How to Make a Flashlight from an Altoids Tin

Altoids Tin Flashlight

The infamous Altoids tin flashlight.
The infamous Altoids tin flashlight.
Photo courtesy Nick Brenn

Nick Brenn first got inspired to work with small electronic circuitry in an intro to electronics class during his freshman year of high school. He began working on small electronics projects and was in search of a suitable container. It needed to be a box that was sized appropriately and rugged enough to protect the circuitry inside. The Altoids tin fit these requirements and had a built-in clasp to boot, granting easy access for bulb and battery replacement in his signature flashlight.

The mini-flashlight is of the LED variety, which stands for light emitting diode. It's composed of simple components like a switch, some wire, a battery and the LED, all housed inside of the tin. The great part about the LED flashlight is its simplicity. It allows Nick to complete each one in a few hours, stretched over the course of a day with his other chores and the inevitable distractions of being a teenage inventor. Nick has been selling his lights at for several years and was contacted by Edmunds Scientific to carry his popular DIY flashlight kit. The kit saves Nick a lot of time and has garnered the interest of electronics enthusiasts.

Nick has proven himself to be quite the entrepreneur. When he struck his wholesale deal with Edmunds, he had to set up a DBA and create a tax identification number, which he did through his mother's nutrition business. The name of his company is NGB Enterprises. He named it like any titan of business -- using his initials. Aside from the components, his only implements are his Dremel rotary tool and his trusty Leatherman multi-tool. He's also hard at work on a light-activated Altoids nightlight, which will be available both as a kit and in completed form.

The future looks bright for this enterprising young tinnovator. A hobby has turned into a nice little business for Nick, and he's gotten a lot of enjoyment from selling his lights to people from, as he says, "California to Serbia." The Serbian order was even paid in Euros, a first for NGB Enterprises. He keeps up with other Altoids inventors on the Web site and has gotten feedback from a project curator from Make: Magazine who helped him refine his DIY kit. Nick plans to continue to work with the Altoids tin as his medium. He says it best: "Nothing competes with fresh innovation."

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • Brenn, Nick. Interview, July 11, 2009.