Before I start this Instructable, I should mention that this is just my process. You’ll inevitably come up with your own process and will probably decide a lot of the things I’m doing or suggesting aren’t for you. The important thing if you’ve never used Tinkercad before is to be patient with yourself. Working in 3D takes a little bit of getting used to and being able to move fast in 3D takes a little bit of time. The best way to get faster is to keep challenging yourself with little projects on a regular basis.
Step 1: Why Keys?
For such a relatively simple shape a key can have a lot of meaning. Opening, closing, secrets, knowledge, power, these are all reasons you might want to wear a key around your neck or give a key necklace as a gift. I collect antique keys, and I have several of the Locke & Key keys made by Skelton Crew Studio (these keys also serve as great inspiration). Some of my favorite book and movie props have been keys. There are several keys in Return to Oz. The winged keys in Harry Potter. Lin’s eponymous key in Tone Almhjell’s The Twistrose Key. and the list goes on and on. For real world examples, I love to look at the keys in the British Museum’s collection. The key I'll make in this Instructable feels a lot like the dwarven key to Erebor in The Hobbit.
A Quick Word About Tinkercad
I’m a firm believer that you can create anything you can imagine with Tinkercad. If you’ve never used it, after setting up your free account at http://www.tinkercad.com make sure you run through the Starters and the Lessons. There are also a ton of fun idea-sparkers in their Projects area. (Even some jewelry ideas!)
Step 2: Setting Up Your Workspace
I like to set my Snap Grid to .5mm or smaller to ease in aligning small jewelry parts.
The first thing I do is create a bit of reference geometry. I like to put a rectangle on the screen the approximate size of my final key. It helps me not get too tiny or too big with the details. I just drag it over my key design to make sure my size stays reasonable.
- Drag a Box shape to the workplane.
- Scale it to a height of 5mm a length of 70mm and a width of 30mm.
- Drag it off to a corner.
Step 3: Creating the Bail
Creating the bail. The bail is the piece on the center of the necklace where the pendant hangs. You can create your bail oriented sideways or oriented flat. I tend lay them flat for ease of 3D printing and then use a jump ring to attach the key to the necklace chain. There are Tube and Torus primitives that can also work, but I like to specify the hole size on my bail, so I use a Cylinder with a hole knocked out. (You'll notice that I don't group parts together as I go. I prefer to group at the end as I will often bounce around to different features and tweak their dimensions.)
- Drag a Cylinder shape to the workplane.
- Scale it smaller to a height of 3mm and a diameter of 5mm
- Drag another Cylinder onto the workplane and make it a hole.
- Scale it to 3mm. Move the hole so it fits in the center of the bail (you could also use the Align tool).
Step 4: Growing Out the Key
The big part of the key that you hold is called the bow. To make the bow, we’re going to use a Tube.
- Drag a Tube onto the workplane
- Scale it down to 5mm height.
The wall thickness, bevel, sides and bevel thickness are all values you can play with. My settings were: Wall Thickness 4, Sides 7, Bevel 0, and Bevel Segments 1. Be aware that any bevel greater than 0 means you might need supports on your final print. It also means you will need to move your bail up from the workplane so that it is centered on top of your key.
Step 5: Adding the Shank
Now we add the shank or stem of the key.
- Drag a Box shape to the workplane
- Scale it to a height of 5mm and a size of 50mm x 4mm
- Drag it to the bottom of your bow
Step 6: Adding a Collar
This next part could also be repeated along the upper part of the shank to add some variety. You don't have to go with rectangles as I have. You could add any shape and manipulate it to fit.
- Drag a Box shape to the workplane.
- Scale it down to a height of 6mm and a size of 3mm x 7mm
- Drag the Box onto the shank about ¾ of the way down.
- Copy and paste (or duplicate) the Box and move it below the first Box.
- OPTIONAL: Select both Boxes and copy and paste (or duplicate) and move them up the shank to intersection of the tube and the shank.
Step 7: Adding the Bit
The flap part of the key is called the bit. This part is ripe for customization.
- Drag a Box shape to the workplane
- Scale it to a height of 3mm and a size of 9mm x 14mm
- Move it so that it has some overlap with the shank (this will be handy later)
Step 8: Key Wards
On a real key, the holes and notches in the bit are called Key Wards. To make them, you will simply drag any shape as holes onto the bit. I put a Heart, a series of Boxes and a Cylinder on mine.
Step 9: Put It Together
- Select all the shapes and group them by pressing the Group button in the menu bar.
- Export your design for 3D printing and download the file or send it directly to your printer.
This design style requires no supports as there are no undercuts or gaps between the print bed and the object. However, if you want a more realistic looking key you can do a few tweaks to your design that will make it a more complex print, but a more interesting-looking one as well.
Step 10: Optional: Smooth Out Your Design
If you don't like the dwarven look, you may want to round and soften your key's edges. I like to keep my original design and just copy and paste a new copy of it onto the workplane. You will want to un-group it after copying so you can modify each shape's settings.
- On the bail I added the full 2.5 bevel.
- On the bow I added a bevel of 1.5.
- Select the Boxes for the collar and upper bow decoration and give them a radius of 5.
- Select the shank and set its radius to 4
- Select the bit and set its radius to 3. This is why we pushed the bit into the shank. The radius on the corners would have made it look off if we'd connected them on the edge.
I usually leave the key wards alone as I like them to have a sharp machined look. Now that we've rounded everything, we need to let the collars be the only part touching the workpane and move the shank and bow and bit to be centered in them.
Step 11: Recentering the Shank and Bow
- Move the shank up .5 mm
- Move the bow up 1.5mm
- Move the bail up 1.5mm (to center it on the bow)
- Move the bit up 1.5mm (to also center it on the bow)
Select all the shapes and group them by pressing the Group button in the menu bar. Export your design for 3D printing and download the file or send it directly to your printer. This design will definitely need to be supported since it is now centered on the collar and bow decoration bits.
Step 12: 3D Printing and Finishing
Step 13: OPTIONAL: Lasercutting
You don't have to 3D print your key. You can also export it out as a .svg for use with a lasercutter. In this case, you wouldn't want to recenter your pieces, you'd want everything to touch the workplane. You can see in the photo that the left-hand key that is just touching the workplane exported cleanly while the key with the rounding and piece moved of the workplane has voids.
Step 14: Put a Chain on It
Add a jump ring and a chain and you're all set.
If you use this Instructable, I would love to see your keys printed or just the Tinkercad designs!
Judges Prize in the