I remember reading a long time ago about how Altoid tins make great little project cases for small electronic projects and I never got around to trying it out. So having a couple of hours on my hands and an Altoid tin in my hands I decided to give it a go.

I’ve been playing around with a lot of synthesiser things over the last year so this was an obvious direction to go in. One of the initial ‘things’ that beginners are encouraged to build as they get into synth DIY is the Atari Punk Console. I jumped over this initially and went for the (vastly more complex) Noise Toaster (from MFOS) so maybe it was about time to try it out. I had a couple 555 chips on hand from a DIY neon light project and all the Atari Punk Console really is is a couple of 555 oscillators together, so this was perfect. I just needed to make it small enough to fit into an Altoid tin.

To be honest, this wasn’t super hard. I’m ‘good’ at compact and completely illegible strip board layouts that still somehow work, so this was just an extension of that. I used the above schematic (from here) as a jumping off point and made a couple small modifications to give it a line out instead of a speaker. The strip board layout ended up being something like this:

I predrilled the holes in the tin for the pots, jack and switch and fitted them before attempting to add the electronics. It’s a metal tin, so it’s a little conductive, so I needed to insulate the board with electrical tape before installing everything.

It didn’t work first time around as there was a nasty little short from my poor trace cutting, so the battery started to get rather warm. But I managed to find this almost right away, correct it, and then everything was hunky dory.

Things to improve for next time (or if I want to add a few more tweaks):

  • A speaker – I would have added this to begin with if I had one, but sadly I didn’t so I might just add it later – and cut some more holes in the tin to accommodate it.
  • A line level / volume potentiometer – A little reticent to add more controls to this, but it’s loud – especially so with my test speaker that doesn’t have a great volume setting on it (so it’s basically always at max…)
  • Mono switched jack for the output – I went with a stereo 3.5mm jack and wired L and R together so that it would play nicely with the stereo cables that I had for testing with the speaker, but really this would be fine and probably better with a switched mono jack like a Eurorack output. Then it could default to speaker when no jack plugged in and I could more easily patch this to something like Mikrophonie within my modular system
  • CV control – probably far too overcomplicated, but this could be sorta nice if I wanted this as a more eurorack / modular thing

And what about a crude sound demo to finish things off…

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