Jan 262011

Have you seen the price of fly boxes lately?  Even the smallest low quality fly box is now selling for $3.99-$6.99 and that’s BEFORE shipping!

Are you interested in standing up to “the man” and building a fly box for $1.99 or less?  Oh what a sweet minty revenge you’ll have when you build a high quality fly box out of materials most people would throw away!

Cool Honey = Cool Fly Box

Our sweet minty revenge comes from none other than the finest mint company in the world  Altoids.  Over the years I’ve built up a tolerance to these “curiously strong mints” while also collecting my fair share of Altoids tins.

WARNING!  Playing with steel can lead to serious cuts and perhaps the loss of life!  Always be safe when doing any DIY project!

Before we start there is one thing you need to know;  One day this project will rust and no longer be useful.  Altoids tins are made out of steel (the rusting variety).  We are going to try to cover everything with paint but eventually the paint will wear down to bare metal and that bare metal can rust.


The first step in this process is to separate the lid from the bottom of the tin.  You’ll need to lightly push the metal tabs from the inside of the box with a screwdriver.  Once the tabs are pushed out enough the lid will easily lift from the base of the tin.

Your new fly box with the lid removed

Once the lid is removed give the tin a light sanding with a fine grit sandpaper.  The light sanding will help the paint stick to the fly box and prevent excessive paint chipping.

Oh, so fine!

After a good sand and scuff you’ll want to take an old t-shirt or paper towel and wipe away any metal shavings that may have occurred from the sanding.


The next step in building your $1.99 fly box is giving it a light coat of primer.  I prefer to use the cheapest gray primer I can find.  For some reason cheap gray primer dries quicker, coats better, and lasts longer than its higher priced friends.

Since it is one of my favorite colors, meets the theme of recycling, saving the environment, and hugging trees, I decided to use the color green for top coat of paint.  I put two coats of green paint on the inside and outside of my new fly box.  Try to use a few thin coats of paint as thick coats tend to chip easier.

Minty green fly boxes

Next you’ll need to find yourself some good trashy electronics foam.  Luckily I have lots of this stuff laying around.

One block is all you need

One of these large pieces of electronics foam is enough to do about 50 boxes so you’ll have plenty of chances if you screw up.  I cut mine to size using the lid of the Altoids tin as a guide.  The foam was a little large but compressed nicely in the box to give me a fit that was tight enough to hold while also allowing me to move the foam around inside the box as needed.

Cut the foam a little wide

If you are nervous about the foam falling out of the box you can always add a little epoxy to secure it to the bottom of the fly box.

Back together she goes

Next it’s time to put the lid back on your fly box.  Carefully lay the painted lid back into the channels of the base of the flybox.  Use a piece of wood or plastic to bend the metal tabs back into the base of the box.  Be gentle.  If done right the wood piece will allow you to push the tabs back in without damaging your fresh paint.

Be gentle

Once the tabs are pushed back in try to close the lid of the box.  If the tabs are not pushed in enough you may have trouble closing the fly box.  Adjust as needed.

Check the fit


Lastly (my favorite part), fill your new $1.99 fly box with your favorite flies!

Low rent housing for classy flies

Remember, if you didn’t glue the foam you can move it wherever you want to accomidate a large variety of fly sizes.  Check out some of the pictures below to see how I used my two $1.99 fly boxes.

Two Altoids Fly boxes $3.98


These Altoids fly boxes are great and even hold the angry chicken popper


Wooly Buggers, Angry Chickens, O MY!

If you like these little boxes but are all thumbs when it comes to crafty things let me know.  I’ll throw a box together for you for only $5.  The extra cost will go to my dental fund and help cover the damage from eating too much candy!

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  • Awesome job! Want to make that paint job indestructable? Coat that baby with some Devcon 2 ton epoxy. You can get it at Walmart, people use it as top coats for crankbaits. No need to worry about rust then!

  • Pingback: $1.99 Fly Box – Functioning Fishaholic shows you how. « The Fiddle and Creel()

  • Where do I send the $5? That is an awesome project, but I am all thumbs when it comes to making stuff. Please glue my foam in place. If I can possibly lose something, I will. I can see it now – I get to the perfect pool, pull out my new Fishaholics fly box, and open it up to pick the perfect fly….from thin air. The fish laugh. I cry.

    That has to be the best deal for $5 since Subway started doling out sammichs for that amount…

  • admin

    Leave it to Owl to put me on the spot (: Give me a week to whip one up and she’s all yours.

  • Great project. I’d whip one up in a second if I were a fly fisherman. I wonder if I could find a larger tin for jigs? I guess that would have to come from a “Curiously LARGE mints” brand.

  • I’ve done this for streamers and it works great.

    If you want to make a box for small flies, try using some of the fridge magnet material instead of the foam.

  • Greg

    I love the Altoids tin. It’s the perfect size for a shirt pocket and great for keeping in the truck “just in case.” For a few bucks more, you can get a piece of foam used to make DIY customized Wheatley boxes. It has a self adhesive back. You can get 2 pieces and hold dries in the main compartment of the box and nymphs on the underside of the top.

    • The Functioning Fishaholics

      I’ve been thinking of checking out weather stripping foam since its thinner. Might be good for a couple of rows on top. It’s also self adhesive which would remove a step from the process.

  • Mapleleafman

    Also use a magnet strip in the bottom (or the top for that matter) to hold small nymps, spinners, etc

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