Hacklet 29 – Altoids Mint Tin Projects

Altoids – they’ve been around since King George III was on the throne. These curiously strong mints have had a storied history, a copy of which is included in every tin. They taste pretty good, but most hackers and makers are more interested in the pocket-sized tin than the mints themselves. It may have been the ham radio operators who first used Altoids tins to hold their sensitive transmitter and receiver circuits. The metal case makes a perfect electromagnetic field shield. It wasn’t long before the tins found their way into thousands of projects. This week’s Hacklet features some of the best projects with Altoids (and other mint) tins on Hackaday.io!

meeting-timerWe start with [Chad Lawson] and the Networking Group Timing Light. [Chad] has a networking meeting where each member has two minutes to introduce themselves. As is the case with most meetings, people tend to be a bit long-winded, running well beyond their allotted two minutes. The timing light contains an RGB LED which changes from green to yellow to red as a speaker’s time ticks away. The timer is reset by simply tilting the mint tin. [Chad] is hoping that the timer will serve as a gentle reminder to keep everyone on track time-wise.


radio2Next up is [Rjpope42] and his AM/FM Transmitter Pair. [Rjpope42] loves vintage tube radios, and wants to send his own signals to his amber glowing projects. Wiring an external audio input to a tube radio is pretty easy, but nothing beats a simple AM transmitter for convenience. Small FM transmitters are commonly available to add an MP3 player input to cars without an AUX audio in, but their AM counterparts have become rare. [Rjpope42] has built AM and FM transmitters, each of which will fit in a Mint Tin case. The AM transmitter can run on 9V or 12V, and even includes a USB power output for charging an MP3 player or phone!

da31k[John Hamann] entered Distance Analyzer 3000 in the Trinket EDC contest. While he didn’t win, it was still a great project, especially since this is [John’s] first serious Arduino project. The idea is to use a rotary encoder with a wheel to measure distances. Think of it like a mini version of a surveyor’s walking wheel. The Pro Trinket counts the pulses from the rotary encoder, then converts this to a distance in feet. We’d love to see [John] continue on the project. An ultrasonic distance sensor would be a great addition for multi-sensor distance reads!


ttotpFinally, we have [colonwq] with TTTOTP, a pro trinket Time based One Time Password (TOTP) generator. [colonwq] used the trinket to implement the well-known time based one time password algorithm. To implement a project like this, you need a stable time source. The ATmega328 isn’t very good at this, so [colonwq] used a Dallas DS1307 clock chip to keep track of things. The actual code is displayed on a 4 digit 7 segment display. When the button is pressed, the first half of the code is displayed. Once the button is released, the second half of the code is displayed for several seconds.


Need more mint? Check out our curiously awesome mint tin project list!

Hackaday.io Update and MeArm Giveaway

Hackaday.io has a few new features, including @username and #projectID. If you mention someone’s username with an @ in front of it, that user will get a notification in their stack. The same goes with mentioning a project ID with a # up front. To celebrate this, we’re giving away a pair of  special edition MeArms. All you have to do is leave a comment using the features on this project log. Huge thanks to [Jasmine] for setting all this up, and to [Ben] for letting us hijack his project for the week!

That’s it for this Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

21 thoughts on “Hacklet 29 – Altoids Mint Tin Projects

  1. or for the really old phucks like me, a Sucrets can. Those probably predate Altoids by some years for us Yanks who don’t use the word ‘Kit’ or ‘Colour’. For what it’s worth, I see Sucrets has made a return to the metal cans. Relegate Altoids back to the Pier1 odd foreign candy isles where it belongs with the toffee

    1. Ha I remember Sucrets. I did not know they were still around but thanks for the tip :) As a side note, many of these kids shops (5 below and even CVS) have novelty candy that come in outrageous tins. I picked up 24 NES controller candy tins for 10 bux on a sale. They are pretty close to the same size as an actual nes controller so there is lots of room and even a handy d-pad and button holes ready to be punched. Here is what they look like
      I had better luck with them than the Jelly Belly tins. That inner curve is a deal breaker. This is a fun thread.

  2. We don’t get Altoids here in NZ, probably not in most countries. We do get small flip-top Eclipse Mints tins, which are quite nice but a bit smaller… JUST big enough to squeeze 3 AA in parallel and a boost converter.


    Boost converter is just a 0.9 to 5v USB from china, wrapped in insulating tape, double sided foam tape and stuffed at the bottom of the can with a cutout for the socket, then a piece of spongy foam on top of that with a strip of copper clad connected for the positive terminals on top of the foam, a wire soldered inside the tin to the negative of the boost, and some solder blobs inside the lid for the negative terminals.

    1. I used one as a hand warmer. Placed a common 12vlt jack on one end, wired to a couple 5 or 10 watt ceramic resistors. Plugged it into the car power outlet for a few minutes. It would get toasty warm, unplug it and stick it in your pocket. Made a great Hot-Hands replacement for astronomy in cold weather….

  3. I remember buying loads of Altoids, Tic Tacs, and various other tinned candies just for the case. I’m not a fan of the mints so would give the contents to friends so it was a win-win situation. I even ask my friends and family to save their containers for me, since they would just end up in the trash anyway. The little tins are so utilitarian that I still have a shoebox of them for random uses I never would’ve thought of that might pop up in the future. I’ve used them for guitar and headphone amps, battery storage (insulated the inside first of course) when traveling, and even store components and cut component leads (never know when I will need a short length of metal to bridge a connection). To me using something in a way for which it was not intended is the definition of a hack and thus I consider candy tins a very useful tool in my inventory. That’s my 2 cents.

  4. All this talk of tins brings to mind a small handful of blasting cap tins the I acquired for my father in law. Other than holding a bottle of aspirin on my desk at work I’ve not come up with an appropriate use for them.
    Maybe a handful of saw dust and some random wires would be fun.


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