Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Curiously Chocolate Radio

I've been saving Altoids tins for years. They're full of project possibilities: how much electronics could you cram into one? What neat things will people see when they peek inside?

From the outside this looks like an ordinary Altoids tin. But what's under the cover?

Why, it's a shiny pocket radio!

I got the circuit board out of a cheap FM radio, but I added the batteries and speaker. (The original radio only had head phones.) It turned out to be very difficult to get the antenna to work right. The original radio used the head phones to double as a loop antenna, but the speaker I replaced them with doesn't have long enough wires and wouldn't get any reception with the metal tin surrounding it. I solved it by running one leg of the audio out the back as an antenna wire, and I grounded the other side of the audio to the metal case.

Now the radio gets better reception than it did even before I hacked it!

The chocolate brown theme of the tin reminded me of old wooden cabinet phonographs, so I thought it would be neat to make the radio so that you prop the lid open to use it, as if it were from that era.

The speaker is held to the lid with foam tape, which keeps it from buzzing. The circuit board is held on one side with foam tape and screws on the other side, and the batteries are in a Radio Shack AAA battery holder, also secured with foam tape. I used 190 proof Everclear to pre-clean the inside of the tin, so the foam tape would stick tight.

I'm pleased with how this project turned out. It's one of the few projects I've actually seen through to completion in years - a testament to the wisdom of choosing a simple project. And it's something I will actually use!

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