Introduction: Steampunk-look Altoid Tin

Picture of Steampunk-look Altoid Tin

I don't know whether I quite understand what makes something "steampunk", but one of the common characteristics seems to be the use of metallic finishes (especially copper and brass) rather than the modern paint & plastic look. Well, you can get Aluminum TAPE in most hardware stores, Copper TAPE in better garden shops (snail deterrent), and brass "shim stock" (foil, in thickness up to "pretty thick"), so it seems to me that you can potentially make things somewhat steampunk-like pretty easily, by applying tape and foil to "ordinary" objects.

In this example, I use some copper tape to make an altoids tin look more steampunk-like. (I guess the other thing I've noticed is that there should a relatively high degree of customization, so this is probably
only partway to being a complete steampunk-like project, if I'm headed in the right direction at all.

(Of course, I imaging for "real" steampunk, you're not supposed to cheat like this at all; if you can't machine your altoids-style box out of a solid block of copper, you should at least fold it yourself out of sheet metal. Still, I like to cheat!)


shooby (author)2008-07-08

I'd say this really isn't Steampunk. If you want to make a steampunk altoids tin, redesign the altoids tin according to the wiki descritpion above. In the Victorian era, it would be extremely difficult to craft an altoids tin, an object which many people today consider disposable. A steampunk altoids tin would be clunkier, possibly made of weathered wood, brass and copper plate (not tape!), rough iron, etc. It might have weathered looking ink writing on it instead of glossy paint, etc. Most of the time a steampunk item will come out best when incorporating less refined materials (wood instead of plastic), made with less sophisticated tools (hammer and nails instead of hex screws), and will be more mechanical than digital (typewriter instead of computer).

taj1994 (author)shooby2014-07-24

Well, the Victorian era was from the 1830s to 1901, so the tins wouldn't have been too hard to make, even back then. They would just need to use a press to stamp the parts out of sheets of metal

Robotrix (author)shooby2008-11-03

I agree with your basic principle, but I don't know about "hammer and nails vs. hex screw". Obv. hex screws are not very Victorian, but what about philips screws? We are talking about the industrial revolution here, and they definitely had some level of technology. After all, it's steampunk, not renaissancepunk.

jiffyheart (author)Robotrix2009-11-25

Phillips screws were patented in 1933. You can check out the history of those screws at

Robotrix (author)jiffyheart2009-11-25

thanks for the tip, random researcher!

shooby (author)Robotrix2008-11-03

True, we're not going for a total lack of technology. But, there also wasn't a box of 100 drywall screws in every carriage house in the Victorian era. For one thing, rivets were used extensively, but not pop rivets. Instead, they used the type that you push through the hole, and hit the back with a ball-pin hammer so that it spreads out and can no longer pass back through the hole. Of course, here's where it becomes subjective. A lot of steampunk movies and books show hardware that's approximately consistent with the era, but that would have been unattainable to almost everyone because of cost. Sooo, poor boy makes robot without a scrap of lead in it but tons of bronze, less realistic.

icecreamterror (author)shooby2009-09-05

"In the Victorian era, it would be extremely difficult to craft an altoids tin, an object which many people today consider disposable."

your so far off the mark there. The Victorians were the inventors of disposable tin packaging, just look at snuff and tobacco tins of the era, may were identical to the contemporary Altoid Tin.

srilyk (author)shooby2008-10-03

Actually, an Altoids tin looks just about exactly like it did in 1837, which, according to some is the beginning of the Victorian era. Interestingly enough, that's when Altoids originally started... Personally, I would have put the copper on the bottom, and left the top as it is.

Kazeem (author)srilyk2009-04-14

Wouldn't the beginning of the Victorian Era have been when Queen Victoria came to the throne in England... Surely not a very debatable point? Anyway, what you're saying is interesting and true, so good point and well made :P

shooby (author)Kazeem2009-04-14

Altoid tins may look exactly the same now as they did in the Victorian era, however, appearance and materiality are two different things. The use of an adhesive-backed copper sheet is not consistent with the Victorian era. If the Steam Punk aesthetic is desired, then don't cut corners by using modern materials to create the right 'look'. I guarantee that if the author had started off with tin and copper sheet and some rudimentary hand tools, a better object could have been created. Copper colored sticky tape, adhered to the surface of a modern Altoids tin? Come on, that just sucks, why is this even being discussed?

srilyk (author)shooby2009-04-15

Copper wasn't used that much (to my knowledge) in the Victorian era anyway - it was a lot more brass (which some confuse with copper). Heck, even pipes were probably made of lead back then.

shooby (author)shooby2009-04-14

The serial code and manufacture time aren't even covered up. The metal base of the tin still has a synthetic laminate on it. The more I look at this, the more astounded I am that anyone thinks this is the least bit Steam Punk, or Victorian for that matter.

ldhenson (author)shooby2008-12-10

Small hinged tins were certainly around in the Victorian era, and would have held things such as tobacco and pills. Victorian tins were smooth-surfaced and hardly clunky, brightly lithographed, and in fact not much different from basic tins of today.

westfw (author)shooby2008-07-08
  • I'd say this really isn't Steampunk.
Of course not, and I said as much in the comments. It's a hint toward easily creating things with a "steampunk look", at best...
dudes (author)2013-11-01

way cool man

noxvox (author)2008-08-28

People need to stop being so persnickety about whether this is steam punk. A way to look at this instructable is that it presented a possible use for a material (that cool copper tape) that a lot of us didn't know was out there. So it has performed, methinks, a valuable service indeed. A lot of people use electroplating and the like to achieve a look like this. This seems a lot easier. You could stamp a cool pattern on there for a more customized project. Thanks for a jumping point!

westfw (author)noxvox2008-08-28

Thanks! I'm glad somebody "gets it."

lredshoes (author)westfw2011-09-25

Thank you for the info; I get it and appreciate it.

kylara70 (author)2010-04-09

The larger ones would absolutely work on leather.  Just buy some and try them.  The only limit is how long the shank of the eyelet is vs. the thickness of the item you are attaching it to.  Here are a couple links to show you what I am talking about.

The next link has the ones I thought of for steam-punk or old fashioned style  Second row, second item. 

In both pictures you can see the shank would have limited usefullness for thicker items.  However, the measurements they are giving is the diameter.  I am sure you could find eyelets with longer shanks as well, just have to look.

kylara70 (author)2010-04-08

nope, not for knives.  They are not that kind of rivet.  Sorry.  They are more like grommets really, but there are eyelets now that are solid on top.  They would not work for something heavy like knives though.  They would work on paper or thin sheets of decorative metal.

kylara70 (author)2010-02-28

Victorian style rivets (in goldish, copper, brass) are available at craft stores like Joannes or Micheals.  They are called eyelets.  You can get them in a number of sizes from really tiny (for altoid tins) to much larger.  You can use eyelets to hold stuff together, they are awesome.  We use them in paper crafting but they would work for decorative uses. 

Jouda Mann (author)2008-07-24

Steve, the best way I can explain it is to tell you to watch two movies, possibly three: First, League of Extraordinary Gentleman, then Robots. If you want just a little more tweaking to the idea, watch the latest incarnation of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. While you're watching, forget the plot line for a moment, and look at everything in the background. All those neat copper, brass and metal faced parts, tools, and machines, those are great introductory items to give you a feeling for the steampunk movement.
Then tweak it up with the ideas that shooby puts forth a couple of posts down, and you get the general idea.
It's all about making it look very Victorian, and also giving a look that reminds one of the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Add decals such as you would find on Dr Pemberton's Pick Me Up (cures what ails ya!), or any flowery font that you would find in a turn of the century Sears and Roebuck catalog.
I hope this helps.
P.S. A shiny new quarter to anyone who can tell me what Dr Pemberton's pick me up is.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow used to be one of my favorite movies! Thank you for reminding me of why I seem to have deja vu whenever I see Steampunk: its because I remember it from that movie!

Temporalis (author)Jouda Mann2008-09-02

Dr Pemberton's Pick Me Up is what some call Coca-Cola. In these parts (Atlanta, its hometown) it's called Liquid Money.

Jouda Mann (author)Temporalis2008-09-02

Indeed it is, and i don't know what happened to me when I told Morngreim it was Dr Pepper. I now transfer the shiny new quarter to you, Temporalis. All dependdent upon the stipulations recited to Morngreim, of course.

Morngreim (author)Jouda Mann2008-08-10

Dr. Pemberton's pick-me-up is Dr. Pepper, isn't it? Yay! Will I receive it through the mail?

chocolate_zombie (author)2008-08-31

next time, try to find thinner tape or use foil and adhesive so that it picks up the raised pattern from the tin, it would be really cool if you could keep the altoids art on the box, just coppered over! and why must people be so persnickety about using proper materials? plastic caps make rad goggles, and if you paint them or cover them in leather, who's to care? i think this is a sweet idea.

you might be able to use tape this think if you burnished it down with a polished piece of metal. It seems soft enough that if you applied some localised pressure you could probably get it to show all the detail!

Moonkyst (author)Robotrix2008-11-06

It's possible to buy sheets of copper with an adhesive back if you don't want the tape look. Don't ask me where to buy it. I've had a sheet of the stuff for years. You could also cut a Victorian design out of the copper and lay it on first. Cover it with the solid sheet and then burnish it to bring out the detail.

Robotrix (author)2008-11-03

A few people seem down on this instructable, but i think they missed your point. The metal tape is an awesome idea for quickly changing the surface of a material. In fact, the banded look is very a propos, and you could even glue down some little balls or something to get that riveted look. I think it's a neat demonstration of a very good observation!

Sandisk1duo (author)2008-08-24

It has to have some brass screws, rust, silver paint, wear and tear, a couple rivets, maybe some small coper pipe (refrigerator coil width)

andrew13 (author)2008-08-20

what is steam punk?

Sandisk1duo (author)andrew132008-08-24

basically like this:

westfw (author)andrew132008-08-21

You have to assume that victorian style and technology survived despite having advanced considerabaly in capabilities. A most unlikely event; style never sits still that long, even when it doesn't have new technology to drive it.

I sorta prefer to think of it as making high-tech gear have the sort of hand-made "work of art" look that pre-dates the industrial revolution. But it doesn't seem that I have a very good handle on the whole concept, so don't listen to me!

The Girl Genius Comic abounds with examples, I think.

Two Raven (author)2008-07-27

I like the concept. Altoids, like RC cola was around in the Victorian era - so kudos on choice of product. Perhaps you can find some of the older adverts for them and incorporate?
For inspiration, take a look at Dave Veloz's amazing Mac Mini Mod:

dontno (author)2008-07-18

How about a pressure gauge and some pipe fittings.

westfw (author)2008-07-08

Heh. Slightly re-titled :-)

wolfmanthe (author)2008-07-07

steampunk is a style inspired by how the world would look if everything was powered by steam, there's a lot of materials that were often used on steamboats, so a lot of brass and leather.

westfw (author)wolfmanthe2008-07-07

Well yes, and then again no. I mean, there are half-a-dozen instructables for "steampunk goggles" that I don't see as having much of anything to do with steam power. It's more of a freezing of technology STYLE in the early "age of steam", without freezing the capabilities of that technology. Coincidentally, that's probably about the last major set of technology advances before Mass Production came along, and I suspect that "the look" has more to do with "pre-mass-production" than with "steam." (and "everything" IS pretty much powered by steam (where do you think electricity comes from anyway? Mostly steam turbines!)

acaz93 (author)2008-07-07

also throw in some nuts and bolts ,a spring could be another option

bytowneboy (author)2008-07-07

Rivets, my good man!

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