How to make a DIY log lantern

A carved wooden log lantern makes an atmospheric garden accessory. Why not use our DIY instructions and create your own unique design?

Two luminous DIY log lanterns with unique patterns carved into them

DIY log lantern: preparation

You don’t need many materials to create your own beautiful DIY log lamp out of wood: just a suitable log and a chainsaw with the right attachment for carving a simple pattern.

A man making an eagle sculpture from a log using a STIHL MSE 193 CE petrol chainsaw with carving guide bar

DIY chainsaw carving

Chainsaw carving has become a popular hobby for amateurs and chainsaw enthusiasts. All you need to get started is a specialist carving chainsaw – or a carving attachment for your chainsaw – and a bit of creative flair. As the chainsaw experts, we’ve put together more information about the basics of DIY carving here.

Precision made easy

A special carving bar from STIHL allow you to make delicate lines and easily craft a log into a masterpiece. Chainsaw carving is a lot of fun and also a way of creating unique wooden items that make great gifts too.

Full DIY power

A man wearing ear protection uses a STIHL MS 193 C-E with carving attachment to cut feathers into an eagle sculpture

Carving chainsaws for your DIY log lantern

If you want to do intricate work with wood, a STIHL carving saw is the best tool for the job. The specialist carving attachments feature low vibration and kickback, and the small bar nose means that you can make delicate lines and fine cuts with ease.

DIY log lantern: what wood should I use?

You can use almost any type of wood for your lantern, as long as it is properly prepared. The log you work with should be dry, not freshly cut: the drier, the better, as it means less risk of your lantern cracking. For your first attempts, we suggest you choose a coniferous wood with a low resin content because it’s softer and will be easier to carve. As your carving skills improve, you can switch to poplar, oak, Douglas fir or some fruit tree woods.

DIY log lantern: wood care

Wood is a natural, living product and both humidity and weather have a permanent impact on its condition. Though you can and should take steps to preserve your work, you cannot completely prevent wood from changing over time – that’s part of its charm. Cracking and discolouration of your log lantern is normal, although various oils, waxes and varnishes are available that can help to restrict or prevent it.

Protective equipment: designed to keep you safe

You should always wear personal protective equipment when working with your chainsaw. This includes a cut protection trousers, safety boots, safety glasses, a face shield, gloves and a helmet if there is a risk of falling objects. You will also need to wear ear protection when using petrol chainsaws, some of our larger cordless chainsaws  or an electric chainsaw. The operating manual for your product contains more details. Fully familiarise yourself with the tool before you use your chainsaw for the first time, and check it's in flawless condition before each use. On request, your STIHL dealer will be happy to prepare your tool for its first use and will also advise you on models and sizes of protective clothing that you can try. Please remember that personal protective equipment is no substitute for safe working techniques.

You need the following materials and tools to create a DIY log lantern

  • Log, 30 to 40 cm in diameter, 35 to 40 cm long
  • Sawhorse
  • Tensioning belt
  • STIHL hatchet
  • STIHL chainsaw 
  • Scraper and drawknife for debarking
  • Chalk for marking
  • Light source to go inside your lantern, e.g. fairy lights
  • Personal protective equipment
llustration: log, STIHL chainsaw, folding rule, fairy lights, STIHL axe, tension belt, saw block

DIY log lantern: step-by-step instructions

Before you get started, you should fix the log to a sawhorse using a tensioning belt. Mark out your initial cuts with a piece of chalk so you know exactly where to start. Hollow out the log so you can add a light source to make it into a lamp. Then you can carve a pattern so that light can peek out from your lantern atmospherically.

DIY log lantern overview

  • Create the basic structure by hollowing out the log.
  • Cut light slits into your lantern in your chosen pattern.
  • Remove bark from the log and treat your finished DIY wooden lantern with a suitable oil.

Tips for outdoor use

To use your lantern outdoors, apply a wood sealer suitable for semi-dry carved sculptures. Use an LED light source suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. 

Summary: make a DIY log lantern

  • You can use a chainsaw to carve fine cuts in wood.
  • Soft, coniferous wood is ideal for beginners.
  • Advanced carvers can use poplar, oak, Douglas fir or some types of fruit tree.
  • Always wear personal protective equipment as specified in the operating instructions for your tool.
  • Begin your DIY lantern by hollowing out a log.
  • Carve delicate slits in your chosen design on the outside of your lantern.
  • Remove the bark with a hatchet and sand your lantern down.
  • Treat the wood with beeswax or a suitable interior varnish.