Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Repurposed Keys

I think I’ve always had a slight fascination with keys.

Old or new they make me wonder where they go, what they open. Will it lead me to a mystery or to a treasure?

I have a few skeleton keys hanging on my wall for decoration. Several years ago, I started turning them into jewelry.

At one of the craft/vendor shows I participated in this past Fall, another vendor became very intrigued with my key necklaces.

She had been holding onto a key from her late Mother’s home. It was a memento that she kept, that held memories of her Mom.

I was so honored when she asked me to turn that key into jewelry for her. Her request was that I make it pink, her Mother’s favorite color.

Follow this tutorial and see how I change keys into something special.

I collect keys for re-sale shops. The process to transform them is not difficult but it is a little time consuming. I like to do several at a time for a few reasons. One, it makes me feel like I am getting more out of my time, And two, the final step requires that I mix a resin and I need to use all of what is mixed so there is no waste.

You need:

Scrapbook paper
Disposable paintbrushes
Sand paper
Utility knife
Flat backed Swarovski crystals
2 part Epoxy resin (cups, Popsicle stick, tooth pick, tweezers & gloves)

 First, gather your keys and decide what size and shape you want to use and which side of the key you want to cover. I usually cover the side that has any writing or an imprint on it. I also check to see which side of the shaft has the best surface to hold the gems.


Next find scrapbook paper that has the colors and patterns that you like.


You’ll be using such a tiny piece so look closely at the designs. Check to see what will fit on your key and what section of paper will show the best part of the pattern. Cut that down smaller and then trace you key as close as possible.

Cut the paper just inside the pen mark you made tracing the key.

Use your decoupage to glue the paper onto the key. Allow this to dry.

Now, use your utility knife to cut the hole out of the key.

Use sand paper (I like to use an emery board) to sand the edges. You need to make sure that there is no paper that will catch or peel up later. I also like to try and bevel the edge or taper the cut ends of the paper. (Some scrapbook papers are thick and if the edge is tapered it will help make a better seal when you are finished).

Once all your sanding is done you need to coat the paper with decoupage to seal the paper. I usually do two coats to be sure I have good coverage. Allow to dry between coats. If the paper is not sealed when you put the resin on, it will bleed into the paper and give it a spotted wet look. So, be sure that you are getting all the edges very well.

While you are waiting for the glue to dry, start lining up your crystals. You need flat back gems. I like Swarovski because they have a deeper shine and an overall better appearance. You can use rhinestones too if you want. You will need either a 3mm or a 4mm size crystal. It will depend on that size and how big your key is on how many you will need to fill the shaft of the key. It could be anywhere between 4 or 9 individual pieces.

Before you mix the resin, be sure to have all your supplies lined up and ready. You want all your keys or any other project that is getting a coat of resin, ready to go. For the resin, you will need disposable cups, a Popsicle stick or something to stir, a disposable paintbrush (there is no washing that stuff out), I have a safety pin and a tooth pick out in case I need to move something or pop a bubble. I use jeweler’s tweezers to place the gems on the key. (they are just long and thin) Oh, and gloves, you hands will feel greasy and stick for a few days if it gets on your skin.

Mix equal parts of resin following the package instructions. You have a little time to work before it starts to harden. Begin paining the resin on and placing the jewels. I gently push each one down to make sure it is set into the resin. As you move on to the next item, keep and eye out that none of you crystals are shifting. They may move some before the resin is hardening. Use your toothpick to reposition as needed. If you have bubbles, you can pop with a pin or if you have a small desk lamp, the heat will help them disappear.

I do these projects on a clipboard that is covered in plastic. Then, I can move them out of my way while I wait for the resin to fully cure. This will take at least 3 days. I cover them with an empty bin to keep dust off them and little fingers from investigating but be sure it is vented.

Once the resin is fully cured, add a jump ring and a cord or a chain and you’re good to go!

I think they make such a fun piece of jewelry. They are great for layering with other necklaces.

I love that my friend can wear her Mother’s key close to heart.