Altoids Tin Guitar




About: I am very geeky. I love to do hardware stuff like electronics and robotics projects, as well as software (coding and such). I am a full-time net / sys admin, plus I balance being a manger in there somehow....

I got this idea from the original Altoids Guitar posted by bumpus. When I set out to make my own Altoids Tin Guitar, I decided to make an Instructable out of it.


Step 1: Tools and Parts Needed

Parts Needed:

(1) Empty Altoids Tin
(3) Rulers, paint stir sticks, or I used banister rail spacers
(3) Guitar Strings (I used the top 3)
(1) Old BIC pen
(1) Some plastic (credit cards work well)
(3) 3/16 x 2 Eye bolts
(3) washers
(6) bolts
(1) piezo
(1) 1/8 mono jack

Tools Needed:

Drill with various drill bits
Gorilla Glue
Hot Glue Gun
Needlenose plyers
Small plyers

Step 2: Make Room for the Neck

Make sure to outline the areas of the Altoids tin before you begin cutting. You need to make one cut at the base of the tin for the first ruler to slide into (see pic, sorry it's fuzzy).

WARNING! Make sure you are cutting on the correct side. You want the nice Altoids logo to be displayed correctly when playing it. I am right handed, so I made the cut on the right side of the tin.

I used a drill to put holes in the box. Then I used a small knife on my multitool to cut the box out.

Step 3: Cut Holes for the Strings and the 1/8 Jack

Now you need to make holes for the strings. Again, mark the holes before you break out the drill. I used a 3/32 drill bit for this.

You also need to make a hole for the 1/8 jack. I used a slightly larger drill bit and then bored out the hole with a pair of needlenose plyers.

Step 4: Cut Up the BIC Pen

Now we are going to cut up a BIC pen. This will be used for the strings to rest on (instead of the side of the Altoids tin). You need to cut it down to about 1 and 1/2 inches in length. Then cut that in half and trim it down to fit on the end of the tin.

I also put 3 notches in the pen for the strings to rest in.

After that, get out the hot glue gun. Apply a nice layer of glue on the BIC pen piece and put it on edge of the lid, above the strings (see pic)

Step 5: Attach the 1/8 Jack and Insert the Neck

You need to attach the 1/8 jack before you insert the neck. You want to make sure everything fits correctly. I mounted the 1/8 jack and put an adapter in it to be 100% sure everything would fit.

NOTE: If the ground plug touches the case, this will not work.

After you know everything will fit, put some Gorilla Glue on the bottom of the case and slide in the ruler (only 1/2 way or as far as you can go without hitting the jack).

After that glue was set, I covered the whole thing with glue from the hot glue gun. Just to seal everything up and make sure the ruler will not come apart.

Step 6: Working on the Neck

Cut the plastic (an old Skype card worked for me) down to the width of the rulers. Bend the plastic. We are going to insert this between the top and middle rulers to guide the strings. You will want to make the bend a little larger than the height of your ruler.

Cut the other 2 rulers you have down about 1 inch smaller than what is sticking out of the Altoids tin. Get out the hot glue gun. Glue down the first ruler. Then glue the plastic down with the tab sticking up. Then glue down the final ruler on both the plastic and the middle ruler.

Step 7: Finish the Neck

Now we need to add holes for the eye bolts. Measure and mark before drilling. I used a 3/16 drill bit. You want to make a V with the bolts. Put two close to the neck and one on the end. Then, insert the bolts with the nut and washer on the top side. One nut will go on the bottom (you can add washers if you want more support).

Step 8: Wiring Up the Piezo

Break the piezo from it's case. Be careful not to damage the piezo in the process.

Once it is freed, wire it to the 1/8 jack. Follow the diagram that came with your 1/8 jack to find out which is positive and which is negative.

Before I glued it to the case, I drilled a very small (1/16) hole in the lid. Center the piezo on the hole in the lid and hot glue it down.

Step 9: Almost Done!

Now we just have to string it up. Insert strings into the holes on the end. Once they have all been inserted, close the lid. Loop each string over the BIC pen and then thread them into the eye bolts. I looped the string 3 or 4 times in the eye, then allowed the slack to twist around the body of the bolt.

To tune, just turn the eye bolts to add tension to the string. Then tighten the nuts to keep the bolt in place.

Then plug in and play!



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    186 Discussions


    Question 5 months ago on Introduction

    what are the measurements for the frets , or are they not important and string thickness


    8 years ago on Introduction

    does anyone know if this would work with nylon strings - does the piezo act as a pickup, or a microphone?

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    The peizo will pick up any virbation That's the beauty of it. SO nylon should just make a different sound You may love it.


    2 years ago

    you rock


    2 years ago

    awesome dude

    Handmade Penguin

    5 years ago on Step 9

    Hey, I have a question. I picked up a 1/8" male stereo to a 1/4" female stereo. Couldn't find it in mono on the 1/4" side, and want to be able to receive the amp plug.

    Is it the same? Don't know how to figure out positive and negative on it.

    2 replies

    Alright, so i did this all tonight for a physics project tomorrow lol. I just want to say you can fit a 1/4" monojack in the altoids can if you: A) put the hole in the right spot. B) are willing to have a slight bulge at the bottom. I used a 1/4" just because I didnt have an "adapter". If your Radioshack doesnt think they have piezos or monojacks, look the items up online and tell them the catalog number. When I went in person they had no idea what a piezo was and swore they didn't have any monojacks or piezos, but when I gave them the catalog number they got it for me.


    7 years ago on Step 9

    could I make it a bass? the strings would be hard on the whole thing, but would it still work?

    2 replies

    Yess it would but you would need to put 2 pieces of felt over the piezo to keep the staticition fibre vibrations to ruin the amp. i did it and i made a violyn electric guitar DRUMS lol that was hard and steel drums

    Old comment, I know, but if you want a bass consider using nylon weed-eater string. It'll be lower tension, thus less wear and tear, and the piezo will still pick it up because it senses mechanical vibration rather than magnetic field fluctuation like a normal pickup.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    If i would make one, i'd make it 4 holes and use bass strings
    And maybe reinforce things a bit


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Im going to make one a learn how to play heartbreak station on it hehe! :P

    Alex Mercer

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for this instructable. I like it and I will give five stars.


    8 years ago on Step 8

    Does it have to be a piezo, or will a small speaker also work? Do you use a piezo because the guitar is very high in pitch?

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    The piezo is what what picks up the vibration in the box. it acts likt the pick-ups on a electric guitar But way cheaper. 8 buck o's at radio shack.
    i built a two string I had to buy the piezo and the strings Everything else was in the house already.the fun is making it too. Then get a piece of pipe for your finger and play it like a slide and you'll love it. Serarch Diddley bow. and find out they are 1000's of years old.
    Just DO it and enjoy making your own music.