Displaying Old Keys

April 26, 2010

For some reason or another, I have always had an affection for old keys. There’s something about them that is just so charming, perhaps because they are so much more elegant than the keys of today. Though I must admit that part of the appeal is due to the  mystery surrounding a key that has long since been separated from the doors, cabinets and locks that it was created to unlock.
Over the years, I’ve collected keys from grandparents, flea markets, eBay auctions and as gifts and up until recently they sat around my house in boxes and containers not really doing much of anything. So, I decided to finally set about displaying them so that they could be appreciated. The process was fairly simple, though to be honest, a bit tedious. If you’d like to create  your own display, here’s how it’s done:

Supplies Needed:

Thin wire, wire cutters, needle, pencil, pretty paper, illustration board, shadowbox frame and, of course, keys of various sizes and shapes.


  1. Cut the illustration board to fit into your frame. This will provide the support for your keys. Next, affix the paper you’re using to the board in the center. I chose a heavy-duty textured scrapbooking paper.
  2. Next, you’ll want to lay out your keys on the board so that you can get a good arrangement going before you start poking any holes. Once you’re satisfied with what you’ve got, take a photo of it for later so you’ll know what key to put where.
  3. While your keys are still laying in place, mark with a pencil where you’ll need to poke holes to provide the wire that will support them. Keep in mind that some keys might need more than one support if they’re large.
  4. Then comes then tedious part. Remove the keys and poke through the paper and illustration board with the needle. A heavy-duty one works best, otherwise it will more than likely get bent.
  5. Once you’ve poked all your holes you can start hanging your keys on the board, running the wire through the holes and twisting it tightly on the back of the board– similar to how you would use a twist tie. Make sure to reference your photo from earlier so everything ends up in the right place.
  6. When  you’re done, your keys should be ready to put in the frame. I used an inexpensive Ribba frame from Ikea. Won’t break the wallet, but it looks nice.
  7. Voila! Hang your project on the wall and congratulate yourself on a job well done. As  you might notice in the  photo, some of the keys are crooked. I had to move the frame and haven’t quite gotten around to setting them straight again.


If you’re interested in buying old keys, you can often find large groups of them on eBay inexpensively, though some of my most prized keys came from flea markets (very cheaply, I might add) and from Etsy sellers.

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  • Reply Patrick April 26, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    I wonder if you could use Mighty Magnets? I don’t know what these keys are made out of but I bet most if not all are magnetic.

    Mighty magnets are brutally strong. If you superglued a grid of them and then papered over the grid, I’m sure you could place keys however – and they’d probably be easier to reposition.

    Andrea and I got a really cool metal strip at the Crate & Barrel Outlet, and a six-pack of mighty magnets. You can throw your keys and the ring will usually stick! It is a miracle.

  • Reply Christina Laun April 26, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    I hadn’t thought of using magnets, but I already had all the other stuff around the house so I guess that was my motivation for doing it that way. Magnets certainly sound simpler.

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