If you have a key to something, enjoy traveling light, and like wearing a necklace, then this is for you. This is jewelry that earns its keep.
Before we begin, please note that the materials list can be really variable, depending on individual taste. I am using some trinkets left over from other jewelry projects, and some washers from the toolbox. The only things I needed to actually purchase was the chain and metal leaf solution.
My goal is to make a nice piece of functional jewelry on the cheap with minimal cash spent. So if you can scavenge bits instead of purchasing jewelry components, then feel free to modify or omit steps and replace components based on your budget and aesthetics. This project is a balance between 2 very cheap elements (the washers), 1 artistic element, (the trinket) the functional part (the key), and some colorant to unify it.
Whatever materials you decide to use on this, it works best to stack no more than 3 things on top of the key, and all the objects should be flat for this assembly to hang right.
1 house key
Sturdy necklace chain 20” or so long
1 or 2 flat trinkets or jewelry components under 2” long.
2 washers: 1 inch size, and 1/2 inch size. You can always use different sizes depending on your taste.
Metal gold leaf solution
A 1/2 inch split key ring
Small needle nose pliers
Optional metal alphabet punch
Step 1: Drill a Hole in the Washer
It’s a good idea to put down a little piece or wood under the washer so you don’t end up drilling through your work surface.
This is an ordinary 1/8 inch drill bit, normally used for wood in the power drill. Luckily, most washers have some zinc or aluminum content and won’t wreck your drill or bits if they are small.
A drill press (if you have one) is a lot easier to use.
Step 2: Coloring the House Key
You can also try using different substances such as enamel paint in a fun color. You can pretty much use anything designed to stick to metal for this treatment.
Also note that any paint or leafing will probably be scratched off with wear and use, but I think that will add to the overall industrial look of the piece.
It’s a good idea to put down some newspaper or used copy paper to protect your work surface.
Use the gold leaf solution to cover 1 side of the key and let dry, and then cover the other side.
I am not actually waiting to let this dry, so you will see a lot of fingerprints and scuff marks on it because I hate waiting.
I am also painting over the split key ring, and the large washer to see how it turns out.
Step 3: Wire Wrapping
I’m adding some craft wire to the key to give it some texture and a little more visual interest.
I am not actually any good at wire wrapping. I know there are excellent tutorials on how to do this in a really nice way, but I’m just going to fumble through this step and let you guys decide how professional you want your wire to be on this stage.
I’m also adding some wire to the large washer to give it a little texture, and tie it into the whole project.
Step 4: Washers and You
Optional washer #2
I don’t really like my wire wrapping job on the first washer, so here is option 2 using the same component.
It so happens that I have a tiny mini-alphabet metal punch, and I’ve never used it. These sets are not very expensive, and are a lot of fun to play with.
I should note that punching something into metal requires a very hard work surface. Punching characters into the washer had to be done out on the sidewalk, as the normal work table absorbs too much of the impact and the lettering wouldn't show.
I am using the hammer to punch in my house number, and make it look a little more like a found object.
Odd that the objects I actually find never look like this to begin with.
I may not be looking in the right places though.
Step 5: Adding the Clasp
Use pliers to apply a sturdy jump ring on each end of the chain with the clasp.
Whatever you decide to use for a necklace, it should be reasonably substantial because your house key will be on it. I’m using a chain at 20 inches for length, but you way want it to be longer to make it more comfortable when you’re unlocking something.
Step 6: Assembly
Using pliers, carefully open the split ring, and slide the house key onto it first, followed by the large washer, trinket, and lastly, the small washer.
Its is possible to use a large jump ring instead of a key ring for this, but I like to err on the side of durability when a working key is involved.
Slide the keyring of the pendant onto the chain and you're done.
Your necklace is complete, enjoy!