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Electric lighting

Household power

Regular household lamps use 120V AC current and it is possible to buy cords and sockets for ordinary lights very easily at any Home Depot, Canadian Tire, and many hardware, houseware and dollar stores. Hang a lightbulb inside your lantern and it will look great - but it won't be very portable, unless you get ambitious and invest in a deep cycle battery and a power inverter.

Battery power

Just buy 'em!

This may be easier said than done right now, at least in Toronto. You can buy battery-powered tea lights and candles at Home Depot, and some hardware, department and dollar stores, especially around Christmas and Hallowe'en. Sadly, their light is dim, intentionally flickery and yellowish, so they have their limitations for lantern use. For more powerful, self-contained lights meant for use with lanterns, you will have to go further afield. The Paper Lantern Store sells battery-powered lantern lighting units online. It may not be the cheapest option - you will have to pay shipping on top of the advertised prices, so it might be worth while to gang up with friends to order these.

Hacking flashlights

Battery-powered electric lights are very practical for portable lighting. They already exist in the form of flashlights of every size and shape, including headlamps, mini penlights, long torches and camp lanterns that have lights perched on top of substantial batteries.

It is possible to take any of these (try yard sales and Value Village for raw material) and rebuild it so the light shines the way you want it to. Please note that preliminary Lantern Lab trials indicate that if you remove the bezel you will have to find a way to maintain contact between the battery holder and the switch to allow the switch to turn the light on and off.

Build it from scratch

If you want to build something from scratch, you can wire up something for a bigger project relatively easily, but you will need some soldering skills. If you don't know a friend or relative who tinkers with electronics and can show you, try this helpful video tutorial from Make magazine.

Make Magazine's soldering tutorial

It's aimed at electronics hobbyists but the skills are the same.

Oh jeez - I don't have to do math, do I?

All right, you artistic types, I know you don't always love the math. Fortunately, you don't need to do much figuring to calculate the right power for your lights. In fact if you want to use LED lights, you don't need to do any at all.

Here's what you do:

To calculate the power of your batteries, look at the side of the battery - it should tell you what the power is in volts. An AA battery for example is 1.5 volts. Four AA batteries will therefore give you 6 volts of power (4 x 1.5V = 6V) if they are connected together in a battery holder.

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