Robert is an author, artist, graphic designer, and photographer. He writes about Survivalism and Futurism.
I have been experimenting with building my own electronics and PCBs to create projects that will do interesting and fun things. Something I want to do is create a modular synthesizer. When I am close to completing a project, I want to have an enclosure to put it in.
I looked at the enclosures on eBay and Amazon. There are many cheap and simplified enclosures I can buy to put my projects in. However, I felt that many of them were too small for what I needed and for the price that I wanted to pay.
Cheap Enclosure Options at the Dollar Store
This led me to the dollar store. The more I looked around, the more possibilities for enclosures I found in the aisles of the store. I could buy something for a dollar that was much bigger than the enclosures available online. These are a few of those options I found.
- Tilted Candy Jar
- Clip-Lock Container
- Loaf Pan and Cake Pan
- Round Aluminum Pans With Lids
- Square Glass Tumbler
- Eyeglasses Carrying Case
1. Tilted Candy Jar
One of the first things I found while searching the dollar store was a glass jar that was tilted in a way that made it easy to take candy from it. It had a metal lid that is 3.2 inches in diameter. The opening of the jar is 2 1/2 inches.
I thought these dimensions were perfect because many of the simple circuits I want to create will be about the size of the lid. Because the lid is made out of metal it will be a good grounding plane. The inside of the jar would be a great place to house the wires and possibly a LED or two.
The most difficult part about this enclosure would be the fact that the base is made out of glass. If you want to have the power cord come from the base of the enclosure, you will have to drill a hole into the glass. This is not an easy thing to do. It can be done if you have patience and a super sharp drill bit.
2. Clip-Lock Container
These containers come in a couple of sizes: 3.5 x 5 and 5 x 6.5. They are great for small projects and have a lid that comes off easily but also has clips on them so they will not pop off or fall apart.
I like these boxes because they are small and project-sized. They will fit in your pocket. They are made out of plastic, which means they will not short out your circuit boards. You can easily create holes with your soldering iron.
The plastic is pretty cheap and may crack, the older the project gets. It's a great temporary enclosure while you perfect your PCB.
3. Loaf Pan and Cake Pan
I think my favorite enclosure is one made out of two metal baking pans. Each one is a dollar and with a little bit of creativity you can create a desktop power supply enclosure from it.
I thought the cake pan was perfect size to hold an entire loaf pan on top of it. You can drill holes in the handles of the loaf pan into the cake pan. These holes would hold bolts and nuts that will keep the project from falling apart.
The entire enclosure is made out of metal which means it will have great grounding capabilities. You can use it as a heat sink for certain parts of your project. I also like it because it has a front panel display that you can cut into to show meter displays or potentiometer knobs to control your projects.
I have seen many people use tool boxes two house their electronic projects. I did not know the dollar store had their own toolbox. It is a pretty cheaply made plastic toolbox but if you don't intend to take it into the battlefield or drop it off a ladder then it will probably do as an enclosure.
It is a large box that will contain many components and will allow for easy access when you need to make changes to your project. You do not have to bolt it shut or glue it closed. The latch is enough to keep the project sealed when you are not adding components.
If you can create your controls on the front of the toolbox you could, in theory, stack several of these toolboxes against the wall or in a corner to either store or to house different components of your electronics lab. I could even see an opportunity for a modular synthesizer made from these tool boxes stacked up next to each other.
5. Round Aluminum Pans With Lids
The dollar store is full of aluminum cookware. All of this these pans are perfect for cooking one time casseroles to take to family and friends homes. We don't really think of them as enclosures for our electronics projects.
I found a package of four 7-inch pie pans with aluminum lids that could be sealed in the lip of each pan. These will be great temporary enclosures for projects. I think these pans would be prone to damage. You can crush them just by dropping them or putting your hand on them the wrong way with too much pressure. If you are careful they would be perfect for proof of concept
What I like about this enclosure is you can get four of them for a dollar. They are cheap and you can use them in a modular project or by themselves individually.
6. Square Glass Tumbler
There are dozens of drinking glasses at the dollar store. They are all made out of glass. Many of them are heavy duty. I could see using these glass tumblers to create projects. You could enclose two halves of these tumblers together with a little bit of epoxy or hot glue to hold them together.
Again if you need to drill holes in the glass you will have to make sure you do it correctly. If you use the wrong drill bit or turn your drill the wrong way at the wrong time you will crack and possibly shatter the glass. There are plenty of how-to guides on the Internet showing you how to drill holes into glass.
I like the idea of having projects inside of glass because you can see the project itself. You can see the PCB and all the wires connecting each component to each other. It is a fun conversation piece to show your friends as you explain what your project does.
7. Eyeglasses Carrying Case
No one ever thinks of an eyeglass carrying case as an enclosure. It works almost as well as a candy tin. Nice thing about the eyeglass carrying case is it is bigger than the candy tin and will give you more room to work.
I think the only downside I can come up with for this enclosure is what it is made out of. It is usually a cardboard case with some kind of cloth lining. This might cause issues with the power running through your PCB starting a fire. If you can find and case that is made out of hard plastic then you are set.
I found plenty of other things that you can use as enclosures. If you spent a little bit of time in the dollar store, I'm sure you could come up with all kinds of other ways to house your projects, to display them in unique and creative ways. Other enclosure ideas include the following:
- cardboard gift boxes
- pet food dishes
- plastic oil pans
- cat litter boxes
- plastic buckets
- candy dishes
Many of these open-top containers, like the litter boxes or pet food dishes, could be bought in sets of two. You could glue them together, creating a container that is sealed shut. However, I like to have access to my components even after I believe they are complete. There are always the possibilities of having to replace a component or to add a new module to the project. You could think about creating some sort of hinge on things like the cat dishes—that way, you could open them up like a candy dish.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.