Travel Altar/Jewelry Box DIY

Have you ever wanted to bring a little bit of sacred space with you while you travel? Over the past few years, I’ve come to appreciate the value of having some comforting or sacred objects while traveling. Today’s tutorial is about repurposing an Altoid tin into a travel altar: making a beautiful object out of something that many people would just throw in the recycling bin. If making an altar isn’t your thing – make a travel jewelry box instead! This repurposed tin could easily be used as a jewelry box that will keep your pretties safe in transit.

What you will need to make this:

  • An empty Altoid tin
  • Coarse sandpaper
  • Spray paint
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton pads
  • Thin piece of cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Aleene’s Tacky Glue
  • E-6000 glue
  • Pencil
  • Decorative fabric and paper to glue inside the tin
  • Flat charms, beads, buttons, jewelry findings, sequins, trim, or glitter to decorate the tin. I recommend using flat rather than round beads in order to decorate the surface as they will be easier to glue down.
  • Miniature sacred objects that are important to you to put inside: votive candle, rosary beads, stones or crystals, shells, little sticks of sage or palo santo. This is also a great way to hold earrings or small pieces of jewelry.

Optional items to take the project to the next level:

  • Painters’ tape (to protect any parts you don’t want painted)
  • Metal paint primer
  • Enamel paints instead of spray paint

Separate the two halves of the tin, and sand the tin with a piece of coarse sandpaper. It’s ok to leave a little paint behind, as long as most of it comes off. The reason that I recommend separating the halves at this point is to make it easier to get into the nooks and crannies of each piece while sanding and painting them.

Take the cotton pads and rubbing alcohol and rub all the grit off the tin created from sandpapering.

Spray paint the halves of the tin. I used silver Liquitex spray paint left over from my Mermaid Parade headdress, which can be used on metal. If desired, you could choose to use a metal primer paint on the tin first, especially if you want the paint to have a smoother finish than mine does. I also would recommend using painter’s tape to protect any parts of the tin that you don’t want painted. I suggest sticking with painting the outside of the tin only if you use spray paint as it can be quite sticky. Allow these halves to dry for at least an hour if not longer.

Outline the bottom of the tin with a pencil onto a thin piece of cardboard.

Cut out and trim the white cardboard piece you just drew as needed to fit the bottom of the tin. Test it inside the tin to make sure this piece fits before taking the next step.

Cut a piece of fabric out that is a little larger than the cardboard piece. You could just trace the fabric piece and put it into the tin, but I recommend gluing it to the cardboard piece so it will be more stable.

Glue the pink fabric to the cardboard using Aleene’s Tacky Glue.

Once the fabric is glued onto the cardboard piece it should look like this photo above. Trim any excess fabric as needed so it won’t take up too much space in the tin.

Glue the whole piece into the tin.

The finished bottom of the tin should look like this photo above.

Make a similar cardboard piece for the top half of the tin using the same trace-and-cut method shown earlier. In the photo above, I traced the white cardboard base onto a piece of paper I wanted to use for the top half. Feel free to use fabric or any kind of decorative paper to make yours. Velvet would be a lovely fabric to use for this kind of project.

Glue the paper top to your cardboard piece. Make sure to glue the side that you don’t want to use as the decorative side.

This photo shows what the finished top half should look like.

At this point, you’ll want to re-hinge the two halves of the tin. This can be a little tricky; you can manipulate the hinges using a small pair of scissors if needed.

Here’s what the tin looks like re-hinged. A word to the wise: I ended up removing the top inside trim because it got in the way of closing the lid. I suggest avoiding making the same mistake I did – don’t put anything decorative inside the tin that gets in the way of closing the hinge or lid!

Using the powerful jewelry glue E6000, attach your decorations to the tin as needed. This product is very strong and will make it more durable for traveling purposes. If the E6000 glue seems too strong smelling, you could experiment with using the Aleene’s glue instead, but it may not adhere the decorations as permanently as the E6000 will.

Here’s the finished tin to be used however you like.

Do you have any special objects that you like to bring with you on trips? Please let me know in the comments below!

About The Paper Pinup

Hello, I'm Laurel! I live in upstate Manhattan with my boyfriend Charles. I'm passionate about papercrafts, art journaling and sewing as "craft therapy" and bring a fresh and irreverent approach to my projects. I'm also a swing dancer and love vintage style from the 1920s through the 1950s.

2 thoughts on “Travel Altar/Jewelry Box DIY

  1. I love this idea! Your instructions are very clear. Now I’m off the computer to have some fun with glue and seashells.

  2. This looks great! Thank you! I had so much pleasure reading this article. I think I’ll try to make one. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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