How to Make a Speaker from an Altoids Tin

Altoids Tin Speaker

While Poage is a math teacher by day, he also has a background in production pottery, so his creative side is well-entrenched. He initially became interested in working with Altoids tins when he decided to make what's known as a "minty boost," a device previously created by another tinnovator. These are small, battery powered USB chargers that fit into the even smaller Altoids gum tins. The idea is that you can plug in a cell phone or iPod when you're on the go without electricity. During his research and development, Poage looked down and noticed that he had a small speaker from a Macintosh computer on his desk alongside a 9-volt battery and an Altoids tin. He found that the battery and speaker fit pretty well inside the tin and knew immediately that he had a pretty cool project on his hands.

The speaker itself is not unlike an ordinary speaker, it's just housed in an Altoids tin instead of a wooden speaker box. The lid of the tin has small holes drilled into it to allow the sound to escape. Then it's simply a matter of wiring the speaker and gluing everything into place. The power is supplied by a battery, just like the minty boost, and in the end the result is a working speaker that can plug into an MP3 player for listening out loud. So you can not only enjoy your music on the go, but you have an instant conversation starter.

Being a tinnovator, Poage is not happy resting on his laurels with the speaker tin. He'd like to eventually build an Altoids tin MIDI drum kit. Poage says:

"Based loosely on Tod E. Kurt's Spooky Arduino projects, the Drum Kit would consist of a number of piezo and other pickups that would represent various drums or other instruments. An AVR microcontroller would process the sensors and output midi signals to Processing which would use Java sound libraries to render the sound. Ideally the entire kit (power supply, microcontroller, cables, and sensors) would fit into an Altoids tin and the sensors would pop up and unfold when the tin is opened."

It's clear that Poage is passionate about his work with the Altoids tins. He sees the tin as both a design element and a constraint. This factors in to using both a creative and realistic approach when working with the tin. Poage says it best, "Respect both and hide neither."

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More Great Links


  • "Minty Boost Small battery-powered USB charger.", 2009.
  • Edwards, Terry. "What's Behind Those Little Tins We All Love?", September 27, 2006.
  • Poage, Matthew. July1, 2009.