Rotor Key Ring




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Many moons ago, I saw a picture of an old (possibly centuries old) brass key ring that kept the keys in place with rotating discs.

After a long time of the idea noodling around in the back of my head, the construction suddenly clicked, and (after a few iterations), this is the result.

Step 1: The Things You Need

I cut the key ring from 3mm plywood, and used a piece of 3mm thick bamboo dowel for the axle, and a drop of wood glue.

The files you need to cut your own are all attached to this step as well, so you can cut your key ring out of whatever materials you like, with whatever tools you like.

Step 2: Assembly

When you have cut your pieces, press one of the small pieces onto the bamboo dowel. The ring is sized to be a snug friction-fit.

Then slide on the first of the notched discs, then the main loop, then the other disc and the last small ring.

As you can see, the axle was far too long to be useful. I roughly trimmed it, then marked it more carefully before dismantling the keyring and trimming the axle to the right length.

I reassembled the key ring, this time with a drop of glue to hold each of the rings on the axle (be careful not to glue the notched discs onto the axle - they need to turn freely).

Step 3: Using the Key Ring.

Most of the time, the two notched discs turn freely and don't line up.

  • With the main loop on the left, line the notches up on the right, and put the blunt end of the key into the notch.
  • Turn the key and the discs together, and the end of the main loop with thread into the hole in the key.
  • Keep turning until the key slides out of the notch and onto the main loop.
  • Turn the discs to misalign them again, and you're done.

Keep repeating the routine, and you can fit quite a few keys onto the main loop.

Step 4: Finally...

The original key ring I saw was brass for a reason - although this key ring works well, I don't think it would last long under normal use in plywood.

If you have the capability to make one in a stiffer, stronger material, I would love to see it. In fact, I have a full one-year Pro membership to give away to the first working full-metal version posted.

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21 Discussions


3 years ago on Step 4

Ten minutes, a hand punch (or drill), a file and a pair of pliers is all it takes. I had intended to rivet the whole thing together, but I don't have any 1/2" long rivets on hand. It turns out that my 2" diameter loop still flexes enough that a key could slip off past the closed washers. Reducing to a 1" diameter should reduce the slop enough to be fairly secure. I still don't think I'd trust this design when hanging keys from a belt loop or backpack, but it would hold up fairly well in a pocket.

2 replies

Reply 3 years ago on Step 4

Oh, that is brilliant!

Check your inbox for your proze!


Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for the membership! I did end up shortening the loop to 1" diameter, and the flex is now negligible. For others interested in making this project, the smaller you make the notches in the wheels the less likely they will be to line up and let a key slip off. Along the same lines, a bigger wheel will allow the notch to take up a smaller percentage of the outer diameter, further reducing the chances that both notches line up. Cheers!


3 years ago on Introduction

Don't forget the Full Metal Challenge in Step 4 - make the first metal version of the key, and post pictures, to win a full year's Pro membership.


3 years ago

Haven't had time go tinker and make mine yet...but a suggestion for anyone else attempting it. How about opposite polarity magnets in the rotating discs? This way you HAVE to hold them in place to get the notche to line up, otherwise the magnets will push them apart, thus ensuring the notches won't line up by accident. Will post pics when I can get to making mine, but hope someone beats me to it to see how it works!

1 reply

im going to turn this into a 3d printable file and go get some metal hardware ill post pics ..... soon MWAHAHA *cough* *cough* i mean meow .. meow.

1 reply

3 years ago on Introduction

Yes, this is great design. I have got to make one of these. I have some brass plate that will work perfectly for this. It's surprisingly easy to work with which I found out when I made a new trigger for one of my air rifles and then a steam punk keyboard. If I can find it in my garage, I will make this and post a pic also. Thanks for posting your design!

1 reply

3 years ago on Introduction

hmmm, I think I like this, I'm going to have to kick it around in my head for a few days then head down to the hardware store, I know ace carries sheet metal stock, not sure if their brass is heavy enough gauge.