Wood Key-grip




About: I'm an Italian freelance structural engineer, graphic designer and photographer, and I'm teaching physics in Waldorf schools. I always investigate electronics, robotics and science in general, I'm a passiona...

Since wood is a beautiful material, I always love to make tools and objects from it. In this instructable you'll see how I modeled some little plates over the grip of my home keys, to make them unique and astonishing ;-)
The key's outline has been altered in each picture, to prevent the keys replication...

Step 1: The Material Source

For this project I've found an old wood baseboard, I'm not sure about the exact wood type, but it's rather soft and, most important, it has a very nice grain. Of course you can use any wood type, maybe you can obtain an old case, or an old object with whom create a much better grip for your keys or for other tools. In many cases wood seems old, ruined, ugly... but try to polish it and you'll be surprised.
Cut from the board two rectangular pieces a little bigger than the key head.

Step 2: The Bath

This step is not essential, and actually is useless to create the wood grips of my keys. But my first thought was to create a wood shell all around the key head. Then I decided to scratch out the wood until the key metal appears around the contour.
Leaving in water the wood for a few hours will make it very soft and you'll be able to push the two boards one against the other until they swallow the entire key head.

Step 3: The Clamp

In the first image of this step you see how the big bench vise could push the boards over the key. Leave it closed for many hours, until the wood is dry. Then you can apply the glue and let it dry. If the vise's arms are too narrow to keep all the wood pieces you need to equalize the pressure all over the surface with the help of a two metal plates.

The second image shows the circumstance in which you've already decided to keep the metal contour all around the key head. In this case the pressure to glue the pieces together is not very high, and you can use a little bench vise or a clamp, and instead of the metal plates, two wood blocks are good. Use a strong glue for metal, and remember to carefully clean and degrease the surfaces before applying glue over them.

You probably want to make one or two little holes on the wood plates before gluing them, this way you can remember the exact position of the key hole, as you see in the third photo.

Step 4: Sandpaper

When the two shells are fixed you can begin to cut and scratch them on a rough sand paper, until you have an approximate shape. Then change sandpaper roughness two or more times, to obtain a smooth surface. Make the hole with a drill, better a column drill.
You can smooth the border of the holes with a conical drill bit, a file, or with the same sandpaper.

Step 5: The Rough Outline

Make the same process with the other keys. Scratch the border until you reach the metal of the key. This metal is very soft, it's probably brass, so you can model it and change the shape of the key. Do it with the rougher sandpaper, and then change roughness step by step, you can polish it with the same wood at the end of the process.

Step 6: The Perfect Shape

Looking at the profiles of these keys you can see how  much you can play with shapes. Each key will have a different  hand-grip, and you'll be able to discern them with the only touch.

Step 7: Oil

When you're satisfied about the shapes, the holes, the roughness of the key, you can pour it in oil to let the wood keep the dark colour and highlight the vain.

Step 8: Wax

It's also good to polish it with wax. The more you'll rub the more the wood will become shiny and astonishing! Look at some detailed pictures of the modified keys..

Step 9: A Key to Nature

..and some pictures to show the natural new grip in its natural world ;-)

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75 Discussions


2 years ago

I love this. I will definatly be having a go. Thanks for sharing.


3 years ago on Introduction

I really love this idea - gorgeous work!

I know you said that the skeleton key was common in Italy for armor doors, but I can't seem to find anything like it online. Any way you could provide a bit more information on it? Maybe a brand, a model, etc. It's an amazing key and I'm planning on replacing my old mortise locks soon anyway. Thanks again!


3 years ago

This is a really cool idea... I've got loads of little wood scraps and I never thought to use them this way. I will definitely make some of these! I have one good suggestion: this is the perfect place to use a superglue finish- it's waterproof,hard,smooth,looks good. There's lots of tutorials out there on using CA glue (aka superglue) to finish wood, and it's very easy. Just wear gloves!!


4 years ago on Introduction

Wow. Seriously awesome work. Something so simple and yet so interesting. I create wooden handles for knives, I use brass pins that I make from brass rod stock to hold on the handles. I would apply this those keys. All you is to drill a hole the same size as your pin and be for you polish all you wood drive your pin in and then trim close to the surface. Then dome the ends of both sides thus causing a clenching action. This way you have something hold it really tight. Then file and sand, Ta-da.
Also what type key is that huge one and what is it for?

1 reply
andrea biffiMrE

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Those keys are very common here in Italy for armour doors..
Thanks for your advice, brass pins are a good solution!


5 years ago

I know you've been asked before, but what type of wax did you use?

1 reply

5 years ago

For the glue I used dap contact cement, it takes a few days to day but its holding so


5 years ago on Step 9

really nice, I'm definitely making some of these! :)


5 years ago on Introduction

Hey congratulations on being a finalist in the weekend projects contest! Not only are these plain neat, but they look so "high end". Great job!

1 reply
andrea biffiTomahawk92

Reply 5 years ago on Step 3

I first used double components glue for metals, but some shells detached and I glue them again with cyanoacrylate glue, which is probably better but it sometimes releases bothersome dirty gases.