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Vesak Lantern

Buddha Mind - get one, be one.

I have chosen to give particular attention to this style of lantern as variations on this approach are commonly used in Sri Lanka to make Vesak Lanterns. It is realtively easy to make but looks very smart when it is finished. Have a look at LOTSA FIRE for other illuminating ideas.







24 sticks all the same length. About 200mm long is good for a start. I have used kebab sticks with success but any light material will do. Straws are often a bit flimsy. Split bamboo is ideal but any local woodworker will likely have strips of something available. Wood of about 3-5mm section is about the right weight for a lantern of up to 500mm dimension. Larger than this will require heavier sticks.
Light-weight string, twine or good cotton.
Wood or paper glue - PVA is ideal as it is strong at full strength but can easily be diluted.
Stout card. A piece of an old card board box will do fine. [or styrofoam - see 3) below]
Covering materials. This can range from tissue or wrapping paper, cloth, (coloured) plastic sheet. The best is 'see-through' as this gives the best lighting effect. The choice will depend on the 'style' you want you lantern to have - simple, stained glass look, abstract, etc.
A small candle(s). Night lights - those in a metal dish - are ideal, as vertical candles often fall over. A small oil lamp is also useful. You could use candle making as a seperate aspect of your craft work. See: RESOURCES: candles as a symbol.
Decorations. This can vary enormously and imagination is the only limitation.
Patience - it can be a bit fiddly and working in pairs is not only easier but more fun.


1) Make six squares using the sticks and string. I have often finished the tying of each square with diagonals - running the string from corner to corner in both directions. This can ensure that your square is indeed square - measure the diagonals and they should both be the same distance. [Do you remeber that thing at school about the square of the hypotenuse?] You could go one further by putting a blob of glue on each of the four intersections. This not only adds strength to the finished lantern but helps keep the squares intact when you are assembling the final frame.
2) Tie the squares together as in the picture. There is no easy procedure here and it can be a bit difficult for some. Working in pairs is good - one to hold, the other to tie.
3) Decide which face is the base. Cut a piece of card to fit - this can either sit on the sticks or be glued underneath. The latter is the more attractive but is not as easy. Your candle will eventually rest here so it needs to be reasonably strong. It is possible to use a square of styrofoam and float your lantern. This is very beautiful - especially when there is a little 'armada' of light ships.
4) Gluing these new connections makes for a longer lasting lantern but is not necessary.
5) Tie string from at least two of the opposing corners of the top frame to hang your lantern. they can rest on a table or such like but generally look most attractive hanging.
6) Cover the framework. This adds strength but you will have to judge how well you have ties the corners. I have shown only the main five panels covered but you can cover as much as you like. Make cut-outs in some places for effect. Remember it is all about light (and colour). Celeophane produces a lovely effect. Whatever material you use it is best painted, cut, sewn, etc before being glued onto the frame. This may require some fore thought.
      DO NOT COVER THE TOP as you may end up with a fire ball. Heat rises! This is spectacular but . . . ?
7) Decorate. Hang strips of material, paper, tinsel from projecting corners. Sprinkle on glitter. Hang a smaller lantern(s) underneath. The only limitation is the strength of your frame and the heat rising!
8) Put in your candle(s). This is usually best in the middle of the base as this minimises the fire risk. With larger lanterns, or small candles, quite a variation is possible. An oil lamp could be used. [see CRAFT: making an oil lamp] Set the lights at different levels?
9) Hang your lanterns. This is obviously best at night - at least in dim lighting.
10) Enjoy.
11) Big people - don't forget to put out the light and put the lanterns away. A good lantern will last a long time and it is not just the object that is worth re-visiting but the joy such group / family activities can develop.

You can experiment with any geometric shapes. Symmetry makes for an easier lantern but play about with different materials (try wire) and shapes.

Here is a model based on 8 triangles [the lower ones are blue] and 2 squares [the base one is orange].