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Old 02-05-2012, 12:10 PM
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DIY - Wood Key Head

I've made several wood key heads for myself and folks here on the forum. Around 10, two for myself and the rest y'all. I thought I do a write-up to help you other wood working types along. Any type of hard wood will work. Stay away from the soft woods they'll brake too easily(i.e. conifers - pine, fir, cedar, etc). Mercedes uses Zebra wood or Zebrano as they call it, which is what I'm using in this writeup. I've also used Myrtle wood, and I'm about to make one with Purple Heartwood. Just for reference zebra wood is $17 a board foot. Oak is $3-$4 a board foot. Fortunately you only need a tiny bit for a key. Anyway on to the juicy stuff.

I start with a little block that is a little wider than the height of the key head. Then I cut two thin slices, about and 1/8" thick, out of it with a band saw, table saw works as well but take more wood out of the block so the grain may not match up as well on the sides of the key.

The block


Two halves of the key head


Then I decide which half I want to cut out the notch for the key head. I used to cut half the thickness of the key into each half of the wood. But it's really hard to get things to line up properly. So I started cutting the notch into one side and then gluing the two together. Has worked much better for the last several keys I've made. I square up the key on the wood and trace the T shaped end onto the wood.


Then using a Dremel tool I start removing the wood. I mainly use the two round tipped bits, occasionally I use the cone shaped one to get nice sharp corners. I used the larger of the two round bits to remove most of the material. Then switch to the little one to clean up the corners. I try to make the key fit tightly, but a little slop is okay, because I use polyurethane glue which will expand and fill the open spaces and actually glue the key into the wood. But the tighter it fits the better. You can't tell in the photos but the T head part of the key is not symmetrical, so you have to make sure you keep the orientation the same through this process.



Then I glue the to halves together. I use Probond Polyurethane glue. It will expand out the edges, but it cleans off easily. Here is it after I've clean off the little bits of glue that oozed out.



Then I trace the key head shape. Cut it out on the band saw. Then I sand the edges down to the line and make sure I have a good shape going. Then I trace the hole onto it. I use a small drill bit and drill as much of the hole material out, then using the dremel with the cone shaped bit I clean it up and shape it. Once the shape of the key and hole are they way I want them, then I start rounding and shaping the key. Shape to you preference. I like nice round edges, and I actually shape the face of the key to a convex shape, making it thinner on the edge than in the middle. This keeps the strength of the thickness of the wood but makes it look a little daintier. I usually keep the metal key part taped up to keep it from getting scratched.
Note: Since both halves are cut to the same thickness you have to sand down the side that you didn't notch for the key so you have equal thickness passed the width of the key. Or you can cut one half thinner to start with.


Now it's ready for staining and clear coat. Stain to your preference. I also keep the key taped up through this process as well. Zebra wood is extremely hard and it doesn't absorb stain very well. I use a 50/50 mix of a red stain and a chocolate brown stain. This makes it match the wood trim in the car pretty well. I put a couple coats on. I wipe it on pretty thick, then let it sit for couple minutes or so. Then wipe it off. Let it dry for a good while, then do it again. Once the stain is all dry. I start the clear coat. I use Minwax Fat-Drying Polyurethane Clear Gloss. I usually end up putting 6-8 coats on. The first few coats aren't real smooth because of all the pours in the wood. I put a coat on. Let it dry for 24 hours. Then hit it gently with some fine steel wool, wipe it off, and put another coat on. I continue this process until I have a nice smoooooth finish. I always apply real thin coats. If you coat is too thick you'll get drips, and then you get to sand it down and before you can continue.
Stained


1 coat of clear



The Finished Product.


Attached Thumbnails
DIY - Wood Key Head-01_block.jpg   DIY - Wood Key Head-02_halves.jpg   DIY - Wood Key Head-03_key_trace.jpg   DIY - Wood Key Head-04_key_notch.jpg   DIY - Wood Key Head-05_key_bits.jpg  

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Last edited by Biodiesel300TD; 02-06-2012 at 02:47 PM.
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Old 02-05-2012, 12:10 PM
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More Pics
Attached Thumbnails
DIY - Wood Key Head-06_glued_face.jpg   DIY - Wood Key Head-07_glued_edge.jpg   DIY - Wood Key Head-08_traced.jpg   DIY - Wood Key Head-09_roughed_out.jpg   DIY - Wood Key Head-10_shaped.jpg  

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Old 02-05-2012, 12:11 PM
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The last 3 pics
Attached Thumbnails
DIY - Wood Key Head-11_stained.jpg   DIY - Wood Key Head-12_1st_clearcoat.jpg   DIY - Wood Key Head-13_finished.jpg  
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Old 02-05-2012, 12:35 PM
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Whoo Hoo!!

Thanks.

That's my key! In my pocket now.
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Old 02-05-2012, 12:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toomany MBZ View Post
Whoo Hoo!!

Thanks.

That's my key! In my pocket now.
Yes it is. I had a little tear out yesterday when I was drilling the hole in the second one you sent me. I had to stop and glue the little bits back in. I don't think you'll be able to tell that anything happened, but I am a little delayed. I should get it shaped today. And start finishing and clearing it. Hopefully I'll be done with it by the end of the week. It's the round valet key, and it's going to look good. My wife like the shape, so I'm making one for her out of purple heart wood next.
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Old 02-05-2012, 02:31 PM
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Cool.
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Old 02-13-2012, 07:37 PM
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Here is the latest key. Toomany's 2nd one in fact. It's a valet style key. I think I like this shape better for these wood keys.

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DIY - Wood Key Head-valet_key.jpg  
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Old 02-13-2012, 08:23 PM
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Thanks Andrew, I'll post a pic of the two together.
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Old 02-17-2012, 04:56 PM
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That would be a great project for the CNC router! Time to find an old key to play with.
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Old 02-17-2012, 05:05 PM
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I do a lot of woodworking with my Grandfather, maybe once he's back from Hawaii, we could make this one of our projects!!

Looks awesome by the way!!
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Old 02-19-2012, 07:55 PM
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Thats awsome!
A very good alternative to the cheap dealer key heads that last only a month or so on a deisel that seems to have an ignition that is harder to turn than usual. I'm making one.
Thanks
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Old 02-22-2012, 01:55 PM
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Here they are, together again.

Andrew does very fine work, highly recommended.
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DIY - Wood Key Head-screen-shot-2012-02-22-1.54.46-pm.jpg  
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Old 02-22-2012, 02:05 PM
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On the 87 and 95 s classe I have, cocobolo seems to be a better grain and color match... Wouldn't it be easier to cut 2 thicknesses of strips for the head, use the thinner one on the side that isn't going to be internally shaped to receive the key head?? It would make for less sanding I mean... one could do some interesting carving on one of those too and add some color 'dust inlay'. Just thinking outloud. I haven't done any of these, and have no right to criticize....
It's an absolutely beautiful job. Keep up the good work... I may rip apart one of my keys just to do that for it...
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Old 02-22-2012, 03:12 PM
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Id like at least two of these.
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Old 02-22-2012, 03:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amosfella View Post
On the 87 and 95 s classe I have, cocobolo seems to be a better grain and color match... Wouldn't it be easier to cut 2 thicknesses of strips for the head, use the thinner one on the side that isn't going to be internally shaped to receive the key head?? It would make for less sanding I mean... one could do some interesting carving on one of those too and add some color 'dust inlay'. Just thinking outloud. I haven't done any of these, and have no right to criticize....
It's an absolutely beautiful job. Keep up the good work... I may rip apart one of my keys just to do that for it...
Cocobolo does have a tighter grain pattern that would scale to a key a little better. Might have to try some of that for one.

I have started using one side that is thinner than the other. If you look at the pics you can see one side is thinner than the other. But it doesn't always happen that way. It just depends on what I have cut sometimes. Once you have the key cut to side it doesn't take that much sanding since the surface area is pretty small.

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