How to Make a Belt from an Altoids Tin

Making the Altoids Tin Belt Buckle

According to Lord Kelvin, the Altoids tin must be attached to the buckle upside down so the contents inside don't spill out when worn.
According to Lord Kelvin, the Altoids tin must be attached to the buckle upside down so the contents inside don't spill out when worn.
Image Courtesy Lord Kelvin

Lord Kelvin says he stumbled quite accidentally into the world of tinnovation; he wasn't even aware that an entire subculture of tinnovators existed. Once he realized that the empty tin could serve as a treasure chest for just about anything, Kelvin decided to create art and fashion from Altoids tins.

He came up with a mental design for an Altoids tin belt buckle, but quickly realized he lacked the knowledge and the tools to create a belt buckle -- of any kind. After some tooling around on the Internet, he found a leather supply store that sells the essential ingredient in the Altoids tin belt buckle: the buckle back. All belt buckles, no matter the name or phrase on the front, requires a buckle back. This is the part of the buckle that actually fastens one end of the belt strap to the other.

To create his Altoids tin belt buckle, Kelvin drilled two small holes inside the bottom of the Altoids tin. He attached the Altoids tin to the buckle back using two tiny nuts and bolts. This simple act officially makes the Altoids tin a buckle blank -- the buckle's adornment -- in belt parlance [source: HHH Enterprises]. Lord Kelvin notes that the Altoids tin should be screwed to the buckle with the logo upside down; when it's being worn, this allows people to open the tin without spilling its contents. The hinged lid acts as a tray that keeps the contents inside. If someone screws the tin into the buckle back with the logo upright, the lid opens up, and whatever's inside comes tumbling out.

This actually fits nicely with Kelvin's artistic vision; one of the tenets of his found object art is to start by adjusting the object contrary to its original design. "With everything I do, I try to erase the memory of its original use," says Kelvin. "If it was designed vertically, then I use it horizontally" [source: Lord Kelvin]. The upside-down design of the Altoids belt buckle certainly fits that technique.

At this point, you already have an Altoids tin belt buckle. All you need to do is connect the belt strap to the buckle back, which now has the buckle blank attached to it, and you've got yourself a belt. Ever the artist, though, Lord Kelvin uses stencils and spray paint to embellish his creations.

Lord Kelvin's Altoids tin belt buckle is an easy first project for a budding tinnovator. Of course, one can also purchase them directly from Lord Kelvin himself.

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  • HHH Enterprises. "Belt buckle bases and components." Accessed June 28, 2009.
  • Kelvin, Lord. Personal interview. June 28, 2009.