Introduction: Keychain Holder Using Scrap Material (with Lights)

Hi. This is my first Instructable. I am using pallet wood to construct a keychain holder. The Instructable is inspired by the many other Instructables making creative things. I will not delve into the acquisition of the wood. "The Pallet Bible" is a good start for obtaining the main material. I will also avoid too much detail in cutting, sanding and staining. There are tons of sources to help you with those steps.

Comparing this to other keychain holders on instructables and at local hardware stores, this is not a practical design. This is a gift; so it deserves a bit more effort. Happy Birthday MOM!!!!!

I would also like to thank my wife for helping with some of the finishing steps, feedback when things were a little off and editorial skills when putting this Instructable together.

The final keychain holder turned out to be 19" x 11" x 5". I used the two upper sections to hold the keychains. The bottom section doesn't seem practical. More keys could have been hung there, but I wanted a space for wiring, the battery holder and a big switch for the lights. I chickened out of engraving something on the front. I'll work on my artistic insecurities on another project. I did engrave on the inside of that covered area. That space did become more functional for hidden keys.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

  • Materials
    • Pallet wood
    • Wood Glue
    • 18 to 22 Gauge wire (I used scrap pieces)
    • LED lights (1 watt approximately 3V each) (
    • LED light holder ( (60 degrees lens with black holder for 1 and 3 watt)
    • Stain
      • Cherry
      • Classic Grey
      • Bombay-Mahogany (w/ polyurethane)
    • Polyurethane sealant
    • Solder (w/ resin core)
    • Battery holder for 4 AA batteries (maybe RadioShack?)
    • Hot glue
    • General purpose hanging hooks (1.25")
    • Saw tooth picture hangers (similar to Flush Mount Saw-tooth Picture Hangers)
  • Tools
    • Circular Saw
    • Belt Sander
    • Finishing Sander
    • Trim router
    • 8" drill press
    • Hot glue gun
    • Solder Station
    • Aluminum ruler
    • Steel Square
    • Triangle Square
    • Electric Planer
    • Electric engraver

Step 2: Structure Considerations

I don't have a table saw; so after cutting using a circular saw, a planer and belt sander were used to even all sides, edges and surfaces. Cuts were made in the shelves so that they would sit in the side supports. I used a trim router for this. After several measurements and two pieces that were thrown away, slots were routed into the side boards that support the whole structure (clamp straight edges to help guide your router). If measured properly, the front of the side support should overlap the small cut in the shelves. The back part of the shelves should slide into the slots on the side support. The back walls have a slot to fit into as well for both the side supports and the shelves. The only shelf that did not have a slot for the back walls was the middle shelf. I cut the final version of that shelf last so that I could match the depth of the shelf to what was already made. Doing this for all boards would have been more difficult and the slots provided flexibility for imperfect cuts inherent with an amateur like myself.

I strongly suggest that everything fits before moving on to wiring the lights. This will help line up wiring channels and decide where components are going to fit.

As mentioned on many other projects, cut your boards longer/wider than you initially think you need. With wood, you can always cut more, but adding back is pretty difficult. Just on this project, this caused several reworks on various boards.

Just for fun, I bought a small electric engraver from Harbor Freight. I was able to personalize this gift on the back side of the bottom panel. Wood is composed of fibers with soft material (called different things like matrix) holding the fibers together. If you keep this in mind when engraving, it becomes easier to control the movement of the engraver to form letters or images.

All boards were sanded at 80, 140 grit. Some of the surfaces that are intended to be handled more, like the switch, were sanded to 240 grit. Everyone says it, so I will too. I do not like sanding. I'm kind of obsessive about it. That does not help.

The back boards were stained with classic grey stain and then a couple of coats of clear polyurethane. Most of the other boards were stained with cherry stain and then received a coat or two of a Bombay-mahogany stain with polyurethane. One board on the front panel was stained a little lighter than the rest for effect.

I mentioned that I had to recut some pieces. It's a good idea to wait on staining until everything is together. Sawdust from sanding, cutting and routing may need you to add another coat anyway. I also like staining before putting everything together. This will let you cover all edges thoroughly and consistently. There will be no spots with missing or clumpy stain or polyurethane.

Step 3: Electrical Considerations

This a gift, and I didn't want wires pinned to the outside of this box. I decided early that the wires would be channeled through the boards themselves. I have an 8 inch drill press that allowed me to place some of the holes accurately, but for the depth cuts I was a little more restricted. There is a single channel going through the back of the structure. Except for some inaccurate drills that can be seen on the photo of the back of the holder, most of the holes are hidden.

The led lights were placed in holes that were created using a router. Holes were drilled from the back of the shelves to the light holes. I did have to throw one board out because I was not paying attention to the direction and distance of my drill. I was more patient and attentive after that.

Two lights were placed on each of the two shelves. I placed two lights on the top of the holder for aesthetics. Each of the pairs of LED lights were wired in series, with all three pairs in parallel to each other. The LED's were rated at 3.2 to 3.4 volts. Placing them in series places their maximum voltage at somewhere between 6.4 and 6.8 volts. Since the function of the lights is to illuminate keys a few inches from the source, a slightly lower voltage turned out to be enough for the purpose. The battery pack that I found in my shed holds 4 AA batteries in series. Alkaline batteries are rated at 1.5 volts, so this provides about 6 volts for the lights.

All lights were tested after soldering and before gluing. This is really important because there is not a lot of excess space to maneuver soldering equipment. Also, make sure to place heat shrink in place before soldering. If you forget, like I do too many times, you can also wrap the wires tightly in electrical tape. Since the light will not be moving and the wires will be hidden in channels, electrical tape will suffice.

Once the lights were soldered and tested, I used Elmer's wood glue in all slots except the bottom panel. I had not decided how I would switch the lights at this point so I wanted flexibility to work with the bottom panel. The whole structure was clamped and left to cure overnight.

Step 4: Further Electrical Considerations

I've already mentioned the battery setup. What I didn't mention is that this particular battery pack has a switch built onto it. I didn't want the battery pack to be a presented feature of the keychain holder. My solution was to use my trim router to drill out a slot in the front panel. I then cut a small piece of wood to about 2" x 3". To me, small pieces of wood are sometimes more dangerous to deal with than larger pieces. It's difficult to fit clamps onto them when cutting and routing. Use jigs that are very secure. If necessary, look for a local carpenter for help. It's better than putting holes in your fingers (like I did) or worse.

A small piece of wood was glued to the switch. The 2"x3" was glued to that small piece of wood. I used thin pieces of cardboard to separate the 2"x3" from the surface of the front panel. This allows it to slide over the front panel without scratching it.

I had scrap screws from an old TV that I ripped apart. Those were used to mount the battery pack to the back of the front panel. I placed the switch in the on position and made sure that the switch had full range of movement when turning the switch on and off. Up to this point, the wires from the upper shelves were longer than needed to reach the battery pack. Again, I wasn't sure exactly how the battery pack would be secured, but I also wanted to make sure that the decision on connections were made based on the best battery and switch situation and not the other way around.

After cutting the wires and soldering (I did remember to place the heat shrinks on the wire!), I used small construction staples to secure the wires to the structure. I then glued the bottom panel in place.

Step 5: Final Touches

I placed the led holders over the led lights. The holders are designed to be screwed onto a circuit board or other thin structure. Since the boards are at least a half inch thick, I decided to secure them using hot glue. Hot glue is stainable. The led lights do not heat up enough to effect the glue. And, as with the wiring issues, the led lights should not be moved. The structure is going to sit on a wall and do little else.

Hooks were placed arbitrarily. I basically thought about the size the hands that would be handling the keys that will hang here. The hooks are relatively lined up but the distance between the hooks is really up to you. If your family has small hands, then adjust for that. I did have three hooks on each level hanging down from under the panel above. About half way between the distance of those hooks, I placed two hooks on the surface facing out. This gives a total of 10 hooks for this structure.

Because I made the "battery area" so large, I also decided to place several hooks in that compartment. I hope to add images of the final battery compartment soon. The hooks in this area allow for my parents to store spares, rarely used or special keys out of sight.

One of the last additions was a strip of wood across the front of the bottom panel. This served two purposes: 1. It added a feature for the big panel at the bottom, and 2. It provided support for the switch.

The final touch was to hang the holder. Two saw tooth picture hangers were attached to the back of the holder away from the center (the wires are channeled there). Two nails were used to ensure that they could hold the weight (about 2 pounds).


DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2017-09-02

Nice display. I like the internal lighting.

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