This tutorial shows how to combine a mint tin and USB hub into a travel hub suitable for carrying in your laptop bag or as a decorative piece of tech. It functions as expected while assuming the appearance of a mint tin. When not in use, the cord tucks into the body of the tin.
- Mint Tin
- USB 2.0 Hub
- Small phillips head screwdriver
- Tape, pencil and ruler
- Rotary tool (dremel) with cutting bit
- Small hand files
- Hot glue gun. Can be replaced by other adhesives as it's only required to secure the hub into the tin.
Measure the ports on your USB hub so you can replicate them on your tin. Remove the USB hub from its housing. This is usually as easy as removing a screw or two then prying it open. Test your hub will fit into the tin without modification. If not, you may need to trim the hub with a dremel. The sides of many hubs don't contain any traces on the PCB therefore they can be removed without destroying the hub (see images). If you're hub is still too big, you can also trim the excess off the mint tin's lid which will be shown in a later step.
Place a piece of tape on the side of the mint tin you want your USB ports. Transfer the measurements taken earlier onto the tape. Take into account that it needs to be aligned when the hub is placed inside the tin therefore you may need to leave a little room on each side. I placed a cloth on my work surface while i cut the holes to protect the tin from being scratched. Use your dremel to slowly and carefully cut the ports. The cleaner the cuts, the better the finish for this project so take your time and let the dremel do the work. The smaller cuts may be difficult to make without scratching the rest of the tin. A good method is to use worn down cutting discs as they're smaller in size and capable of these cuts but as long as you score the surface enough, you can punch out each port with a screwdriver and finish with a file. Once you've made the cuts, clean up the edges with a hand file and test fit your hub. It's better to cut too small in this instance as you can correct small errors with a hand file. You may want to have a cloth or rag to place the project on during the cutting stages as this will help prevent the tin from being scratched on your work surface.
The USB cable needs to be able to protrude from the tin with the lid closed therefore a slot needs to be cut and/or filed. I placed my slot on the opposite side to the ports, closest to the lid hinge. You can either cut the slot with a dremel and finish with the file or just go to town with the file. If required, you can also trim the excess off the tins lid to provide more space. This is fine as long as you keep the notch that allows the tin to seal shut (see images). If you don't need to take that much off, just cut out a section in the corner to allow the USB cable to pass through.
I used a hot glue gun but other adhesives will also work. Add a moderate amount to the bottom of the hub and place in the tin. You may want to insulate the surface inside the tin with some tape but this depends on the tin you're using. Align the hub with the ports and allow to dry. The mint tin USB travel hub is now ready for use.