When I was a younger, one of the things I liked to collect were skeleton keys. I liked their shape, the mechanics, and the uniqueness of them. Our front door was still fitted with a mechanism that called for a skeleton key, which I used much to my mother's chagrin when the modern key failed to open the lock completely. Fast forward a few years and one thing my mother thought I could use knowing of my growing fondness for making, was an empty cloche. It sat on a shelf collecting dust for years until now! Inspired by something I saw on the World Wide Web I made a nice display item (and for a huge fraction of the price).
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Step 1: Tools and Material
Needle nose pliers
Drill with 1/16th bit
Vise (but not needed)
18 gauge craft wire
Cleaning solution and rags
Step 2: Get Bending
I already had everything I needed except the wire which can be found at a craft store for a couple of bucks.
I cut the wire to various lengths so that the keys were offset from one another. I had 16 keys so I only needed 16 pieces of wire. (Pic 1)
I stuck a rod in my vise and used that and the pliers to get a nice rounded bend. (Pic 2) Repeat 15 more times. (Pic 3) Afterwards, I bent the rounded edge over and pressed it to make it flush...and repeated 15 more times. (Pics 4 & 5)
Step 3: Drill Base
Next, I drilled 1/16 inch holes in the base to slide the wires through. I had to redrill some holes to make sure they all went completely through. On the bottom I bent the edges over one by one and secured it with tape (for now) in case I wanted to adjust some lengths later. I was playing with the idea of using some epoxy but that seemed a little too permanent.
Step 4: Setting and Finishing
Once you have the wires positioned properly you can mount your items. I had to redo some of the bends because the heavier key's weight was bending all the surrounding keys to one side and did not look good. Last thing was to clean up the glass and display it.
I wanted to leave the keys in the state they are in. I didn't want to buff or paint them because I thought the age and antiquity of it would get lost by doing so. I wanted a unique piece due to the fact that these were my collection that I have had for years. Had I purchased some skeleton keys in bulk or online, I absolutely would have buffed/painted them to make them a solid decorative piece (like black to go with the base).
What I realized about making this and how easy it was (took me about an hour start to finish) was that it was not very limiting. Anybody can swap the keys out for watches, small tools, gears, rings, whatever was unique to that person. The only difference being that with heavier object, a thicker wire would be needed to support the weight. With that, I hope this quick project inspires you and thanks for looking.