How to Make a Survival Kit from an Altoids Tin

Kate Pruitt's Altoids tins survival kits are attractive and handy.
Kate Pruitt's Altoids tins survival kits are attractive and handy.
Courtesy Kate Pruitt/Design*Sponge

Artist and blog editor Kate Pruitt was destined to become a tinnovator -- someone who finds new and creative uses for old Altoids tins. After spending her undergraduate years at Stanford University studying studio art and art history, she moved on to a career in store design. All the while, she maintained an interest in coming up with projects that use stuff that others no longer want. Her first crowning achievement in found object art and design turned out to be a decorative paper-covered fireplace. The project was published in ReadyMade magazine, and the article caught the attention of Grace Bonney, creator of the Design*Sponge art and design blog.

Bonney took Pruitt on as a do-it-yourself art and design editor at the blog. As such, she had only one mandate: Create four projects from a single source material each month. Her mission in hand, Pruitt has spent the last few years in search of new uses for old things. It was simply a matter of time before she ran into a pile of old Altoids tins in a secondhand store early in 2009 and realized that the tins had countless uses just waiting to be realized.

Pruitt is a practical artist; her design projects accentuate both the homes and lives of her readers. So, it makes sense that one of her Altoids tins design projects would be a series of survival kits. Who among us hasn't found ourselves in desperate need of a needle and some thread when a button pops loose? Who hasn't needed some dental floss and a bit of toothpaste right after the plates are cleared away during a lunch meeting? Have you ever had a nasty little cut that required some antibiotic ointment, a bandage and a couple of analgesics?

Sure, you could carry all of this stuff around with you in your pocket, purse or backpack, but those aren't always the most convenient options. Instead, you can use the easy instructions on the next page to make one of Kate Pruitt's Altoids tin survival kits.

Making the Altoids Tins Survival Kits

Kate Pruitt came up with three essential Altoids tins survival kits; you can make them for whatever your life needs.
Kate Pruitt came up with three essential Altoids tins survival kits; you can make them for whatever your life needs.
Courtesy Kate Pruitt/Design*Sponge

The phrase "survival kit" might sound a little scary, but Altoids tin survival kits are attractive, versatile and could really come in handy in a pinch. Here's how you can make one for yourself.

Kate Pruitt recommends using old-school Altoids tins with the printed logo for this project, rather than the tins that feature the logo embossed in relief on top. Pruitt sprays the clean tins inside and out with two coats of flat white primer and allows the primer to dry between each application. Here, you can either opt to keep the tins white -- which gives the dental and first aid survival kits a decidedly medicinal look -- or apply any other color of spray paint. If you choose to paint the tins further, follow the steps used for the primer application, including the drying time.

Once you've fully painted the tins, trace the stencil shape of your choice over a piece of contact paper and cut it out with an X-Acto knife. For her three survival kits, Pruitt used an extracted tooth for her dental kit, a red cross for her first aid kit and a button silhouette for her sewing kit. Stick your chosen stencil to the lid of the Altoids tin. Apply a coat of paint to the area left exposed by the cut-out stencil shape; Pruitt recommends you peel off the stencil from the Altoids tin before the paint dries to make sure that the painted edges have clean lines [source: Pruitt].

After everything's dry, fill your new kits with all of the stuff you'll need to make it through whatever life throws your way. Flip the tops closed and you're ready.

So, which survival kit does Pruitt find the most useful? "The dental kit. I always like to have floss on me whenever I need it," she says [source: Pruitt].

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More Great Links


  • Pruitt, Kate. "DIY project: Kate's miniature helper tins." Design*Sponge. April 1, 2009.
  • Pruitt, Kate. Personal interview. June 29, 2009.