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Wooden Key Grips

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Project by Ethan Sincox posted 2793 days ago 5086 views 65 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I picked this idea up from the last pages of an old Fine Woodworking Magazine (some issue from 1992 or 1993, I believe). I’ve probably made 20 or so keys in the past few years, and I’ve refined the process several times since the first one.

I used to use copper tubing for the key ring hole. That wore way too quickly, so I started using bronze spacers I found at a local hardware store. They were increasingly more difficult to find, so I started looking for something else to use and eventually came across brass tubing of the right diameter at a local True Value Hardware. That is what I now use and will probably stick with.

The wood varies according to the person whose key I’m working on. For example, my mother-in-law’s favorite color is red and her car is red, so I used Bloodwood. It has a great sheen to it when you polish it up to the wet/dry grits, but you have to be really careful to get all of the scratches out before you move up to the next grit.

The shape is sometimes totally random and sometimes very specific, again depending upon the person and what they want. I also have learned I have to restrict the key size to the construction of the ignition switch, as well. Some ignition switches have those metal tabs on them; I have to make sure the key fits between the tabs. (I’ve had to redo two keys because of that.)

I tend to use Gorilla glue with my key grips – partly because of the metal-to-wood contact. I know some people don’t like Gorilla glue, but these are small pieces and I’ve certainly never had a problem with them before.

I don’t really think this is a great money-making project, as I spend several hours on a key, if you total the time from beginning to end, and I don’t think most people would charge $100 for a wooden grip. I’m also unable to make keys for a vehicle if they have a chip in it, which is quite common these days. I have a few ideas I might start checking into, but please forgive me if I don’t really elaborate on them here…

Oh, my favorite key grip is one I made for myself out of Blackwood. When it is sitting on a table, it looks like a regular black plastic key grip. Someone has to pick it up to see that it is really a piece of wood.

Descriptions of the keys displayed for this project:
White Background – This is one of the last keys I’ve made. I wanted to move away from the traditional key shape. The wood is Vasticola, an Australian timber. I love how it looks like flames… I’ve gotten really good at “letting” the key into the blank of wood – the opening where the key comes out of the wood is really tight on this one.
Black Background – This was also a recent key I made from an Australian wood. This is York Gum – can you see the ghostly faces in it? Scarey wood…
Green Background – This is my wife’s key. I made it with Maple burl from Canada. She likes that she can grab her keys and find her car key just by feeling for the wooden grip.

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com





16 comments so far

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 2931 days


#1 posted 2793 days ago

Beautiful, & you don’t need a barn full of lumber either.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

765 posts in 2806 days


#2 posted 2793 days ago

Oh, I have that, too! This just keeps me from tossing even the smaller scraps… not exactly conducive to having the cleanest shop!

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com

View Don's profile

Don

2599 posts in 2809 days


#3 posted 2793 days ago

Ethan, these are great! I am assuming that you make these in two halves which are then glued together around the key head. Is this correct? I drive a Beemer which has a fairly large key head. I know it’s a smart key loaded with circuitry. I doubt that I could make one for it, because the result would be one giant key head.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!" http://dpb-photography.me/

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

765 posts in 2806 days


#4 posted 2793 days ago

I learned early on that to avoid having such a huge key grip I could use my Dremel and a metal cutting disk to trim the sides of the key off, almost making it a “tenon” of sorts. But yes, I “let” the metal key grip into one half of a piece of wood I’ve split in two. On some kinds of wood, like the maple, the line is pretty visible. On the Blackwood, however, you’d be hard-pressed to find the seam.

Yeah, yours is a very common situation I’ve run across lately, Don. Chips in key grip and chips in the key itself have make it pretty difficult to do this to most late-model vehicles.

But for older classic cars, this works quite well. I haven’t done a house key yet, though I assume it would work just as well…

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com

View RobS's profile

RobS

1334 posts in 2938 days


#5 posted 2757 days ago

These are cool. I like the different grains.

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View David's profile

David

1970 posts in 2771 days


#6 posted 2674 days ago

Ethan -

Very cool!

-- http://foldingrule.blogspot.com

View YorkshireStewart's profile

YorkshireStewart

1106 posts in 2533 days


#7 posted 2490 days ago

I’m continuing to find some real treasures amongst these back numbers. These are a delight!

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business. http://www.folksy.com/shops/TreeGems

View Blake's profile

Blake

3437 posts in 2506 days


#8 posted 2490 days ago

So cool. Favorited!

-- Happy woodworking! http://www.openarmsphotography.com

View Bill's profile

Bill

2579 posts in 2793 days


#9 posted 2490 days ago

Great job Ethan. I bet house keys would be a big hit, especially since they do not have that circuitry like the car keys.

Maybe you can also make a “key cover” that will fit a variety of keys. Someone could just buy it and slip it on themselves. If it is on a keyring, then it is not likely to fall off of the key. It would save you time and may make them more in demand.

-- Bill, Turlock California, http://www.brookswoodworks.com

View Karson's profile

Karson

34870 posts in 3032 days


#10 posted 2490 days ago

Dick are you talking to me and Frank about a barn full of lumber?

Great idea on the keys.

Do you give them as gifts for an unknown lock, and make them find it in order to get the rest of the present.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Eric's profile

Eric

873 posts in 2416 days


#11 posted 2309 days ago

This just randomly came up on my LumberJocks homepage today. These are VERY cool!

-- Eric at http://adventuresinwoodworking.com

View zwwizard's profile

zwwizard

189 posts in 2341 days


#12 posted 2303 days ago

This just came up for me too. I did some a few years ago, got the same idea for them in the same FWW article..
I was doing some interiors in some MG,s and Triumphs. Doing the dash’ s and knobs, Doing the keys worked right in.

-- Richard http://www.PictureTrail.com/gallery/view?username=thewizz

View Budgie's profile

Budgie

191 posts in 2570 days


#13 posted 2286 days ago

What a unique ideal. Very nice.

-- Bud, Central Square, NY, http://thepostnbeam.blogspot.com/

View Michael Brailsford's profile

Michael Brailsford

241 posts in 2226 days


#14 posted 2216 days ago

What a great idea, and they look great. Nice work.

-- Michael A. Brailsford

View mcoyfrog's profile

mcoyfrog

3038 posts in 2226 days


#15 posted 2215 days ago

Cool idea….

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

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