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DIY star-shaped lanterns make the best backyard decor

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I used to be the girl who just wanted to be out: Go out, eat out, always on the move. But since we left our tiny apartment in the city a few years ago and moved to our own house in the suburbs, our social preferences have changed completely. We — and all of our friends — became young parents around that time, so that contributes to our new meet-up habits. We have a cute garden that we love, and every weekend we invite friends to hang out with us. We throw holiday dinners, we celebrate birthdays. Sometimes, we just sit together and drink wine.

And as much as I love hosting, I love hosting with style, so I love to create something beautiful and unique for our outdoor dinner parties. My idea: a lovely star-shaped lantern that’s both chic and safe with kids running around. The combination of balsa wood and thin polypropylene sheets is elegant. Both materials are cheap and easy to handle, but the result is deceptively impressive.

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Balsa is a very lightweight, soft wood. You can cut through it with a craft knife easily, and there’s no need for special woodworking tools. You get the fancy wood look without pulling out the jigsaw (or any other saw, for that matter).

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Use this beauty as a centerpiece for the table on 4th of July, a buffet decoration at your evening barbecue, or as a bright lantern to twinkle on the lawn. If making five-pointed stars is a bit daunting to you, just go with a few rectangles of different sizes for an equally stunning display.

What you’ll need:

  • Thin, transparent polypropylene sheet (craft plastic)
  • Balsa wood strips, 4 inches wide and 1/8 inch thick
  • Craft knife
  • Metal ruler
  • Silicone, gel or any other fast-drying clear glue
  • Battery-operated LED string lights
  • Clear tape

DIY star-shaped lantern directions:

1. Choose a shape. I downloaded a free, five-pointed star I found online and printed it out.

DIY lantern supplies

2. Cut the paper template and place it on the polypropylene sheet.

star shaped pattern

3. Using a pencil, trace the star on the plastic.

4. Cut the star out with a knife and metal ruler.

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5. Repeat the last two steps so you wind up with two milky-translucent identical stars. Put one of the stars aside.

6. Place the balsa strip from one of the points to another; mark this length with a pencil.

balsa wood, ruler and knife

7. Cut the balsa on the mark you’ve made with a craft knife and metal ruler. I used my cutting mat’s grid to make sure my cut is straight and perpendicular to the balsa strip.

8. Repeat the last step, creating another balsa piece for the second side of that point.

9. Apply glue right on the edge of the star, outlining that one point.

gluing balsa wood

10. Add glue to the short end of one of the balsa pieces.

11. Adhere the two balsa pieces to the plastic star and to one another.

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12. Repeat until you’ve created a 3D star of balsa wood.

balsa wood star

13. Lift up your star so it stands upright. You can just place your LED lights at the bottom of the star, but I prefer the lights to spread in a more unified way. Use clear tape to attach the string lights to the inside of the balsa, strategically placing the lights so there’s a little bit of twinkle all over. If you’re not sure how to spread the lights around, turn it on and take a step back to look at the composition. It’ll help you choose your next steps.

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14. Gently place the battery case at one of the lower points.

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15. Apply glue to the entire edge of the balsa, leaving one point without glue — just where the battery case is placed.

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16. Adhere the second polypropylene star to close up the lantern.

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17. The one unglued point will be your access to the battery case and the on/off switch.

Make a few of these star-shaped lanterns in different sizes to create a magical atmosphere and an unforgettable night outdoors.

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