Tag Archives: DIY

Answers, Not Questions by Colin Blake: Altoids Tin Flashlight



Feature image 2

By Colin Blake

When the last Altoid is consumed, the container is often tossed as soon as possible. However, even though the tin material is not resilient like steel, or as rigid as aluminum, it can be turned into a vessel for a great many things, one such project is converting the tin into a usable flashlight. If small-scale electronics, repurposing and recycling, along with testing your finger dexterity is of interest, this project is for you.
Making a flashlight from a Altoids tin will not yield a high-energy light in most cases. However, it will yield an interesting conversation piece that can illuminate a table to find missing keys, bring light to a dark corridor, and clarify what you just stuck your hand into, if the need should arise. More than that, it is just fun to challenge your abilities at making something.

Suggested prerequisite skills:
1. Basic soldering.
2. Basic direct current (DC) knowledge.
3. Rudimentary power-drill experience.

Total parts pic

Step one: amassing parts.

1. Two 5mm 12v indicator LEDs.
2. One three-amp toggle switch with rubber boot.
3. Two nine-volt battery connectors.
4. Two nine volt batteries.
5. An Altoids tin.
6. Various lengths of heat-shrink tubing.

This project should not cost a lot of money: Assuming no tools need to be purchased, this build should cost no more than $22 or $23. The most expensive category in this build is batteries: Two nine-volt batteries cost $10. For this build, all the electronics components were purchased through eBay.

LED measurement

LEDs for scale

Step two: drill holes for the lights.
These are small LEDs: the shank diameter is only 5mm, making them near the smallest LEDs available. Because of that, it is paramount to make these be nearly a press-fit into the body of the casing. Mark lightly and accurately the position of the holes to be drilled. Once marked, center punch the Altoids tin in the location the LEDs are to be. Once the case is center punched, drill a small pilot hole, 3/16ths of an inch or less, and gradually increase the size of the bit until 5mm is reached. Trying to drill the hole in one shot will likely tear the metal since tin is soft, made worse by how thin an Altoids tin is.
Drill pilot holes

Drill holes complete
Step three: drill a hole for the switch.
Mounting a toggle switch is personal preference, but here, it’s mounted opposite the lid hinge and in front of the battery bank for packaging purposes. This switch also has a 5mm shank, therefor, making the drilling process exactly the same as the lights.

Switch parts

Switch measurement

Test fit LEDs and switch
Step four: packaging.
This flashlight is being designed to run for hours at a lower luminosity than a regular light would be. Because of that, two nine-volt batteries are to be placed side-by-side and wired in parallel to boost amp-hours, leaving no room in the rear of the case for a maze of wiring. All of it must be centralized in front of the battery bank to avoid pinching wires. The gauge of the wires used is thin enough that it is likely possible to route wires above the batteries, but this light has no safety fuse and should avoid that risk.

Battery test fit
Test fit the batteries, LEDs, and switch to get a rough idea of where the wires will need to be routed.

Small lesson: wiring the batteries in series will double the voltage of the battery bank output. Using a multimeter, the voltage jump can be seen. Doubling voltage may immediately blow LEDs, reduce their lifespan, or if the situation is grim, cause a fire.

Single 9v voltage

Two 9v's in series

Step five: solder the connections.
Crimping wires isn’t an option on this build. Crimped joints are far too weak, bulky, and impedance-generating; all of which is unacceptable here. Dexterity and finesse are virtues here. In particular, soldering the leads of the wires on the switch is the most challenging portion of this build. Crimp-style, blade connectors exist to make this job easier, but they are rare, overpriced, and still a crimped union, which is weaker. Calculating the length of wire needed and wiring the switch outside of the tin is likely the best bet in getting a good soldered union.

Sorting positive leads

LED's wired to switch

Planning power and ground
Remember: Modern LEDs are almost entirely non-polar units. This means that although they have red and black wires coming from the internal circuit board, it doesn’t matter if red is positive or negative when being wired. However, check to make sure that is indeed the case for LEDs that are purchased for a project: back-feeding a circuit is sure to destroy it.

Circuit complete

Circuit complete 2

Order of current flow:
From the positive terminals of the parallel nine-volt batteries, power should flow to the switch in the off position. From the switch, which is still in the off position, direct the power to the LEDs: these are to be wired in parallel. Finally, terminate the grounds of the LEDs to the battery bank negative terminals. The circuit has now been completed and the lights should turn on if the switch is flipped.

Step six: odds and ends.
This is the the the time to look over all the work: Wiggle any wires to check for a loose connection, tug at the switch to make sure it is tight, ensure the batteries are connected, make sure the soldered joints are insulated with heat shrink, and of course, make sure the lights turn on.

XPress DIY: Dinner Party Decoration on a Dime

  • thewholething1.jpg
  • Other Stuff Collage.jpg.jpg
  • Other Floral Headband Collage.jpg.jpg
  • Other flower table Collage.jpg.jpg
  • GeoMobile Collage.jpg.jpg

Written and Photographed by Nicole Crittenden

Summer is here! Hopefully this means you will have a little more time to relax and enjoy San Francisco’s foggy climate (and maybe even a few sunny days). Whether you are escaping the chilly weather outside, or just need a bit of crafty inspiration, here are a few very simple “do it yourself” ideas to help you throw a fun dinner party. To remind me of summers back home, I chose to go with a floral theme. I started by making a flower tablecloth out of butcher paper and paints. This makes for easy clean up after your party and provides a touch of color to your table. If you are going with a simple theme, leaving the butcher paper white can look very classy, and is affordable.

For the hors d’oeuvres I chose to keep it simple and popped popcorn over the stove. I made simple sugar cookies and bought a few artichokes and berry candies. I also baked a simple yellow cake for dessert.

I had a few items lying around, like yellow and mint candle sticks, a huge paper crepe flower, polka dot balloons, fresh flowers and string lights. I set these on and around the party table. String lights and candles provide a romantic and cozy atmosphere once the sun goes down.

Mobiles add height and dimension and can be a conversation piece. I’m a huge fan of simple lines and geometric shapes, so I made this very easy mobile out of wooden dowels and small styrofoam balls. This is one of my favorite crafts because the designs and shapes are endless.

It’s always nice to be able to have your guests leave with something, even if it’s small. I decided to make flower headbands with inexpensive plastic headbands I found at Walgreens and artificial flowers I picked up at the craft store. I saw some really beautiful ribbon and decided to attach them to the headbands for extra embellishment. This is optional.

I finished by sprucing up the fiddle leaf fig and draping streamers around the picture frame. I then set up a few bottles of my favorite summer wines put on a nice record.

Happy crafting everyone!

DIY Headband:

Supplies: Plastic headband, artificial flowers, decorative ribbons, a hot glue gun, and wire cutters

Step 1: cut the flower stems to the same width as your headband.
Step 2: hot glue the stem to the top of the headband.
Step 3: continue cutting the stems and glueing them to the headband.
Optional: tie the ribbons in a knot around the headband and hot glue them in place.

DIY Floral Tablecloth

Supplies: Butcher paper, paints, and paintbrushes

Step 1: Mix your background colors together (I used forest green, tan, pineapple yellow, and white to make a pretty sage green).
Step 2: Use a feathery brush and long brush strokes to fill in the background.
Step 3: Paint yellow and pink dots on your paper in random order to make the flowers.
Step 4: Paint leaves in a bolder green than your background between you flowers and let it dry.

DIY Geometric Mobile

Supplies: Wooden dowels, styrofoam balls, and hot glue

Step 1: Poke a hole in your first styrofoam ball with the wooden dowel.
Step 2: Put hot glue in the hole and replace the wooden dowel, making sure it holds. Continue this step while you create your wonderful geometric shapes!

SF Staples: Dignified Dirty Dogs

By Nicole Dobarro

It’s 3 a.m. and it’s been a long night of inhaling cheap whiskey, tolerating the hoots, hollers, and enduring the judgement of walking barefoot in the Mission because those heels just aren’t worth it. It’s time to go home. But wait…Can it be? That seducing aroma of greasy, grilled meat fills the air as 19th and Mission Streets approach. As if a divine intervention has grasped you and cuddled you into a warm, fuzzy place. You have found the dirty dog cart and nothing has been, or ever will be, more perfect.

Rumored to have originated in Mexico then made popular in Los Angeles, the blessed dirty dog or danger dog (or street dog or Mission dog) has saved us San Franciscans. More often than not the dirty dog rescues us from ridiculous lines at Taqueria Cancun or having to wait for the OWL next to that guy being that guy. And from experience, Lyft drivers will more often let you eat your incredibly messy dirty dog in their car over that burrito because they know what’s up. Living in a society where Americans spend over $1.5 billion on hot dogs (only in grocery stores) last year, it’s safe to say the hot dog holds a place very close to our hearts. Even with the rise of the organic and local movement, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, hot dog sales have actually remained the same. Maybe it’s because of the growth of more health-conscious hot dog brands or maybe it’s because we’re simply addicted to them.

Though eating two to three dirty dogs while squatting on the curb can be incredibly thrilling, why not try it at home where you hopefully have plates and a chair? Cooking at home creates the opportunity to make a dirty dog tastier and dare I say it? Healthier. Bacon-wrapped hot dogs are not supposed to be healthy, but when you’re paying four to five bucks (depending on the hour) you just know the quality can’t be that great. This recipe doesn’t call for any specific brand of hot dogs or bacon. Just be aware of what percent of real beef the dogs are made of and reach within your budget. As for produce, buying local and organic is great but anything you can find at Trader Joe’s will work just as well. And don’t be afraid of baking your own bread! It’s surprisingly so easy that it’s silly to buy those rubbery buns that probably also have yoga mat in them.
Making your own dirty dog is a great excuse to show-off to your friends or justify eating five in one sitting, so good luck and happy munching!

Homemade Crusty Hot Dog Buns
(yields about 8 buns)3.5 C all purpose flour
1 C warm water
1/3 C oil
1/3 C sugar
1 yeast packet
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
pat of melted butter
crushed almonds
sea salt
sesame seeds
fennel seeds

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Combine and mix warm water, oil, sugar, salt and yeast packet. Forget about it for 15 minutes.
3. Beat egg and set aside.
4. After 15 minutes, slowly pour yeast mixture and egg to flour in a large bowl. Mix until well combined.
5. Transfer dough to a surface lightly covered in flour. Knead for 2-3 minutes until bumps disappear.
6. Portion dough into 8 even pieces.
7. Roll into logs(try to resemble the shape of hot dog buns).
8. Place on parchment paper or a greased baking sheet. Brush melted butter on tops of logs and sprinkle with crushed almonds, sea salt, sesame seeds and fennel seeds.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

100% all-beef hot dogs
thick cut bacon
baby bell peppers
pickled jalapenos
kewpie mayo

While the buns are in the oven, prepare the hot dog and toppings:
1. Heat up a greased grill pan. If you don’t have one, a regular pan is fine. If you want that extra crunch, heat up the deep-fryer. YOLO.
2. Wrap the hot dogs with bacon and grill all sides until the bacon is cooked and a nice charred appearance. Remove from grill pan and set aside.
3. Cut 4-8 baby bell peppers and one onion into strips. Grill them until nicely charred on grill pan. Be sure to use the oil released from the hot dogs to cook the veggies.
4. Slice homemade hot dog buns then get to assembling! First goes the bacon-wrapped hot dog, grilled onions and peppers, then top with pickled jalapenos and kewpie mayo if you want to go all out. Then don’t share and enjoy!

**Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker and Bonnie’s 30-Minute Hot Dog Buns, and through trial and error.

Simple Do It Yourself Gift Ideas

Words & Photos: Charlene Ng

It’s that time of year again. One of the most anticipated and, simultaneously, dreaded times of the year: the holidays. It’s a time for family, friends, and of course, gifts.

No matter which holiday is celebrated, holiday shopping can be a stressful experience. Not only is it just time-consuming, but it can definitely burn holes in the wallet without some careful planning. And as a college student, holiday shopping can be even more of a nightmare with the lack of time and money.

So as a holiday gift to you from Xpress Magazine, here are a few do-it-yourself gift ideas to save you the time, money, and torture of holiday shopping.

DIY Calendar Journal

As the year comes to end, it’s time to throw away those old calendars and bring in the new. This DIY calendar journal is a great gift for jotting down daily appointments!


  •  A small container of some sort. Preferably square or rectangular to fit the index cards (For this tutorial, a origami box was used)
  • 12 Postcards, cards, or photos These will be used to divide the months.
  • 183 4 x 6” lined index cards These will be cut in half, thus resulting 366 cards (One card for every day of the year! Including February 29!)
  • A date stamp (optional) Dates can be written out too!
  • A paper cutter or scissors
  • Twine or ribbon (For gift wrapping)


Step 1: Cut the index cards in half. 183 cut index cards will yield 366 smaller cards.
Step 2: Using the date stamp, stamp the month and date on the top of the index card. The dates can also be written out. By leaving out the date, this calendar journal can be reused every year!
Step 3: Trim the postcards, photos, or cards down so they will be the same width of the cut index cards. Be sure to keep the length a little longer than the cut index card.
Step 4: Organize the cut index cards by date and separate them by month using the dividers.
Step 5: Tie some twine or ribbon around the box and you’re done!

DIY Chalk Mugs

Mugs are great gifts for all ages and customized ones are even better. And what’s best about this chalk mug is that you can customize it all the time!


  • Porcelain mug
  • Pebeo Porcelaine Chalkboard Paint Do not use regular chalk paint (Porcelain paint can be found on Amazon)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk

Step 1: Before beginning, make sure the mug is clean and dry.
Step 2: Using the tape, tape off the designated region you don’t want to paint. It’s best not to paint the rim of the mug or where you’ll be drinking from.
Step 3: With the brush, apply a layer of paint on the mug. Go over white spots if needed.
Step 4: Before the paint fully dries, remove the tape to avoid peeling the edges of the paint.
Step 5: Leave mug out to dry for 24 hours.
Step 6: Bake mug at 300 degrees F for 40 minutes. It is best to avoid preheating. Rather place the mug in the oven as it heats up to prevent the mug from cracking.
Step 7: After the allotted time, turn off the oven and leave the mug in until it cools down to room temperature.
Step 8: Decorate the mug with chalk and it’s ready to hold your favorite beverage!

DIY Tea Bags

What goes better with a mug than some handmade tea bags? These DIY tea bags are a great gift for tea lovers, especially for those who enjoy loose leaf tea.


  • Coffee Filters
  • Loose tea leaves
  • Scissors
  • A needle and thread
  • Twine
  • Stapler and tape
  • Construction paper

Step 1: First take two coffee filters and align them. Cut a rectangle out of the center.
Step 2: Using the needle and thread, stitch the two filters together. Only stitch three sides together for now. Leave an opening to put tea leaves in.
Step 3: Fill the tea bag with loose tea leaves. The amount of tea leaves varies depending on the size of the tea bag. The tea bags are filled half way in this tutorial.
Step 4: Stitch up the opening of the tea bag.
Step 5: Folding over two corners of the bag, insert a 3 – 4 inch piece of twine under one of the corners. Then fold over the top and secure the string and bag with a staple.
Step 6: Cut the construction paper into a desired shape (rectangle, heart, etc.) and tape it to the other end of the twine. This will act as a tag for the tea bag.

Lemon Cookies

Somebody really smart once said, the way to someone’s heart is through his or her stomach. So why not give the gift of food this holiday season? These lemon cookies are an easy and delicious gift.


  • ¾ cup of butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • parchment paper or wax paper
  • ½ cup of sugar for rolling cookies

Step 1: In a bowl, mix butter and a cup of sugar together until the mixture is a creamy consistency.
Step 2: Mix in the egg, honey, and lemon extract
Step 3: Next add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir until dough forms.
Step 4: Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Step 5: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Form chilled dough into small sized balls and roll the rounded dough in the remaining sugar.
Step 6: Place the sugar covered dough onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.
Step 7: Bake the cookies for 12 minutes or until they achieve a golden brown color.
Step 8: Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Mixed Tapes and CDs

And if you don’t have any time or money for gifts, then a mixed tape or CD is the way to go! Mixed CDs are a great personalized gift for friends and family.


  • Blank CDs
  • Sharpies or markers
  • Awesome jams that say how you really feel!

Step 1: Compile a list of desired songs.
Step 2: Burn playlist onto a blank disc.
Step 3: Decorate the CD!