Magnetic Key Shelf




Problem: So, it's spring and time to clean up our house again. Like many people, we have a collection of car keys, house keys, work keys, wallets, cell phones, dog leashes, and other odds and ends that collect on a table inside our entry door. We have a shallow pewter bowl that collects all of those things that we need to get before we leave the house and it's always overflowing.

Solution: My wife noticed in a magazine a wooden shelf for sale at Meriweather Field Gear a wonderfully creative wooden shelf with embedded rare earth magnets for organizing the type of mess that we were dealing with. I liked the product but the particular shelf that they had available was only 12" and had only 3 magnets. I knew that I could make something more suitable for our space.

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Step 1: Materials and Equipment

Materials Needed:

24" x 3" x 1" craft wood board (red oak)

24" x 4" x 1" craft wood board (red oak)

(I think these were around $7 together)

3/4" spade drill bit


2 medium sized tension clamps

6 3/4" round x 1/8" round rare earth magnets - available from Magcraft through Amazon. Cost was about $17 with shipping.

Wood glue - Elmer's is what I used, but any brand is good for this

Elmer's Probond glue - nice specialty glue that I used to glue in the magnets

Sharpie (not pictured)

Tension clamps

Wood stain - I used MinWax English Oak and Antique Walnut

Polyurethane - I used Behr semi-gloss

Brushes or rags to apply the above

2 #12 3" brass wood screws

Wall anchors to fit the above screws if you're not putting this into a stud

3-5 standard 2" wood screws

6 #10 3/4" wood screws (1/2" might have been better but I didn't have any)

Step 2: Attach the Boards Together

My boards weren't exactly the same size so initially I had to cut 1/16" off of one board using my compound miter saw to make them the same.

Then you want to attach the boards together. I wanted the 3" board to be against the wall for a slight backer against the wall. The 4" board was attached perpendicular 3" board. I used plenty of wood glue and clamped them together with the tension clamps. I then moved the whole group over to my table vise. Be sure to place scrap wood between your vise teeth and your wood because you don't want to ruin your work before you begin. I then predrilled pilot holes for wood screws and screwed the two pieces together. Red oak is pretty hard so unless you're using a drill press be careful and work slowly. I used my drill/driver and it was a bit underpowered (I could also blame dull bits). It was also tough to keep things straight, but I succeeded.

Step 3: Magnets

I could have just attached the magnets with glue or screws but I wanted the sleek look of having them sunk flush with the wood. So, initially I measured out a midline along the bottom of the shelf. I drew out a light pencil line. I then used a metal 24" ruler and placed the magnets where I wanted them. It was convenient that these were magnets because they stuck to the ruler. I wanted magnets 1" from each end of the board and then evenly spaced them along the midline. This turned out to be 4 1/2" between the center of each magnet.

I then made a mark on my 3/4 spade bit at 1/8" up from the bottom of the flat part of the bit (not the point!). I did this on both sides so that as it spun I could easily see the line. I then bored out each hole to just short of the black line and tested each magnet for fit. Go slowly, it's always easier to go deeper, but it's hard to add wood back that you've already removed. Test often with a magnet. It's easy to remove a magnet that's in place with a steel screw or screwdriver.

Finally, I put a little bit of ProBond glue in each hole, placed the magnet in the hole, and screwed in one of the #10 3/4 screws being careful not to overtighten or drive the screw all the way through to board. It easy enough to wipe up any excess ProBond glue with a paper towel as it doesn't set immediately.

Step 4: Finishing

Initially I sanded the wood with 120 grit sand paper and then 200 grit sand paper. Then wiped it all down with a little bit of water to draw out the nap and then resanded.

I stained the wood with one coat of MinWax English oak water-based stain. This wasn't exactly the color I wanted, so I followed with another coat of MinWax Antique Walnut stain which really brought out the grain in the wood.

Finally, I treated the entire shelf with Behr semi-gloss Polyurethane. I put in pictures of what I'll call drying blocks which are really just scrap wood with nails driven through them. These allow me to treat the entire shelf at once and place them on the drying blocks to dry. I sanded in between each coat of poly followed with a tack cloth. There were a total of 3 coats of poly.

Step 5: Hanging the Shelf

At last I predrilled two holes evenly spaced in the back of the shelf. I then leveled the shelf and attached them to the wall using two brass 3" #10 wood screws. These were sunk flush with the wood. The brass screws were attached to the wall using appropriately sized wall anchors.

And, we're done! The final product looks sleek and is so useful.

I really hope you like my first Instructable!

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16 Discussions


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Although if you have a keychain debit card- I've only seen one in all my years- (today coincidentally is my birthday and I'm still sinking into the idea I'm getting old so no, I will not mention my age ;)) on my twin sister's keychain so they aren't all that common but they are out there- the magnetic strip on the keychain card can have it's data get stripped and no longer function so I wouldn't suggest someone with one of those use this key rack, but it should not effect anything else.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

I was also slightly worried about the effect the magnet may have on car key fobs. I've found an old magnetic knife holder designed for the kitchen which I was thinking about I bedding into the shelf to have one long magnetic strip as opposed to multiple different single magnets. Would a stronger magnet have an effect on the key fobs at all?


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Generally no because key fobs use RFID chips instead of magnets. A very strong magnet could potentially be a problem but you're talking a strong electromagnet not something "weak" like these ferro or ceramic magnets.


5 years ago on Introduction

I am going to ask what may be a newbie/naive question but why not get regular industrial magnets? My wife and I are having our house painted and looking for a new key/stuff storage solution. This may just be what we are looking for

1 reply

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Because because regular industrial magnets are surprisingly weak and depending on the weight of your keychains, the amount of keys on the individual keychains, weight of the lanyards (etc.), they may weigh too much for regular industrial magnets. Also, something as simple as the vibration of a door opening and closing could knock the keys down but the chances of this happening is negated with a stronger magnet.


5 years ago on Introduction

Aha! I've finally found a use for those old HDD magnets I've got lying around. Great instructable, Bannockburn!


5 years ago on Introduction

Very nice! I like the idea and the looks very much! Gonna try that sometime!