Picture of A Better Altoids Smalls LED Flashlight

I really love making projects out of Altoids. Especially the new Altoids Smalls tins. They're so small and so very very cute.

I've seen a couple of Instructables on how to turn these small tins into flashlights, but I think that we can do a better job. Both in appearance and craftsmanship.

This little guide will show you how to make a flashlight out of an Altoids Smalls tin in a way that's both easy to do, and has a classy result.

Time: 20-30
Price: Less than $4
Mints eaten: 14

This a great project for beginners or kids.

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Step 1: What you need

Picture of What you need

Soldering Iron
Drill with 9/11 inch bit
Wire Cutter

Altoids Smalls tin ($1-1.50)
Electrical Tape
Wire (any type will do, I used magnet wire because I had some)
Coin Battery Holder
Coin Battery
Two 3mm White LEDs
Two 3mm LED holders
Two resisters of value less than 100 ohms (100 for $2 off ebay)
One Submini Momentary Pushbutton switch... or toggle! (2 for $2.50 at Radio Shack)

The only thing I didn't have at my "shop" were the pushbutton switches. I had to bite the bullet and buy them from Radio Shack. They're the "submini" type, which means very small.

Everything else I had bought in bulk, so the total cost of the parts used was quite small. Buy a bunch of LEDs and LED holders off ebay. They'll cost you a little bit and last for many a project.

Step 2: Minty Fresh Breath

Picture of Minty Fresh Breath

If you have a tin, awesome. If not, buy one.


If you're giving this as a gift (great idea) you can put the mints in a bag to give along with the flashlight.

markmoran made it!20 days ago

I made this a few years ago (before there was an "I Made It" comment button) and it is still one of my first and favorite electronics project. It's an incredibly simple and elegant design, people immediately understand and like it, and it still works on the original batteries years later.

dan.mandle3 months ago

Having a hard time finding a drill bit 9/11" in size. What have you all been using?

I forgot to add: I used a form cut thin piece of plastic under the board to prevent shorting. I think on my next one I'll TheGeekFathers Plasti-dip suggestion a try.

I made a Altoid's Smalls flashlight but I went a different route mounting it on a proto board and using two Piranha LEDs on each side of the 5mm LED. And I checked out your BrownDogGadets site and I gotta say, That's Cool!

My ible is here.

yanz677 months ago

Thank you! This is a great idea. I had a lot of fun with my 4 year old, building it.

I didn't have the 100ohm resistor and tried 330ohms but the led was way too dim so i didn't use any resistor. Hopefully LEDs will last a while.

JoshuaZimmerman (author)  altoidprojects2 years ago
Yeah, but they're not panel mount. Which makes mounting super duper easy on the outside of the tin.

Though a very small toggle switch on the side would be cool.

I have one of these and yes, the toggle switch is awesome. I made my flashlight a little over 2 years ago with these directions (minus the switch because RadioShack didn't have anything else other than a toggle). It's still working great on the original battery and I do use it often. Great directions and flashlight.

I have a toggle like this and it does screw down so it's tight with the case. Fits pretty well, tho I mounted it on the top part just as you did with the push button. Everything in the box is tight anyway, but it does work well.

Josh19832 years ago
This is a great project. Where do you find the push buttons in bulk? I've been able to find all the other parts for decent prices except for the buttons, the best I've found is a two pack.
Schmidty162 years ago
couldnt you fit 2 AAA bateries in that or even 1
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  Schmidty162 years ago
No, 2 AAAs won't fit.

Also, one isn't enough. You need 3V for white LEDs (red is 2.6 even).

dude i canfit it in my tin like urs i think i can it may be a tight fit but i think it would work
guillebd3 years ago
I've got a question, it may seem stupid but it will clear my head out of doubts. If you are only using one 3v coin battery, then the led's shoul be of 1.5 v each? thanks
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  guillebd2 years ago
It's in Parallel, so they're each getting 3V.
ericb13 years ago
Hmm, not sure what I did wrong. I used 100k-Ohm resistors (1/2watt) and CR2032 bateries, and 5mm white LED's.

Any reason why this set-up wouldn't work?
schumi23 ericb13 years ago
or the fact you used 100kohm maybe?
Im just guessing, but try replacing the 100 000ohm resistor, with a 100 ohm resistor (Or one in that range)
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  schumi232 years ago
Yeah.... there is a massive difference between using a 100,000 ohm and a 100 ohm.
Sorry for a newbie question. Are these 1/4 watt resistors? I'm looking at 100 75 ohm 1/4 watt 1% metal film resistors for $2.55. This will work? Thanks!
That should work, though you do not need to buy resistors that are that expensive (5% ones would be fine.) (I will give a more complete explanation tomorrow, just got back from camping :) )
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  ericb13 years ago
LEDs backward. Bad battery. Melted switch.
shootfilm3 years ago
I love this! How advanced is the soldering involved? I've got a soldering iron, but haven't really done much with it besides experiment a bit and burn the heck out of my fingers.
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  shootfilm3 years ago
It's simple.

The only thing you have to watch out for is melting the button. Just be quick and use a small amount of solder.
Electrical tape is all and good but You can buy spray on Plasti-Dip that leaves a much nicer finish. Just do three light coats. (do multiple tins at a time. even if you dont have a current use for them.)

I say use the spray on because I find it keeps better than the cans that you dip tools in or use a brush with. So unless you plan on using a lot I'd go with the spray on. (plus I think it leaves a nicer finish if your using a sponge brush)
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  TheGeekFather3 years ago
Goodness that does sound a whole lot nicer. That is a wonderful idea.

I just use tape because I had it handy and it takes less time, but the Plasti-Dip would look a whole lot more professional.
By the way that wasn't a slam on your ible. I just see so many people using electrical tape I thought I would throw it out there. A lot of people I talk to didn't even know what plasti-dip was or that it comes in spray form too.

This is a general FYI for the readers. Plasti-dip is sold in most hardware stores and is used for a lot of stuff. It's flexible, insulates, durable, and has a good grip. A lot of uses but it's mainly known for dipping the handles of your tools if the old grip has worn off. I've used it to isolate wires instead of electrical tape or shrink tube. Coat a pistol grip, on the bottom of cool tiles to turn them into coasters and on the inside of metal tins if I'm using electrical components.
Were would one find Plasti-dip?
McMaster-Carr sells it: 9560T4
sorry been working. Don't mean to take so long in responding most the time. Anyways on to your question. I usually get it from Ace Hardware. I've seen it at the major home improvement stores as well.
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  TheGeekFather3 years ago
I didn't take it as a slam, I think it's a great idea. I'm planning on picking some up next weekend.
tyler3030473 years ago
Great ible man. I'm goin out to buy these hopefully on Saturday.
ryanmercer3 years ago
I found a 15/64 to be the perfect size for the grommets you sell on your site in the kit.
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  ryanmercer3 years ago
Good to know.

(How I do wish we lived in a metric world....)
ryanmercer3 years ago
I used a 1/4 for this hole for the button in your kit on the website.