge. This is the best way to see the waves and twists. Spending 10 minutes searching for the best boards can save you a lot of trouble later.

[Related: 3 Halloween costumes you can make with reused masks]

2. (Optional) Face sculpting. If you are working with a scroll saw, you should draw, carve and finish the face of the Jack-o’-lantern on the front panel before proceeding. You can find more instructions on how to do this in steps 6 and 7.

If you are going to use a jigsaw for this purpose, you can skip this and proceed to step 3.

3. Glue the pieces together to form a box. Assemble the four sides of the box by smearing wood glue on one long edge of the front panel, and pressing one of the two side panels against it. Make sure the edge is aligned with the face. Slide the screws through the side panel to the edge of the front panel to hold the two together while the glue dries. Then repeat the process with the other side.

These 3 simple chests will turn into spooky lanterns.

If you don’t have a nailer, you can use clamps for this step. The nailer is faster, especially if you are making more than one box at a time.

Continue installing the back of the box in the same manner. This board is shorter than the others to create an opening where you can insert the tea light into the box when it’s fully assembled, so you’ll need to place this board at the top of the box, not the bottom. If you haven’t carved your design yet, the top and bottom probably won’t matter at this point in the process. If you have it, make sure the bottom of your design aligns with the opening of the tea light.

4. Assemble the peaks. The top is very basic. Glue the 6″ by 5″ board flat on top of the 8″ by 7″ board, about the middle. This creates the effect of a square hat. Pin or tape the two boards together while the glue dries.

Continue by drilling a small pilot hole in the center of the assembled piece. This is where you will attach the stem of the hat or the eye stud to hang it.

5. Sand, sand, then more sand. Once the glue dries, it’s time to sand. I use 120 grit sandpaper on my orbital sander. The priority is to erase the edges with the faces to hide some of the seams. This also helps make it easier to cut the face with the saw, as the saw won’t get stuck on the lips.

I have not tried to remove any pits, dents, or imperfections in the wood for two reasons. First, you’ll paint your chest a bright orange which will hide a lot of those flaws. Second, I aim for an airy look, which means the holes, marks, and scratches fit the aesthetic beautifully. If you’re aiming for an original and shiny look, go with sanding by all means.

6. Face sculpting. I used a jigsaw to sculpt the face, and the shape of the box created a stable platform for me to cut deep enough to move the saw blade up and down.

If I had done this before assembling the box, I would have to find (or build) a place to cut it while installing the board to my bench, which seemed like a lot of unnecessary effort.

Make wooden Jack-o'-lanterns that you can reuse for many happy Halloween
The perforations make it easy to carve faces into the jack-o’-lantern.

The installation process of the jigsaw is very easy and took about 10 minutes. First, draw your design on the front of the box. Make sure the face is oriented so that the hole in the back panel is at the bottom.

Next, drill a series of holes in the design large enough to fit the saw blade. I worked a 3/8-inch drill bit for my blades. The placement of these holes can make the difference between the easy path of the saw and the difficult path. Put one hole in each corner of the design elements (eyes, nose, and mouth at the tips of the teeth), so you can cut from hole to hole along the line, then back in the other direction as needed. This will allow you to make longer, smoother cuts, and reduce or eliminate the need to cut out space to wrap, leaving unsightly jagged edges behind.

7. File and sand the inside of the cutouts. No matter how careful you are, mounting binoculars often leave behind some jagged edges. Sand it as smooth as you like to match your desired aesthetic.

Since many facial features are relatively small or oddly shaped holes, I found sandpaper difficult to use. Instead, I used a variety of files to get into all the nooks and crannies. The round file was particularly useful.

When I got most of the features going smoothly with the files, I got them back in with a piece of 120-grit sandpaper wrapped around a small piece of wood. This can’t go everywhere but it did a decent job. I also used this to circle the sharp edges of the holes.

8. Draw it like a pumpkin. You can paint your lanterns using the colors, techniques or patterns you want. But if you want to replicate the weathered, rustic look of pumpkins in photos, you’ll have to go through a two-step process.

Make wooden Jack-o'-lanterns that you can reuse for many happy Halloween
The black base will give your Jack-o’-lantern a weathered look.

Start by painting everything black – the top, the square and the base. I used regular black spray paint for this, but use whatever you have on hand or whatever works best for you. Then paint over this black foundation with several light layers of bright orange. I wanted the top and base to stay black, so I only applied new coats of paint to the box. By doing the topcoats, the black undercoat shows through. I kept adding new coats until the vast majority of the box was orange, but there were still some black spots, as if the paint was starting to fade and discolor over time. It took about three layers of orange to achieve the look I was going for.

9. Pumpkin, assemble! Now it’s time to put everything together. The first step is to roll the stems upward. My lanterns are designed to sit on stairs, so I used a 2-inch piece of twig that my kids picked from a tree in my backyard as the trunk. If you plan to hang the lantern, you can also use a dowel or screw-in fastening.

[Related: Five science tricks to scare up a better Halloween costume]

Then it’s just about using wood glue to attach the top and bottom to the box. However, this was a bit tricky to install, so I used Gravity and Cyanoacrylate (CA) glue instead – a strong, fast acting glue that sticks well to a variety of surfaces. A few drops of CA glue in each corner keeps the top from sliding. To add some installation pressure, I just put some heavy stuff on the tops of the lanterns – screw boxes, my drill, a wall repair stack pan, and a few other random items. After a few hours, the group made a perfectly fitting paste.

10. Light up. The last step is to pass a dim tea light inside the box through the hole in the back, flip it over, and turn off the lights. The result should be a spooky, glowing Halloween decoration that you can use indoors or out.

Make wooden Jack-o'-lanterns that you can reuse for many happy Halloween
happy Halloween!

#DIY #lanterns #Halloween

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