Copper Plated, Domed Altoids Box





Introduction: Copper Plated, Domed Altoids Box

About: Peter Valentine

This is a simple little project where you convert a typical Altoids Tin into a hammered, copper plated tiny box great for Steampunk and holding small gifts!


  • Altoids Tins, I like to use the large rectangular types, but the large round ones should work too
  • Paint Stripper (You may need to experiment to find the brand that works best)
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Natural Bristle Brush
  • Copper Plate Metal Finish {}
  • Coarse and Fine Steel Wool
  • 320grit sand paper


  • Ball Peen Hammer
  • Block of softwood
  • Plenty of Shop rags (old, WASHED white socks work great!)

Step 1: Strip the Paint

OK, we start by stripping the paint off the Altoids Tin. You will need a good paint stripper, there are many brands available at your local hardware store, but you may need to experiment to find the one that works best for you. CAUTION: Paint strippers are typically VERY POISONOUS! Be sure you do this step in a well ventilated area! And I HIGHLY ADVISE the use of disposable Nitrile Gloves to protect your hands. (I use Venom brand gloves because they are some of the strongest ones out their... you can find them on Amazon)

You will also need a disposable natural bristle paint brush(NOT FOAM!) which you will use to slather the paint stripper onto your altoids tin. Be liberal, make sure that the gel coats all of the area you are going to strip. (I do this in two passes, first the top, and then the bottom). Follow the instructions on the can, but typically you will need to wait for 15-20 minutes while the stripper works (longer when its cold).

Now, when its ready, put on your Nitrile gloves and grab a wad of coarse steel wool and begin scrubbing! Take care not to sling the gel about (remember poisonous!) but put some elbow grease into it and get as much paint out of the creases as possible! When you have stripped the majority of the paint off, switch to a wad of fine steel wool and dig deeper into the creases to get out the last of the paint. If you still have paint on the surface, slather on more stripper and do it again. Your goal is to get down to the bare metal.

When you have done both sides and have the bare metal exposed... clean off the stripper with Mineral Spirits and a clean rag.

Step 2: Peening the Dome

Now that you have wiped your piece clean, open the box and place the lid top down onto a block of scap wood and pick up your Ball Peen Hammer. With rapid light taps, begin peening the dome into the lid moving the hammer back and forth within the scrolled border impressed into the lid. The key here is consistent light taps, and lots of them!

You will notice that the center region will begin to dome as your hundreds of tiny dents begin to add up and stretch the metal, be sure to roll the lid so that the area you are hammering against is always touching flat on the wood when your hammer strikes.

Persistence is required... hundreds of tiny taps are needed to dome the lid, striking harder will only distort and even break the lid if you hit too hard! Every so often, be sure to close the lid and make sure it fits property, also check the symmetry of your dome, and adjust your taps to raise areas that seem too low. You want to spread your blows around evenly, distributed from the center out to the edges of the scroll work. Try not striking the scroll itself if you want to keep that decorative element in the lid.

Once you have the final shape, and are happy with the finish, you are ready to move on to copper plating...

Step 3: Copper Plating

Now before you plate the box, you need to prep the surface... a light sanding of the outer surface of the box with a 320 grit sandpaper will do the trick... be sure to fold the sandpaper and use the edge to get into the creases as much as possible. Don't forget to sand the sides and bottom too!

Now wipe down the box with a rag, and go to the kitchen and wash it with dish soap and rinse it very well. You are doing this to remove any trace of mineral spirits. Dry off the box and go back to your well ventilated work-space.

Now put on Nitrile Gloves again and take cotton balls or a scrap of cotton rag and wet them with the Copper Plating Metal Finish ( and then begin rubbing it all over the surface of the metal. THIS IS THE COOL PART! The resulting chemical reaction will actually plate the surface of the steel with a thin layer of copper right before your eyes! Keep wetting the cotton ball and rubbing the surface until you achieve the finish you want. (the plating reaction will consume the chemicals in the cotton ball so you will need more to keep the reaction going).

Note in the picture above how one side of the box has been treated while the other is still just bare steel.

Step 4: Finishing

Once you are done with your copper plating... I advise washing the box again in soap and water and thoroughly drying it. Now you can optionally antique the box as well (I like to use leather workers dark brown Gel Antique from Eco-Flo which you can get at your local Tandy Leather Factory). This helps to hide the remaining paint in the creases of the box, and gives the result a more weathered look.

Alternatively you can spray your box with a sealant to keep the copper from tarnishing... or even deliberately apply a chemical Verdigris if you desire!

And there you have it!



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    29 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I have removed paint from Altiod tins for years by putting the tins in a fire and burning off the paint. Much safer than poison root killer or sulfate-Pentahyrarte.
    I have even used my electric stove with very good results.

    This is great! Thanks for that link. The boxes you did look pretty dadgum fine. :D I wonder if liver of sulphur (used to patina silver) would work on copper?

    1 reply

    Liver of Sulphur works very well on copper. You can get a nice gunmetal finish by dipping an object until it becomes dark (multiple dips are better than one long one, which might cause the patina to flake off), then rinsing and brushing with a brass brush. On plated surfaces, though, you run the risk of brushing through the thin layer of plating to the original metal surface. If you use a chemical or heat patina, be sure to seal the result with wax (Renaissance Wax is what I use) or a spray-on lacquer (matte finish is best, to avoid an artificially shiny result).

    Cool Project. My 7 year old would love it. He loves to collect Altoid Tins and this would really get his imagination going.

    I sure WISH those tiny altoid mini tins had as much detail as the regular size tins, that'd look so cool! Awesome instructable!!!

    We are all limited by our imaginations individualy, but together there are no boundarys to what we can make!

    I was wondering if you have tried doming and texturing the lid before stripping it? It seems to me that this might make the paint easier to remove.

    I like this, would make a great container to go in my possibles bag. alternatively, I think you can get a good copper finish using root killer that you buy at Ace hardware...Copper sulfate I think is the main ingredient.just wipe it on the prepared metal and its CHEAP!!!!

    5 replies

    You can get a nice copper plating by adding the root killer to water (in a glass container only, not metal!), then wrapping your piece with steel wool and placing it in the solution for a few minutes. Use a soft brass brush to get a shiny finish; you can seal it with clear spray paint (either glossy or matte) if you like.

    At the forge, we just had it mixed, in glass, and wiped it onto whatever iron piece we wanted to give a copper sheen.

    Terrific idea...root killer. Did you try it? I would love to know whether it it worked as well as you surmised it would. Could i use the copper sheets that are used in gilding sets ? I happen to have some on hand...i dont see why not...

    Nice work, great for Steampunk items, If fluid not available use "Copper Sulphate", Observe all safety issues covered in Instructabes, Continued application will increase thickness. For petrol tank outside, a coating would wear off in a week with your knees rubbing. Only tried on steel items.

    Nice work, great for Steampunk items, If fluid not available use "Copper Sulphate", Observe all safety issues covered in Instructabes, Continued application will increase thickness. For petrol tank outside, a coating would wear off in a week with your knees rubbing. Only tried on steel items.

    Very, very nice project, valentinepeter! I'd like to try this myself! I think it would be an especially nice box for a man or a boy. If I make one, I'd give it to my grandson who is going into Boy Scouts this month after winning every single Cub and Webelo badge there is, and won the Super Scout award.

    Very cool! Could you use this on thin skin brass lamps?

    Do you think the Copper Plate Metal Finish would work on a motorcycle's gas tank?