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How To Make Sky Lanterns

A paper sky lantern is almost as much fun to make as it is to fly. Get started with these tips.


  • : Paraffin wax is flammable. Don't warm it over an open flame or over high heat.
  • Step 1: Place a double boiler on low heat to melt down a small block of paraffin wax. Lay down a large sheet of industrial paper towel. Slowly pour the melted paraffin on it is saturated. Let the wax dry.
  • Step 2: Construct the burner. Cut five 3- by 5-inch pieces from the saturated paper towel. Then cut out 20 3- by 5-inch pieces of kraft or butcher paper. Stack these together, so there are five pieces of paper between each layer of paraffin-wax paper. Using the awl, punch four holes through the entire stack in the middle, about an inch in from the edge.
  • Step 3: Thread two pieces of wire in a cross through the holes in the burner. Position the burner so that it can be suspended in the center of the hoop by the wires. Attach the ends of the wires to the bamboo hoop in a cross shape, and twist them to secure them to the hoop. Glue the hoop to the bottom of the lantern and let it dry. Repeat the process with more lanterns if you want to really light up the sky.
  • FACT: The Chinese first used sky lanterns in the third century.
  • Step 4: Go outside. With the fire extinguisher or bucket of water handy, light the burner, being careful not to scorch the lantern with the flame. Hold the hoop until the lantern fills up with the warm air from the burner. When it begins to tug skyward, let go and watch your creation soar.
  • TIP: With a knife, whittle the thin bamboo strip from the stake of a tiki torch; then sand it for easy gluing.
  • Step 5: Bend, and then glue a thin bamboo strip into a hoop that will fit snugly into the bottom of your lantern.
  • Step 6: Use a fifth sheet of untreated paper to make a leaf-shape pattern for the lantern's four panels. The pattern should be 41 inches long, the base should be 13 inches wide, and it should come to a point at the top. Starting 18 inches from the base, the middle should curve out so that it's 23 inches across.
  • Step 7: Cut the kraft or butcher paper into five equal-size sheets, each about 2 by 4 feet. Either outside or in a well-ventilated space, cover the floor with a drop cloth, and hang four sheets of kraft paper on a clothesline. Spray both sides with fire retardant, and avoid saturating the area near the clothespins. Dry the treated paper over night.
  • Step 8: Use the pattern to cut four identical panels out of the paper. Then, lay down a large sheet of wax paper on a worktable, which will prevent the panels from sticking.
  • Step 9: Glue the panels together to construct the lantern. Lay the first panel on the wax paper and place the second panel on top of it. Glue the right edges of the two panels together. Place a sheet of wax paper over the glued seam to keep it from sticking to the next seam. Fold the loose half of the second panel in half, and lay the third panel on top.
  • Step 10: Glue the right edge of the third panel to the loose half of the second panel, lay a strip of wax paper down, then fold the loose half of the third panel over on itself. Glue the right edge of the fourth panel to the loose edge of the third panel. Now glue the left edge of the fourth panel to the left edge of the first panel and let the glue dry.
  • : Use extreme caution when dealing with an open flame, and never fly a sky lantern in windy conditions. Do not release sky lanterns in dry areas with lots of brush, near trees, or within five miles of an airport or major highway.

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