Peace Lanterns > Making Lantern Bases

San Francisco Bay Area

Japanese Peace Lantern Ceremony

How To Make Lantern Bases
For instructions for making lantern shades, click here.

We provide lantern bases for the Bay Area Peace Lantern Ceremony.** However, we regularly receive inquiries about how to make the bases, especially from organizers planning their own lantern ceremonies in other areas.
If you are planning your own lantern ceremony, please let us know where and when, and any Web address for further information so we may link to it from our site.

**Please don’t take our bases home; we re-use them each year. Thanks.


We have constructed bases in different ways, trying where possible to use re-used/recycled materials. Some of them are made from re-used foamcore — the material on which panels are printed for displays, such as at conferences. Most of our recent bases are made from household insulation cut into squares and sealed on the edges. Instructions for making these types of bases are below.

We have also used styrofoam squares. They must be thick enough to hold up the skewers — ½" or thicker is ideal. Make sure they are solid enough that no styrofoam will flake off into the water!

There are many other ways to make lantern bases. In Hiroshima, the bases are made of two floating sticks attached in an “X” pattern. For other ways to make lantern bases, try this search.

Our Newest Solution — Insulation:

More recently, we’ve used household insulation sheeting that is about 1.5" thick and has silver paper laminated to each side. We cut into 10" squares, then tape around the edges with 3"-wide silver duct tape to keep any insulation from flaking off into the water. Be sure to adhere the tape thoroughly so it doesn’t come off and water doesn’t seep under it. When re-using bases from previous events, it’s important to inspect them and repair/replace duct tape as needed.

How to Make Foamcore Bases:

Prior to working with insulation, we made bases out of foamcore (the kind of paper-covered plastic foam used for exhibition displays). We obtained used foamcore from a recycling store, printed on one side and blank on the other. Important: Test the printing by wiping with soap and water. Some displays are printed with water-soluble ink, which will come off in the body of water where the lanterns are floated. Those should be avoided.

We cut thicker foamcore (½" or thicker) into 10" squares. If using thinner foamcore, we cut into 10" x 20" rectangles, then sliced most of the way in the middle, leaving the bottom layer of paper intact. We then folded in half along the cut to make a 10" square that’s two layers thick and held together by the paper layer on the inside of the fold. Thicker, single-ply is better, but the thicker foamcore is harder to find.

Whether with foamcore or insulation bases, we use thin wooden skewers (the kind you can buy for barbeque kebabs) to hold up the shades. One is poked through each corner, 5.5" apart. We have created some guide templates of wood (cardboard can also work fine) with holes where the skewers go, to make it quick and easy to properly place the skewers. Best are skewers that are 12" or longer. We have our trained volunteers insert the skewers into the bases and then attach the shades that participants have decorated. We don’t let young children handle the bases and skewers, because the points of the skewers may be hazardous.

The Candles:

We use tea candles in the centers of the bases. They can be affixed in various ways. One option is to use tacks with flat heads (and ideally with pins longer than those on standard thumbtacks), with tea candles that come in their own aluminum cups. Remove a candle from its cup; put the cup on the center of the base; stick the tack downward through the middle of the cup and into the lantern base; then replace the candle in the cup. Another option is to put a dab of silicone sealant on the bottom of each candle or , then stick it to the base. Allow several minutes to dry. The silicone-gel method works well (especially with candles that don’t come in cups), but it is more complicated and takes longer, so for larger ceremonies (we launched about 500 lanterns in 2005) with untrained volunteers, it can be inconvenient. Another option that may work better is to use museum putty. It needs to be worked in the fingers a bit to soften it up, but it doesn't need any drying time.

Whatever the method of attachment, through experience we’ve learned it’s most practical to assemble the lantern bases (with candles and skewers affixed) before the event starts. Then, during the event, all that needs to be done is to attach the shades.

If you are planning your own peace lantern ceremony, please let us know when and where, and any Web link for your event so we may link to you from our pages. Thanks!


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