Introduction: Magnetized Pocket Folding Key Organizer

I am tired of the same old-fashion key chains, and want an alternative that is light weight, compact, and simple to make and use.  I've seen some alternatives that are available on Kickstarter and here on Instructables(  but none that were quite what I wanted. 

The goal: Organize keys while reducing bulk and weight. Stop keys from jingling, becoming disorganized or causing discomfort. Keys needed to be easily accessible, and the organizer simple, compact, durable, and aesthetically pleasing. 

The design I settled on is similar in form to a folding pocket knife and holds 3 keys (a non-transponder car key, a house key and a garage key. This Instructable will be the third key organizer I've built. (I wanted to get the process worked out before I wrote it up). As a bonus with this build, I'm adding some neodymium magnets so that the keys can be hung from any iron or steel surface.
p.s. this is my 1st Instructable, please forgive any newbie mistakes nut still point them out so I can do better next time.

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Wood- I used 3mm thick cocobolo scrap I had around the house. 
Aluminum "U" channel- Found at most hardware stores. This was 10mm i.d. & 13mm o.d. and would be suitable for 4 normal thickness keys.
Rivet or 'Chicago-screw (‎)- I used copper rivets.
Washers- Thin washers with i.d. just large enough to slip over the rivet to use as spacers.
Neodymium magnets- Used so I can stick the keys to the fridge or hide them under the car by sticking them to the car's frame.
Epoxy- I used quick curing JB Weld, but any relatively fast curing epoxy should do. The dark color of the JB Weld matches well with the dark striations in the cocobolo, it contains iron so it becomes magnetic when used with the magnets, and I just happened to have some in the toolbox.
Keys- Be sure to use a spare set in case you mess up and wreck em.
Wood finish- I used Tru-Oil gun stock finish. But any finish that seals and protects the wood will work.
Sand paper

Saws to cut wood and aluminum. 
File or grinder to shape keys.
Belt sander (optional-I just used sandpaper of varying grits when I made my 1st key organizer).
Vise or clamps for gluing wood to aluminum.

Step 2: Cut & Shape Keys

The goal here is to 1st remove unnecessary material from the keys to both reduce mass and profile and 2nd to round the ends of all 3 keys so that they will have a smooth profile to roll around the rivet and push against the 'spring' (more on that later).
The two house keys are aluminum and are easy to cut & file, while the car key is brass and was much harder to shape. I used tin snips to remove the majority of the back end of the key, and then used hand files to round & shape them. I used one of the 'spacer' washers to help me gauge the roundness of the ends. 

Step 3: Cut Aluminum "U" Channel and Wood

Now that you've shaped your keys, select the longest key. Cut a section of the aluminum channel to be just a bit longer than the longest key. 
Then cut 3 sections of wood to laminate to the aluminum. The center piece should be just a bit wider than the base of the "U" channel width (i.e. about 14mm). The side pieces should be a bit wider than the height of the "U" plus the thickness of the center piece (i.e. about 17-18mm).

Hint: If possible, try to match the woodgrain so it will wrap seamlessly around the Aluminum.

Step 4: Epoxy Wood to Aluminum Channel

1st mix a small amount of epoxy. Spread it on the outer base of the "U" channel and on the center wood strip. I used a couple pieces of tape to help hold position until I got it clamped in a vise. After the epoxy hardened I used a belt sander to grind the wood flush to the sides of the "U".
I then epoxied on the side pieces in the same fashion. 
You should now have a rather ugly composite wood & aluminum "U" channel. It was at this point that I stumbled across a couple small neodymium magnets (8mm in diameter and 2mm thick) and had the belatedly brilliant idea to incorporate them into the design. I drilled holes into the wood on one side just large enough for the magnets and epoxied them into place. I then covered them with more epoxy so they would be completely covered.

Step 5: Sand & Shape.

Sand, sand, sand...
I used a belt sander to do the majority of the rough shaping. Wow, that went quick. The last two times I made these I did all the shaping with hand files and lots of sand paper. It took a lot longer, but looked just as good.

Step 6: Cut Slots to Make the 'Spring'.

Tape off the key/pivot end. Secure in a vice or clamp. Using a small precise saw (I used a coping saw) cut diagonally thru the corners to a depth of about 1.5-2cm. Be sure to only cut in one direction, from wood to aluminum. That should prevent any splintering of the wood. 

With both corners cut, you create a diving board like spring that will flex very slightly. This will be important to movement of the keys.

Feedback needed: Does anybody have any better ideas on how to create a spring mechanism? The spring is to hold the keys in the channel when they are in the closed position. The Aluminum by itself is too soft and would just bend, but when laminated to the wood it has enough elasticity to flex rather than deform. Still, its a crude solution and I'd love to hear some suggestions for improvements.

Step 7: Drilling Holes

1st the keys. I tape them together very well with the trimmed rounded ends aligned.  I use a washer to gauge where the hole should be. You want to offset the washer between 0.25 and 0.5mm away from the rounded end so that the hole that you drill will also be slightly offset. Secure the washer with another piece of tape. Go Drill. Use a bit slightly larger than your rivet diameter.
When you're done check that the rivet fits loosely thru the keys.

2nd the channel. Lay the keys down inside the channel, with the rounded ends flush with the end of the channel. Note where the hole in the keys  aligns with the channel. Mark it (I used sharpie). Select a drill bit the same size as your rivet. (hint: drill a test hole in scrap wood and check the rivet fit prior to drilling the channel, the fit should be quite snug) Place tape over the wood to protect it. Time to drill. When you are done, check the fit with the rivet, it should be very snug.

Step 8: Fitting the Keys

Place the keys in the channel with all the drilled holes aligned. If the keys only have teeth on one edge, they should be facing down in contact with the channel base. Push a rod or nail a bit smaller than the rivet thru the holes temporarily pinning the keys in place.

The hole thru the keys was drilled slightly offset. The keys are meant to rotate around the pivot. As a key approaches perpendicular to the channel, it should depress the spring slightly. Just enough to provide some friction. Be careful not to force the key if there is a lot of resistance, you might break or deform the spring. If there is too much resistance, remove the keys and file down the rounded end to slightly reduce the offset. Replace & retry until you get each key to the point of slight resistance. Your goal is to get opening a key from the channel to have a similar feel to opening the blade of a small folding pocket knife.

This step usually takes me 4-5 tries to get it 'just' right.

Once you're happy with the key rotation, place the washers between the keys as needed to keep the keys from being wobbly or rattley.

Step 9: Place the Rivet.

My rivet had a HUGE head, so I filed it down from 10mm to about 5mm in diameter. After getting the rivet in place through the keys washers and channel, do a final range of motion test for the keys. (I had to adjust one more time :-(   )

Now comes the time to peen. As a kid I always wondered about the mystery of the ball peen hammer. Now, I know. At least a little. I'm not even going to try to explain peening, since I learned how to do it from

So, carefully, carefully, CAREFULLY, peen away until you are satisfied that your rivet is both secure and aesthetically spread out.

Step 10: Sand, Sand, Sand Some More... and Then Finish!

Like the title says...sand. A lot. I started with 250 grit, then 350 grit, and then 400. Long story short though, you're basically done already and everything in this step is icing on the cake. I sanded until the wood and copper and aluminum was as smooth as silk.

Finally. I finished the wood with 3 coats of Tru-Oil. 3 very light coats. In this case less is more. Let it dry and...

Viola! Keys neuvo!

Thanks for slogging thru my 1st Insrtuctable!

a. I probably should have mentioned that it is a good idea to get differently colored keys when getting your key copies. It make identifying the correct key much easier. 
b. The washer/spacers are only needed if you don't fill all the space with the AL channel with keys. If I had narrower channel for this instructable, I wouldn't need them. And don't try nylon or plastic washers as spacers. They only last for a few months and then disintegrate as the rotating keys wear away at them.
c. Weight reduction. My regular set of keys weighs 45grams without the lanyard. The key sets shown below weigh in at: lower right 32grams, middle 35grams, top left (the one we just made) 42 grams. The magnets definitely increased the weight.
d. Doh! If you carry your wallet in your front pocket, you probably shouldn't carry your neodymium magnet enhanced keys along with it.  Time for a new credit card ;-)

Step 11: Post-Postscript: the Transponder Key!

There were a couple of replies to this Instructable that implied that a transponder key couldn't be incorporated into one of these organizers. Well, that got me curious to see how much harder it would be. Well, it was incredibly easy.
Step 1: Watch a video showing how to remove the transponder from your cars type of key. The one I watched is
Step 2: Go get a transponder key made (My dealer charged me $29 for a transponder valet key like the one in the video.Do not have them program the vehicle to accept the key yet, just in case you break it.) and remove the transponder.
Step 3: Make the key organizer, embedding the transponder chip as close to the key end of the organizer as possible. Embed in the same fashion that I embedded the magnets in this Instructable (but do not  use JB Kwik, the very high iron content could block the chip).
Step 4: Go to your dealer and have them program your vehicle to accept your new key. Viola! The new key organizer works fine.

This organizer has curly maple sides and a black palm back, is 2in long and weighs in at 34grams. It has my truck key with transponder, 2 house keys, and  neodymium magnets. And it looks cool.