Easy Way to Identify Keys

About: Scott Kildall is an new media artist and researcher. He works at Autodesk, Pier 9 and is an artist-in-residence with the SETI Institute

I had this problem for the last year: a set of keys where each one looks alike.

I tried writing on them with sharpie, but the markings fade over time. Those rubber key-head enclosures were good at first, but they wear out, get scroungy and are hard to take off the key ring. I soon learned to identify the keys by the way each one was cut. But usually, I just guessed until I got the right one. But hey, I was right 33% of the time!

A simple solution occurred to me: drill holes in the keys to identify them. One hole for front door, two for the apartment door and three for the one on the deck.

This is an earth-shatteringly simple Instructable, but there are a couple tips worth reading.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Get Out Your Household Drill

There's no need for a drill press  — a household drill will work just fine. Put it on a low-torque setting. I used a 3/32" bit, which works great.

Step 2: Clamp the Key Down and Drill the Holes

Clamp each key down before drilling. It's not essential, but otherwise the key will spin around after drilling the hole, and you'll have to wiggle it loose from the drill bit.

Drill the holes for each key.

Step 3: Sand Off the Burr

On the back side of the key, you'll have a small burr from the drill hole. A few rubs of sandpaper will remove it (I used 150 grit).

Step 4: Back on the Key Ring...and Done!

It's that simple! Now, I can identify my keys by sight or by touch.

Be the First to Share


    • Book Character Costume Challenge

      Book Character Costume Challenge
    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Cardboard Speed Challenge

      Cardboard Speed Challenge

    8 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    nice idea, I use nail polish but it usually wear off after a while, yours is a permanent solution.


    5 years ago

    we have 1 key for our house and 2 for my mothers so what we did was face hers one direction and our the other the. put on a key ring so we know the odd ball one is ours since we use it the most. unfortunately this only works when you have 3 or more keys that only do 2 different things. be careful drilling holes in keys as I did that once for our old Mercedes Benz 300d when the rubber came off and it snapped the key when the drill caught so now it runs on a screw driver since new parts are more than the car and finding keys and matching ignition set up at pick n pull is non existent it seems.

    Uncle Kudzu

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea! Simple and a good solution.

    Can you find them by touch with the holes?


    5 years ago

    like the idea..will save some time and frustration


    5 years ago on Introduction

    ...and these are not my *actual* house keys (in case you were wondering). I'm aware of the photo-key duplication possibilities.