Wooden Key Grips

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Project by Ethan Sincox posted 01-03-2007 08:14 PM 7464 views 76 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I picked this idea up from the last pages of an old Fine Woodworking Magazine (some issue from 1992 or 1993, I believe). I’ve probably made 20 or so keys in the past few years, and I’ve refined the process several times since the first one.

I used to use copper tubing for the key ring hole. That wore way too quickly, so I started using bronze spacers I found at a local hardware store. They were increasingly more difficult to find, so I started looking for something else to use and eventually came across brass tubing of the right diameter at a local True Value Hardware. That is what I now use and will probably stick with.

The wood varies according to the person whose key I’m working on. For example, my mother-in-law’s favorite color is red and her car is red, so I used Bloodwood. It has a great sheen to it when you polish it up to the wet/dry grits, but you have to be really careful to get all of the scratches out before you move up to the next grit.

The shape is sometimes totally random and sometimes very specific, again depending upon the person and what they want. I also have learned I have to restrict the key size to the construction of the ignition switch, as well. Some ignition switches have those metal tabs on them; I have to make sure the key fits between the tabs. (I’ve had to redo two keys because of that.)

I tend to use Gorilla glue with my key grips – partly because of the metal-to-wood contact. I know some people don’t like Gorilla glue, but these are small pieces and I’ve certainly never had a problem with them before.

I don’t really think this is a great money-making project, as I spend several hours on a key, if you total the time from beginning to end, and I don’t think most people would charge $100 for a wooden grip. I’m also unable to make keys for a vehicle if they have a chip in it, which is quite common these days. I have a few ideas I might start checking into, but please forgive me if I don’t really elaborate on them here…

Oh, my favorite key grip is one I made for myself out of Blackwood. When it is sitting on a table, it looks like a regular black plastic key grip. Someone has to pick it up to see that it is really a piece of wood.

Descriptions of the keys displayed for this project:
White Background – This is one of the last keys I’ve made. I wanted to move away from the traditional key shape. The wood is Vasticola, an Australian timber. I love how it looks like flames… I’ve gotten really good at “letting” the key into the blank of wood – the opening where the key comes out of the wood is really tight on this one.
Black Background – This was also a recent key I made from an Australian wood. This is York Gum – can you see the ghostly faces in it? Scarey wood…
Green Background – This is my wife’s key. I made it with Maple burl from Canada. She likes that she can grab her keys and find her car key just by feeling for the wooden grip.

-- Ethan,

16 comments so far

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5072 days

#1 posted 01-03-2007 08:41 PM

Beautiful, & you don’t need a barn full of lumber either.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4946 days

#2 posted 01-03-2007 09:33 PM

Oh, I have that, too! This just keeps me from tossing even the smaller scraps… not exactly conducive to having the cleanest shop!

-- Ethan,

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4949 days

#3 posted 01-04-2007 02:09 AM

Ethan, these are great! I am assuming that you make these in two halves which are then glued together around the key head. Is this correct? I drive a Beemer which has a fairly large key head. I know it’s a smart key loaded with circuitry. I doubt that I could make one for it, because the result would be one giant key head.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4946 days

#4 posted 01-04-2007 03:13 AM

I learned early on that to avoid having such a huge key grip I could use my Dremel and a metal cutting disk to trim the sides of the key off, almost making it a “tenon” of sorts. But yes, I “let” the metal key grip into one half of a piece of wood I’ve split in two. On some kinds of wood, like the maple, the line is pretty visible. On the Blackwood, however, you’d be hard-pressed to find the seam.

Yeah, yours is a very common situation I’ve run across lately, Don. Chips in key grip and chips in the key itself have make it pretty difficult to do this to most late-model vehicles.

But for older classic cars, this works quite well. I haven’t done a house key yet, though I assume it would work just as well…

-- Ethan,

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 5079 days

#5 posted 02-09-2007 06:40 AM

These are cool. I like the different grains.

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4911 days

#6 posted 05-03-2007 08:02 AM

Ethan -

Very cool!


View YorkshireStewart's profile


1130 posts in 4673 days

#7 posted 11-02-2007 09:48 PM

I’m continuing to find some real treasures amongst these back numbers. These are a delight!

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4646 days

#8 posted 11-03-2007 01:44 AM

So cool. Favorited!

-- Happy woodworking!

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4934 days

#9 posted 11-03-2007 05:32 AM

Great job Ethan. I bet house keys would be a big hit, especially since they do not have that circuitry like the car keys.

Maybe you can also make a “key cover” that will fit a variety of keys. Someone could just buy it and slip it on themselves. If it is on a keyring, then it is not likely to fall off of the key. It would save you time and may make them more in demand.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Karson's profile


35223 posts in 5173 days

#10 posted 11-03-2007 05:35 AM

Dick are you talking to me and Frank about a barn full of lumber?

Great idea on the keys.

Do you give them as gifts for an unknown lock, and make them find it in order to get the rest of the present.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 4556 days

#11 posted 05-02-2008 09:44 AM

This just randomly came up on my LumberJocks homepage today. These are VERY cool!

-- Eric at

View zwwizard's profile


212 posts in 4481 days

#12 posted 05-08-2008 01:20 AM

This just came up for me too. I did some a few years ago, got the same idea for them in the same FWW article..
I was doing some interiors in some MG,s and Triumphs. Doing the dash’ s and knobs, Doing the keys worked right in.

-- Richard

View Bud's profile


191 posts in 4710 days

#13 posted 05-25-2008 05:13 AM

What a unique ideal. Very nice.

-- Bud -

View Michael Brailsford's profile

Michael Brailsford

254 posts in 4366 days

#14 posted 08-03-2008 01:59 AM

What a great idea, and they look great. Nice work.

-- Michael A. Brailsford

View mcoyfrog's profile


4757 posts in 4367 days

#15 posted 08-04-2008 07:15 AM

Cool idea….

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

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