Introduction: Altoids Tin Decoration, Pt.1: Get the Right Size

Altoids tins!  A man-made wonder!  I like using mint tins as my wallet - they're sturdy & practical. But I began to worry...what if I forget it's my wallet and I leave it somewhere? What if a mint-loving thief steals it away??  What if it falls into a box full of mint tins - how will I know which one is mine?????  ...These are the things that keep me awake at night.

So, my solution...decorate the dang tin!  Using the la la la laser cutter, I can get a very precise measurement, & once I make my file, I can use it over and over again to...DECORATE. ALL. THE. TINS.

Kewl. Let's do it...get yr stuff together...

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Altoids Tin

Laser Cutter

Step 2: Measure Your Altoids Tin

Let's measure our little tin here. This will help with the exactness of our decoration file.

  • Using a pen, draw an outline around the side you want to cover.
  • Using a ruler, measure the width of your outline. Write that down.
  • Take a photo of your outline, from the top (or use a scanner to scan the outline).
  • Import that photo onto your computer.
Lovely!  Keepin on...

Step 3: Create Illustrator File

Now, we'll create the Illustrator File:

  • Import the photo into Illustrator, to use as a guideline
  • Using the photo as a guide, draw a box
  • Use Effect > Stylize > Round Corners
  • Adjust corner radius until it fits the guideline
  • Go to Object > Expand Appearance (so you can resize it without the corners getting wonky)
  • Size the box to be the width of your actual measured guideline (the number you wrote down in the previous step).
Now, export file to the laser cutter!  Onward!

Step 4: Laser Cut a Test Piece

If the material you want to use on your tin is expensive, cut a test piece out of paper, to make sure your file sizing is correct.


Step 5: Lay the Test Piece on Your Altoids Tin

Place the test piece on your tin.  Welly well, mine fits pretty exact!  Cooooooooooool!  That means I can cut my fancy material now...lezzdoit...

Step 6: Laser Cut Your Fancy Material

I got a nice little piece of suede, so I'm using that as my final material.  So soft!  You could also use cork, or any material that has enough give to conform to the (often slightly bumpy) surface of a mint tin.

Step 7: Sand the Surface of the Altoids Tin

Scritchy scratch!  Use sandpaper to scuff the tin's surface. This will help the glued material adhere better!

Step 8: Glue the Material & Let Dry...Oh Wow!

Almost there...Take your fancy material, apply glue to it, and then place it over the tin's surface.  Smooth it out, & let dry.

After it's can add more decoration, or let it be, as is.  You can bedizen* the top, or festoon the sides, bedazzle it, whateva!

Now I have a soooooft, suede-topped tin!  Fancy Schmancy!  A Fancy Tin, for a Fancy Lady!

My next tutorial will be about using a laser to decorate this smashing beauty...stay tuned!


*Bedizen is a real word, meaning "to dress or adorn in a showy, gaudy, or tasteless manner."  Let's bring it back to popularity, shall we?  The more you know!

P.S. I made this at TechShop, a coooooool place for cooooooooool makers. Czech it out!

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