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Surprise Dad with the Smallest Toolbox Ever!

By Brenda Ponnay

Altoid Tin Mini Toolboxes for Father’s Day

Altoids Mini Tool Box for Father's Day

I’ve been wanting to craft with Altoid tins since forever. Have you ever googled all the things you can make with them? It’s mind-blowing. It makes me wonder if Altoid stays in business more for their tins or for their curiously strong mints. I vote for tins. But then I’m not a real big fan of curiously strong mints.

altoid tins

I thought about it and thought about it and decided these tins would make a great caddy for holding collections of little odds and ends. Like screws and nuts and bolts and stuff! Things that dads need. Why not make an Altoid-Tin Nuts and Bolts Screw Organizer! And THEN I thought of making it look like a little red toolbox! I love miniature things with a passion. Give me anything at five percent of its actual size and I will swoon. Seriously.

What's up small stuff?

While I realize that dads might not be into little mini toolboxes as much as I am, I still thought it would be a fun craft to do for Father’s Day. Why not? A dad who gets this as a gift could stick it in his big huge honkin’ toolbox and every time he lifts that lid to grab a socket wrench or something, it would remind him that somebody loves him enough to make a toolbox out of an Altoid tin just for him. Think of the effort and thought that goes into such a gift! Sure, you could just make a photo magnet and that would work the same, but then what fun would that be for all of us handy-crafter types?

Let’s get crackin’, shall we?

First off a disclaimer: I realize that this is not exactly a craft that you can do with your small kids. Yes, there will be sharp objects involved and some spray paint too. I recommend that you do this craft with older children (like maybe teenagers or very mature 10-and-ups) and let the little ones stand by and watch. They can add a card later or help you select the nails and screws to put inside. Do not be sad. I have a small-kid-friendly craft at the end of this post. If this is not your cup of tea, skip on ahead.

These are the materials you will need:

  • At least 2 Altoid tins
  • A metal eye strap. These are actually used on boats for attaching chains and clips and line, etc. We will use them for our little itty bitty tool box handles. Ask your local hardward store employee to help you find these.
  • Two blunt-ended very small sheet-metal screws. I don’t know the size exactly but you want them small enough to not take up too much room inside the tin.
  • 20-gauge beading wire or something similar
  • Spray paint for metal, one can of primer and one can of glossy red. (use outside or in a very-well-ventilated area)

These are the tools you will need:

  • a hammer
  • a big nail
  • a little nail
  • a flat screwdriver
  • wire-cutters

First you will need to gather your Altoid tins. To create the traditional double-decker model you will need two tins. If you want to make a bigger toolbox just add more tins. If the dad in your life is an auto mechanic with one of those really big roll-around style toolboxes then you might want to stack four or five, depending on how much time and work you want to put into this. The single model is still quite cute and functional in my opinion.
After you empty your tins of the Altoid mints, you can disassemble the lid from the bottom if you like, by simply prying open the simple hinges on the back with a flat screwdriver. I tried detaching the lids and leaving them attached and it worked both ways for me. Detaching them gave me better paint coverage but leaving them attached caused less wear and tear on the hinges. So it’s up to you.
punching holes

Next you will need to create the holes that you will use to wire the boxes together (if you are creating multi-drawer toolboxes) and to attach the handle. For the handle holes, use a large construction nail and a hammer to gently tap a hole through the lid. Measure first by scratching a circle through the screw holes of the handle with your large nail. Then tap your holes.

For the smaller holes that you will use to wire the tins together, use a small picture-hanging type nail or brad. It’s important that your holes match up, so do this carefully. Make sure that the holes inside the top tin match up with the holes that will go through the lid of the bottom tin. I actually tapped my holes through both tins at the same time and that made it a bit easier.


Now it’s time to spray-paint! Outside, or in a very well-ventilated area paint all your tins with a primer coat. Let that dry and then paint with the red. I did two coats. This part is easy enough. Just make sure you let them dry long enough so that you don’t create any tacky fingerprints.

some assembly required

After the paint has thoroughly dried, it’s time for assembly. Resist the urge to call your kid’s father for help. That will completely blow the surprise. You can do this. It’s not as hard as it looks. If you need a little help ask for a little foot to help you hold your tool box still. Just be careful not to stab that little foot with your screwdriver.

a little help

It doesn’t really matter if you wire the tins together first or attach the handle first. The only thing that matters is that you make sure your tins are facing the right direction. You don’t want your mini toolbox to open accordion style. For the wiring part you will need to cut a short length of wire, probably three to four inches. Lace it through the holes, twist and then bend your ends down and cut them short. Attach your handle with screws and a screwdriver. Be gentle though because you don’t have a lot of room for error. If your screw hole becomes too big, you’ll probably be stuck glue-gunning the handle on or just starting over.

molly likes it

And that’s it! You now have the world’s cutest Altoid-tin mini toolbox! Fill with your bits and bolts of choice and you’re done!


So let’s say you’re not into this whole girl-gets-down-and-dirty-with-manly-man-tools thing, you don’t want to use a hammer and a screwdriver and God forbid some wire-cutters and spray paint. Well, do not fret! I have just the craft for you! OR maybe you need a little something-something that the kids can make just for Dad.

happy father's day
Here is a downloadable pdf that you can print out, let the kids color and then use a decoupage sealer (like Mod Podge) to the top of your Altoid tins. Decoupage sealer is the easiest way to affix paper to the top of something metal. It goes on thick and white and can be a little scary but when it dries, it’s clear and holds better than contact paper.

If you don’t want to color my funky designs then use the plain template and make up your own cover. An old photo, a small rectangle from a map of a favorite place, your kid’s art… anything that can be glued down will work for this.


Have fun and give Dad my regards!

Brenda Ponnay
About the Author

Brenda Ponnay

Brenda Ponnay is a stealthy secret agent who juggles parenthood to her adorable daughter by day and freelance graphic design/illustration by night. Whether it’s painting, baking, drawing, mak...

Brenda Ponnay is a stealthy secret agent who juggles parenthood to her adorable daughter by day and freelance graphic design/illustration by night. Whether it’s painting, baking, drawing, making castles out of cardboard boxes or just doing the laundry with flair, Brenda Ponnay has learned that what really makes her happy is being creative every single day.

You can read about all her crazy adventures on her personal blog: Secret Agent Josephine.

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  • You are so darned creative. I aspire to the lightheartedness you seem to bring to things. Cheers!

  • Um, can I say that these are just adorable? I love Altoids, the mints AND the tins, and I have a few empty tins at home just begging to be made into tool boxes now.

  • These might be my favorite craft yet. (And I love! Mod Podge, though I once went a little crazy with the glitter-infused kind, and: yikes.)

  • This is the cutest idea! Thanks so much for sharing it!
    🙂 ~Erin

  • What a great idea! I think our dad would love to find a gift card to his favorite home improvement or tool store inside–wouldn’t a gift card fit perfectly in an Altoids box?

  • Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing! I love altering altoid tins as well…I have bought plain tins off of a website if anyone is looking for the plain tins without the altoid writing. Just so you know, I have no affiliation with this website, I just wanted to share for those who want to try altering tins!

  • Great idea and very well explained. I’ll be making a few of these for Father’s Day. Thanks for sharing your idea.

  • Great Father’s Day gift idea!

  • These are so flippin’ cute! I love the way the Altoids logo looks when the tin is a solid color like that. They should consider doing solid red for a promo. Looks fab!

  • Thank you for sharing!
    Looks like I have some shopping to do this weekend as I simply NEED these…

  • Natalie

    So cute! I’m totally making one (or four) and keeping them for myself for pins and needles and whatnot 🙂

  • Thank you so much! I want to make a bunch of these and keep them for myself, maybe some pink ones.

  • this is an awesome how-to!

  • This has got to be one of the best Father’s Day crafts I’ve ever seen!

  • So cute! I love them!

  • what a fantastic idea! i love it and a i know a lot of dad’s would love it too!

  • Those are the best! Where can I buy one!

  • Love this!

  • catastrophegirl

    a tip for making holes in thin metal containers [i learned it for tin can candleholders] without denting the metal:
    fill it with water and freeze it. then when you go to put the nail in it, the ice will hold the metal stable.

  • Fantastic. I wish I’d thought of it myself. Don’t you wish that Altoids would stop embossing their name on the tins? They used to make them that way. Some no name tins still do and those are the ones I buy, also not being a fan of little mints (or huge embossed names – other than my own).

  • I LOVE this idea. I do feel a bit dense though, that I seem to be the only person who is confused about the “traditional” double decker and wiring them together part? “You don’t want them to open like an accordian”, etc. If they are stacked, how DO they open? I looked carefully at all the pics I could and I can’t figure it out LOL. Maybe I’m the only one, but maybe not, but any clarification would be great! I love minatures too and I do think it’s the thought that counts and our family will have a fun time making these, and what a photo opp! He can show them off at work…

  • SAJ

    Hi! Sorry about the lack of photos of the wiring part. What I meant was that Altoid tins are hinged on the back so when you wire them together (through the bottom) you want to make sure that the boxes are both facing forward (hinges in the back) so that they open the same direction. I’m sure opening accordion-style is perfectly functional, just not very tool-box-ish in my opinion. I think once you are working with them it will make better sense. If not, let me know and I will try to help further! 🙂

  • Melissa

    OMG! these are so adorable!

  • WOW fabulous tutorial and your itty bitty tool box is wonderful in every way!

  • I want to make one something like this for my jewelry tools. Thank you for the interview. Now, on to collecting Altoid tints.
    I want to know where to buy the primer though. I have been searching to find locally, but failed.
    Brenda says: I bought mine at Ace Hardware (their brand). I think they would sell it at any hardware store. I hope that helps!

  • Gwen

    internal coffee cans work too

  • charlene

    super cute!! Great idea and great job! tfs!

  • Wow. I wish I collected Altoid tins. This is a super, super cute idea!

  • Brenda, I hope you don’t mind, but I added a link to my blog about your amazing idea. Why someone hasn’t thought of this sooner, I will never know. Here is the link
    It’s a new blog, and I don’t know the etiquette for posting about someone else’s idea, but I just loved it so much and want all my friends to see it. I gave you full credit and praises!! Thanks!

  • sheila

    I just finished reading the instructions for the tiny tool boxes and thought ” Why not put a piece of thin magnet on the bottom of the tins (the kind that come in sheets with the adhesive on one side) to keep those tiny metal things safely inside incase the boxes tip over” also you can use velcro between the two boxes if you can’t find or don’t have the wire to attach the two.. This will allow you the choice of separating the boxes if you want ..

  • Melissa

    I am so excited to make one of these for my dad (think he might get a kick out of it).
    I cannot for the life of me find anything similar to what you used for the handle on top. I tired all the local hardware stores, went to Michael’s craft store… not sure where to look next. Any suggestions?
    Brenda says: Oh dear! I wonder if they are common where I live because I live near the water. These handles (eye straps) are often used on boats to hold cords down. But I would think they would be at any hardware store because there are other uses for them too. Maybe a boating store? I googled and found a bunch of links. Hope that helps!

  • Keithy

    Oh!!! these are amazing!!!!! I wonder if a gift card would fit inside. Way more fun than a plain ol’envelope.

  • This is unbelievably creative and cute!!!
    Found you via ABC & 123! 🙂

  • This is unbelievably creative and cute!!!
    Found you via ABC & 123! 🙂

  • these are sooooo cute! i simple L O V E them!!

  • M

    How very cool! The smallest tool box I’ve seen since I’ve been in the business! Great idea!

  • lori

    This is fabulous!! I have a friend who quit smoking and goes through altoid tins like crazy – cool use for them – thanks!!!

  • Mik

    I like the mints and now I can do cool things with the tins, great idea.

  • Thanks for the great idea & tutorial!

  • I LOVE this idea! I’m going to have to start eating Altoids!!

  • That is the most clever idea I have ever seen!!

  • Sharon

    I love it. My husband is 6 ft 6 inches tall and he LOVES miniature things too.

  • This is adorable and awesome! Nice work. Thanks for sharing this!

  • If this isn’t the cutest thing then I don’t what is! I LOVE playing with Altoids tins but had never thought to do this. Thanks for sharing the pics and the step by step photo tutorial. I love this! Jan

  • Eileen

    Adorable! If you don’t like the fact that the Altoids name is embossed on the lid, you can purchase plain tins (cheap, with no minimum order) here:

  • rmaniac

    great idea, i love the boxes also

  • Jessica B

    how nifty!! i am working on a design project for class and wanted the package for my product to be a mini purse sized toolbox… you have inspired me!!! thank you for this awesome post! my li’l one and i can also do these for dad!! she loves helping him working on the truck!!

  • Anonymous

    My Brother-in-Law has been saving his Altoid tins for me for several years. Now when he asks me again what I am going to do with them, I can have a ready answer! In fact, I think the first one I make will go to him….
    Thanks for the idea and the wonderful instructions,
    Linda S. from Indiana

  • TERRIETOO2000`

    I love love this idea. Thank you so much for the idea, now I only have 2 questions.
    1-what size are the eye straps and how much do they run.
    Huggs to you all
    I’d say they were about 1.5 inches but I don’t have them on me anymore. We did this post so long ago. I think they were about $2. You can buy them at boating stores. –Brenda

  • Lynne

    Instead of sheet metal screws, use small nut and bolt pairs to attache the handle. Then if the hole in the top gets a bit too large, it won’t matter. You could probably use nut/bolts to fasten the boxes together as well.

  • Jocelyn

    Very cool project. I do altered tins all the time, but haven’t seen an idea like this before. Thanks for the pdf patterns.

  • Yay! Such a crafty, clever project! : )