How to Make Altoids Tin Speakers





Introduction: How to Make Altoids Tin Speakers

Everyone wants speakers, but they are often very expensive, and aren't portable at all. Chances are the you have received a lot of those holiday or birthday cards that sing to you when you open them. Maybe you got an undesirable present that happens to have a speaker inside of it. In this Instructable, I am going to show you how to make your own speakers from stuff you have lying around the house, and then put them inside an Altoids tin. Not only will they look cool, but they will also be portable and very functional. They work with ANY device that accepts 3.5 mm audio jacks, and as of today, most devices do, such as iPods, iPhones, iPads, MP3 players, MP4 players, and many more. You won't have to buy a single thing for this Instructable. These speakers can easily fit in your pocket!

Step 1: Understanding Speakers

Before you build your own speakers, you need to know how speakers work. Speakers are devices that transmit sounds throughout the surrounding area. Some of the main parts of speakers are:

Diaphragm: The diaphragm is the flexible cone on a speaker that vibrates up and down. It produces sound waves by causing a series of rarefaction when the diaphragm moves back and forth. This rarefaction forms a wave of different pressures that meets  your ear and causes your eardrum to move back and forth as well. The brain will translate this movement into sounds! The diaphragm is more commonly referred to as the cone, and is usually made of paper,plastic, rubber, metal, or other materials.

Suspension: Suspension is a material that runs outside the diaphragm. When the diaphragm needs to moves up and down, the suspension allows it to. It is usually made of rubber, or other flexible materials.

Basket: The basket is the metal frame that surrounds the driver.

Spider: The spider is a flexible material located underneath the diaphragm and is attached to the basket. The spider is important because it holds the voice coil in place and allows it to move up and down.

Voice Coil: The voice coil is a coil of wire wrapped around a magnet. When, electricity is run through the wire, the coil moves up and down. Since the voice coil is attached to the cone and the spider, the cone and spider will move up and down when the voice coil does.

Dome: Many speakers have a dome instead of a diaphragm. The dome is almost exactly like a diaphragm except that a dome is slightly con-vexed.

Headphones and Earbuds: Headphones and earbuds are just two small speakers positioned around or inside your ear. They provide a more private listening experience. 

Hear is a link to a great website that shows you how speakers work in greater detail:

Now that you have a basic understanding of speakers, we can proceed to the building of our project.

Step 2: Gather Your Materials and Tools

The materials required for this project are:

A speaker (speakers can be obtained from all sorts of items, including those singing greeting cards. I will be using a speaker I got from a Hallmark singing greeting card for this project).
Spare Headphones or Earbuds: Please don't use your brand new headphones!! I am not responsible for any damage you do to your headphones. Use headphones or earbuds that you don't mind losing, such as the kind they give out on airplane flights. These headphones or earbuds must have a 3.5 mm audio jack, or whatever type of audio port you are going to be plugging these speakers up to.
Foam (optional): About 1/2 inch thick
Craft Felt (optional): For decoration
Empty Altoids Tin: Use a tin that will fit your speaker with sufficient room left

The tools for this project are:

Flathead Screwdriver: Must be flat head
Hot glue gun with hot glue
Candle and matches (or a lighter)

Drill (to make life easier)

 Now that you have gathered everything you need, lets begin!! 

Step 3: Preparing Your Speakers Part 1

In this step, just remove you speakers from whatever item you have. If the Speaker is small, such as the ones in Hallmark Singing Cards, you want to use two speakers. Speakers can be obtained from all sorts of stuff: phones, singing stuffed animals, old TVs, and many more.

In my case, I have a Hallmark Singing Card, so in order to remove the speaker, first open the card normally. The card will begin singing. If you look at the right half of the card, you will see two layers of paper. Tear of the top layer and remove the speaker and its circuitry. Most likely the speaker will be attached to the back paper with a strong adhesive, so be careful and make sure you do not disconnect any wires. The circuitry contains a 3 volt cell battery, so you may want to salvage the battery before throwing the circuit away.

Once you have removed the speaker and circuitry, use your flat head screwdriver to remove the wires from the circuitry, BUT DO NOT REMOVE THE WIRES FROM THE SPEAKERS (see the picture). Now you will have a speaker with two insulated wires. Once again, use your screw driver to press down on the wires and remove the insulation. You may use other forms of wire stripping if you please. Remove about a quarter inch of insulation. 

Now lets move on to Step 4, where we will continue to prepare the speaker.

Step 4: Preparing Your Speakers Part 2

Now that you have your speakers we need to support the wire connections at the back. To do this, turn over the speaker so you can view the wire connections on the back. 

There are three ways to support these wire connections:

Tape (Electrical or Masking)
Hot glue

No matter which material you choose to apply, make sure that when you turn the speaker back over, you shouldn't be able to see what ever you use to support the connections. I used hot glue because I didn't have any solder or tape. If you are using hot glue or solder, be sure not to apply too much, but don't apply too little. If you are using tape, be sure that you use enough as to where the connections are secure, but you can't see the tape when you look at the speaker from the front. Securing the connections is very important because if one of the connections were to fail, the speakers will not work. If you do not care about the appearance of your speaker, you can use as much tape, hot glue, or solder as you desire. Please look at the images I provided if you need help.
If you are using two speakers, repeat steps 3-4 onto the other speaker.

Congrats, you have fully prepared your speakers. Now lets move on to Step 5 where you will prepare your headphones/earbuds. 

Step 5: Preparing Your Headphones Part 1

Now it is time you need to prepare your headphones/earbuds. The reason you need headphones/earbuds is because they have an audio cable. I am going to show you how to safely get the audio cable so you can connect it to the speaker. To begin, take your headphones/earbuds, unwind and untangle them, and lay them down. DO NOT USE HEADPHONES OR EARBUDS YOU LIKE. Instead, use cheap headphones, or ask your friends if they have any spare headphones. The earbuds I am using are from a plane flight.
Once you have laid down your headphones/earbuds, cut the cables near the ear piece using your scissors (there are two individual cables, each connecting to one ear bud or headphone). Now, strip off about 2 inches of insulation on the two cables using your flat head screw driver. Once you have stripped the cables, you should see two wires in each cable, and hopefully they are different colors. Usually, one cable will have a red and copper wire, while the other will have a blue and copper wire. The copper wire is sometimes black, and is called the ground wire (negative). The colored wires are the positive wires.
Once you have stripped both cables, cut off one of the cables completely, BUT ONLY IF YOU ARE USING ONE SPEAKER. IF YOU ARE USING TWO SPEAKERS, DO NOT CUT ANY OF THE CABLES OFF. PEOPLE USING TWO SPEAKERS SHOULD MOVE ON TO STEP 6. However, if you are only using one speaker like I am, just pick one of the cables and cut it off, your choice doesn't matter. I am going to cut off the blue and copper cable because it didn't show up on camera to well. Now, if you only have one cable with two wires are the end, you are ready to proceed to step 6, where we will continue to prepare the headphones.


Step 6: Preparing Your Headphones Part 2

This step involves fire, so be sure to take all necessary precautions first. DO THIS STEP OUTSIDE.

In this step, you will need your candle and matches, or your lighter. You will also need the cable you just finished in Step 5, and a cup of water for safety. First, light your match or lighter. If you are using matches, use the match to light the candle. Now, take the cable with the two wires from Step 5. You will notice that one cable is colored. This coloring is actually an insulation that prevents the wire from being connected to anything else. This insulation is very thin, so you need to use a flame to burn it off. To do this, hold the two wires in the flame until the color fades off and the wires turn black or a dark bronze. Don't hold the wire in the flame for too long, or it will completely burn off. If you are using two speakers, do this on both cables.

When disposing of matches, soak them in water and then wrap them in aluminum foil before throwing them away.

Once you have sufficiently removed the color from both wires, you can move on to Step 7, where we will prepare the Altoids Tin.

Step 7: Prepare the Altoids Tin

First, you need to make sure your Altoids Tin is completely empty. Now, you are going to need your screw driver, or a drill if you got it. Also, you will need your marker.  Stand the Altoids Tin on its side by forming a 90 degree angle with the lid and the base of the tin. Make a small mark on the right side of the Altoids Tin. Now, using your screw driver or drill, make a hole on this mark that can fit the audio cable. Once you have made a hole, insert the cable with the two wires facing forward. Once they are through the hole, connect the two wires on the cable to the two wires of the speaker by wrapping the wires around each other and folding them over (the polarity of the connections does not matter). You made want to add some electrical tape to secure this connection. Once the cable and speaker are connected, connect the cable to a device and play some music (turn the volume all the way up). If you hear music, you are ready to move on to Step 8. If not, check the wire connections and make sure all the insulation was removed. If you are using two speakers, connect both cables to both speakers. 

Step 8: Add Foam

This step is optional, but makes the speaker look a lot better. First, position the speaker out of the way (but don't remove the connections. Now, put the foam in the Altoids Tin. Make sure the foam you have is larger than the base of the tin so it fits nicely inside. Once you have the foam completely in the tin, turn the speaker over and apply some tape or glue on the back of it. Then, turn it back over and position it in the center of the foam. Once the speaker is positioned in place, you can move on to Step 9.

Step 9: Add Felt

Once again, this step is optional, but makes your speaker look great. Place you Altoids Tin on top of the felt you chose, and use your marker to trace out the shape of the tin. Once you have, cut out the shape with your scissors. Now, draw a circle about the same size as your speaker(s) in the center of the felt you cut out (if you are using two speakers, draw two circles). Once you have drawn the circle, cut it out. Now, place this felt in the tin and position it inside the tin so it fits around the speaker(s). Now, glue the felt in place. The felt helps cover all the wires!!

You can decorate your speakers however you like. Paint, stickers, whatever you want is okay!

Congrats!! Your Altoids Portable Speakers are done and ready for travel!!

Step 10: Demonstration

In this step, I will show you some of the speakers I have built. Although I used a speaker from a Hallmark Singing Card, you can use speakers from other devices. In the first picture, the speaker to the left is from an answering machine, and the speaker to the right is the one I built in this Instructable  The bottom picture is also the speaker from this Instructable. The sound quality and volume of your Altoids Tin speaker depends on what type and how many speakers you used. I really hope that you enjoyed this Instructable. If you have any problems, suggestions, critiques, compliments, or anything you want to say, please leave a comment, and I will help you if I can.

Thank you so much for viewing this Instructable. I hope you enjoyed, and please leave a comment. Thank you!

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Great tutorial. I will be trying this


Hey I noticed one thing. You should twist the two same colored wires together, and the two different colored wires together, so you can get both channels of sound (R, L) on one speaker. I think that's how it works. Great 'able!

That's a great idea! Thanks for your comment!

Well then the speaker won't work unless you solder them back together!

I was slightly confused as to the part in which you connect the wires of the headphones and speaker could you explain it in a simple way? Thx

Cut off one earbud cable altogether (each earbud has its own cable). Then, cut the earbud off the remaining cable, exposing the wires inside (there should be two colors wires in it). Strip the insulation of the cable so you can further see the wires. Now, use a lighter to burn off the insulation from the wires. Finally, connect the two wires inside the cable to the two wires on the speaker (polarity does not matter). That should be it!

If you need anymore help, don't be afraid to comment again! I'd be glad to help!

Awesome tutorial dude, but I have a few questions;
Wouldn't the speakers also need a power source?
If I was to put a system like this into a guitar, would it work?