Making a Swivel Key Ring / Key Fob for Less Than $5

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About: I'm a hobbyist maker who is trying to pass on something of the excitement and passion for making things in the hopes of inspiring others

A swivel key ring has the keys piviot on a post at one end in much in the same way as a Swiss Army Knife. This has the advantage that you don't have keys jangling about in your pocket.



I made these key rings from a small leather off-cut I bought from eBay for a couple of pounds / dollars.

Bill of Materials

  • 6-7oz leather (about 3mm) thick (ish) 1 inch x 8 inches ( 25x200 mm) I used natural veg tan but you can use pre-dyed ( or even an old belt). Firm leather works best but softer leather will be fine, it will just have a different aesthetic. I purchased mine as an off cut from eBay, the piece I have was just a few pounds / dollars and was enough for a few key rings.
  • 1 Chicago Screw ( binding post) 3/4 to 1 inch tall (15 - 25mm) Aim for one where the post is 3mm wide or less so your keys go on OK.
  • Optional blank keying or "D" ring - chunky car keys wouldn't be practical inside ( see photo).
  • Dye / Leather finishes of your choice, across the 3 keyrings pictureed I used :-
    • Feibings Red Dye
    • Gum Tragacanth - To aid burnishing the edges
    • Carnauba Cream - protective wax finish
  • Washers to act as spacers between keys.

Step 1: Step 1: Measure and Cut the Leather

Cut a piece of leather that's about 1 inch x 8 inches (you could make it slightly shorter if you want a more compact key fob.

Use a coin or washer as a template to round off the edges.

Step 2: Step 2: (optionally) Stamp the Leather

To stamp the leather....

  1. dampen the leather with a sponge
  2. Apply the stamp

I have found that applying the stamp by hitting it with a hammer can be a but hit and miss. I don't have a press so I tried using a G-Clamp which was much more successful

Step 3: Step 3: Punch the Holes and Prepare the Edges

Use a punch size to match the post that you have. (mine is 3mm). I punched my holes about 1/4 in (6mm) from the ends. If you don't have a punch, you could drill the holes but take case as the drill could tear the fibers.

I beveled the edges prior to burnishing which is slightly different than shown in the video, for the keyering in the video, I forgot to bevel the edges and I do think the beveled edges gives a much nicer end result.


To dress the edges, I used Gum Tragacanth and burnished with a leather burnisher. It works will but if you don't have Gum Trag, just use water and if you don't have a burnisher then use a round piece of wood or something hard and smooth. Burnishers can be obtained cheaply from ebay, also look out for ones that attach to a dremel or drill.

If you have a chunky car key, you may want to add a "D" ring or standard round key ring to attach it to your new keyfob. If using a round keyring, you may need to cut or punch out a small semicircle of leather in the middle of each side to allow the keyring to sit correctly.(See the photo of the red key fob)

Step 4: Step 4: Dye the Leather

If you decide to dye the leather yourself, take care with the dye as it's very effective at dyeing skin :-)
I used a wool dauber to apply but I think you could apply with a cloth, you just may use a bit more dye. Keep applying until the dye is even and you have the depth of colour you are looking for. You can water down the dye if the colour is too strong.

You can just dye the front face but I usually dye the back and sides as well.

Once you've got the shade you are aiming for buff well with a soft rag.

Step 5: Step 5: Add Any Finishes

The key fob in these photos is finished with Carnauba cream which provides a protective wax coating.

Step 6: Step 6: Assemble the Keyring

To assemble....

  1. Gently fold in half
  2. Push on the Keyring or "D" ring if you've added one for a car key.
  3. Push the Chicago screw through the punched holes
  4. Add the keys with washers between as spacers as needed then screw together.

Hope you enjoyed this instructable

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