Introduction: Altoids Box Protective Housing for GoPro
So you have a GoPro or other similarly sized camera - you don't want to trash the housing it came with but you need to protect the camera against minor damage. For example - I like to record my steel wool spinning - but those sparks are thousands of degrees - they can destroy or damage your camera if sparks land on it or stick to it. These sparks will pit the glass in lenses, melt through plastic and even set plastic on fire.
So what to do? Altoids boxes to the rescue! Built entirely from scrap parts I had lying around the house. I even added a tripod mounting screw.
What you need:
Two Altoids boxes
1/4 20 T-nut
Small piece of glass or plastic
Step 1: Getting Started With "Sparky"
This is a really simple build - maybe an hour. Cut the backs from both boxes, leaving around 1/4" in place for strength. Use metal shears, Dremel tool - whatever works for you. Use a file to remove sharp points and edges.
Cut the face from one box - we'll call this the front from now on. The opening can be as large or small as you want, depending on your camera's lens position and size. Since the GoPro is wide angle, I made the opening pretty large and left enough edge to epoxy the glass to.
Next you want to cut the glass or plastic for the "window.". Plastic is the easiest, glass takes some skill and practice. I used glass and broke more than I was able to use. I've always sucked at cutting glass. Plus in hindsight, plastic would have been better as it's easier to replace - the glass was pitted from sparks after only a few uses. Either way, after it's cut, you'll want to round the corners for the best fit.
Now you have the main pieces - the window, and front and back halves. The next step is to glue the two halves together, and attach the glass. Mix up some 30 minute epoxy - you'll need enough for the two halves and the window. First we'll put the two halves together - spread epoxy on one side and clamp the two halves together. Make sure both doors open in the same direction.
Then glue in the window and clamp it. If you used plastic, there will be protective film on it. Keep the film on the inside, remove from the outside. You're going to glue the glass on the inside of the box. Put masking tape (low tack!) on the window outside to keep epoxy off the glass - make sure to cut the tape slightly smaller than the opening so the epoxy sticks to the window and not the tape. As you clamp each section, make sure everything is even and wipe off any excess epoxy. On the window, wipe towards the edges so you don't smear it on the tape. Once the excess epoxy is off the window, remove the tape - otherwise it may stick to the epoxy.
Step 2: Tripod Mount and Painting
For orientation, the top has the hinges. You can see in the photo I sanded the area on the bottom where the T-nut would be glued. I also sanded the T-nut face. Use a sharpie to mark the center of the bottom. We'll use epoxy to attach the 1/4 20 T-nut. If your T-nut has the "spikes" for securing it to wood, snap them off. I used a fair amount of 3-minute epoxy - since it's metal to metal, the bond can sometimes be difficult. Put a small line of epoxy around the face of the T-nut - not too much, as you don't it getting into the threads. Press it into place, then build up epoxy around it and out - this glue seam will have to take the stress of the tripod mount/weight of the camera.
After the epoxy has set, you can paint the box. This is optional. I painted mine bright orange so it would be very easy to see when on the ground. If you're going to paint, mask off the window - you'll see left some glass outside the tape. This way my not-so-straight cut is hidden by the paint.
Step 3: Fitting the Camera
As you can see from the photos, I used anything that would stick. Felt "feet", foam, insulation - whatever worked. The idea is to keep the camera snug - and also off the window - you don't want your lens touching it! You'll see I added foam to the window to keep the lens off of it. This part takes some time. You could use any type of foam - just make sure it does not touch controls - and that the case still closes! I also indicated lens position so I did not put it in upside down.
BTW, you can see the pitting in the glass in the photos above - I shot these after I used it a few times.
Step 4: Done!
I use a cheap $4 tripod with this housing, and I can have it just off the ground. I also included a sample video recorded with it.
As an aside - I did a similar build with an ammo box for my DSLR - only needed one box, but the rest was the same.