Introduction: Double-wide Altoids Project Tin

About: I have a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon and have been working in the field of Automation, Robotics and Embedded Systems for over 20 years. I've always enjoyed tinkering/inventing…

Altoids tins are great for all kinds of projects, but sometimes things won't quite fit into a single tin. You can always look for bigger tins or cases, but for a recent project (adding a headphone amplifier to my Altoids Tin Stereo Mixer) I chose to make a "Double-wide" version by attaching 2 tins and was very happy with the result.

This Instructable showcases pop rivets (also called 'blind rivets') as a way to fasten thin sheetmetal and other materials together, permanently. If you haven't tried them before, make a small investment in a kit and give them a try!

Naturally, there are multiple ways of doing things, so take these ideas and add your own.

Step 1: Materials

For this Instructable, you need the following materials:

  1. 2 Altoids Tins
  2. Pop-rivet gun and 4 rivets that are 1/8" diameter and 1/4" long
  3. 1/8" drill bit (and hand or electric drill)
  4. Electrician's tape
  5. Non-slip self-adhesive pad or 4 small self-adhesive rubber feet (optional)
  6. strong, sharp knife (optional)

Note that pop-rivet kits are available at most hardware stores and online

Step 2: Attach Tins With Electricians Tape

Place the tins back-to-back and tape them together with electrician's tape (temporary). Tape one side at a time and stretch the tape somewhat so that boxes will be held firmly together. One or two wraps around should be fine, this is only to keep things together while you work. You may need to align the boxes manually when you're done taping.

I chose to arrange both hinges on the same side, but you might prefer to have them opposite (so the lids would form a 'Z' when both opened instead of a 'W'). Totally up to your preference.

Step 3: Mark the Holes for the Pop-rivets

To make sure the rivet tool has enough room to pop the rivet, place the rivet tool in the corner and mark the position of the tip with permanent marker or scratch with a nail, etc. Do this in all 4 corners.

It's best to place your drill mark a little bit further out from the corner than too far in -- the tip of the rivet tool needs to sit flat on the rivet head (and the rivet needs to be seated all the way in the hole). If the hole is too close to the corner, you'll have to tilt the whole thing at an angle.

Step 4: Drill the 4 Rivet Holes

Make sure you use a good, sharp 1/8" drill bit and try not to press too hard when the bit breaks through. The best thing is to open the bottom lid and drill on a piece of scrap wood to avoid denting the lid.

Step 5: Insert and Pop the Rivets

Fit each rivet into its hole and place the tip of the rivet tool over the metal shaft. Make sure the rivet is seated all the way into the hole and that the tip of the tool is firmly touching the rivet and metal of the box. I've shown all 4 in place, but you might want to do this one at a time if you're not used to riveting.

NOTE: You might want to practice a few rivets on some scrap material if you've never used them before.

Close the rivet tool in several short steps, releasing the tool and letting the tip slide back to the bottom each time so it's in contact with the rivet head. This ensures that the rivet will make a tight fit -- if the rivet gets jammed at an angle, it's easy to have a loose rivet when you're done.

After a few squeezes of the handle, the pressure required will go up drastically, and the metal shaft will snap (hence the name "pop" rivet) -- then you're done. Hopefully, the rivet is good and tight.

Do this for all 4 rivets, then you can remove the electrician's tape.

NOTE: if you ever need to remove a rivet, just use a drill on the flat, head side of the rivet and it will pop right out. Aluminum rivets are easier to remove than steel.

Step 6: Cut a Hole for Wires Between the Boxes (Optional)

If you need to run wires between the two tins, you will want to create an opening. Since insulated wires and sharp metal edges don't get along, I like to fold the metal over to make a non-cutting edge. You could also drill a hole and fit a rubber grommet in the hole, or use electrician's tape.

In this case (no pun intended), I created an X-shaped cut by drawing the shape of the opening and drilling a hole at the center of the X. Then I carefully used a strong, sharp knife to cut the metal (standard disclaimers, don't cut yourself, etc). Then I folded the flaps over using pliers. You could flatten this further by trapping the flaps between 2 pieces of wood that fit into the tin (like short lengths of 2x4) and tapping gently with a hammer.

A much safer way to cut is possible if you have a Dremel with a thin abrasive cutting wheel -- this cuts through the sheet metal very easily and with a neater result.

Step 7: Add Padded Feet (Optional)

I didn't have any little rubber self-adhesive feet handy, so I cut a 1" diameter self-adhesive foam pad into quarters to make a non-skid pad for the bottom. But you may not want feet and your application may not have a bottom -- up to you.

Now you're done, go off and make something cool to put in your double-wide Altoids tin!