Altoids have been freshening bad breath since the turn of the 19th century. But while they are touted as “Curiously Strong Mints,” perhaps the real curiosity is not the allure of the mints themselves, but the popularity of turning the tin in which they’re packaged into all sorts of truly handy, and just plain fun, creations.
The draw of the transformed Altoids tin, like the draw one feels towards, say, a secret book safe, is hard to put your finger on. Part of it is the satisfying challenge of fitting as much as possible into a small space. Part of it is the delight of being able to carry something cool in your pocket. Of course much of the appeal can be found in the enjoyment of tinkering and working on a diy project. There is also the satisfaction that comes from reusing an ordinary object for something else entirely. Grandpa’s old motto of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” still resonates.
Any way you slice it, beholding the creative uses for an Altoids tin simply brings a smile to your face. So we searched high and low and put together this list of 22 manly ways to reuse an Altoids tin. You can make some of these things for yourself, or use the list for cheap and unique gift ideas.
First Aid Kit
You never know when a bear is going to claw you in the face while you have him in a half-nelson, so it’s best to keep a first aid kit on hand at all times. This one is small enough to sock away nearly anywhere-a pocket, a backpack, your car, your European man purse-wherever.
For tinkering on the go. According to its creator, Nick Ames, this tin “contains nearly everything to work on small projects, such as a breadboard, components (including several ICs), and a adjustable power supply. The power supply is a simple LM317 circuit, with the 317′s metal tab cut off to make it fit.”
When you’re making fire the traditional way, such as with flint and steel, you want to make sure to catch your hard earned spark in something that will turn it into a real fire. What you need is an easily combustible piece of tinder. Enter the char cloth. They’re easy to make-just put strips of cotton fabric in an Altoids tin, close the lid tightly, make a hole in the tin, and place it in a fire to cook.
Pocket Games Chest
We’ve all been unexpectedly stuck somewhere-say the airport or inside a tent on a rained out camping trip-and found ourselves bored out of our minds. Sure you could zone out from your companions and play Angry Birds on your iPad, but why not get everyone involved in a good old fashioned game instead? For analog gaming on the go, stash an Altoids games chest in your bag.
When Popular Woodworking Magazine held a contest challenging readers to make tools out of Altoids tins, this design came out on top. It’s a working router plane, a tool used by woodworkers. The tool is especially nice as the thumbscrew and iron are stored within the tin.
Martini on the Go Kit
If Frank Sinatra had been a poor drifter, this is how he would have made his martinis. Ring a ding ding in an Altoids tin.
A mini flashlight you can carry in your pocket wherever you go. This idea, thought up by Nick Brenn, is so popular that Edmund Scientific now sells a kit for those who don’t want to be bothered with gathering and buying the necessary parts themselves. For the more enterprising, the full instructions for this diy project can be found here.
Portable BBQ Stove
Perfect for life as a hobo; just throw the mouse you caught in your boxcar on this portable grill. Dinner is served!
Using a valet is an effective way to keep track of the contents of your pockets; at the end of the day, deposit your keys, coins, watch and so on, and you’ll know right where to pick them up the next morning. Dshouppe made this Altoids tin valet for all the young men in her life. She painted the tins, drilled a hole through them, stuck a threaded rod through the holes, and used nuts and washers to hold the tins in place. The tins were lined with a piece of black rubber — the kind you can use to open a jar — cut to the size of the tin’s bottoms. This served to protect the items which would be placed inside them. Finally, a piece of wood was used at the bottom to hold the threaded rod in place.