framing skeleton keys without using glue

May 15, 2012 at 10:51 am | Posted in crafts, for the House | 2 Comments
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I love old keys, locks, and watches.  Skeleton keys especially fascinate me, and I think they look lovely framed on the wall.  But every tutorial or idea I found either involved tying a ribbon to the keys, or gluing them down.   I wanted a cleaner look than ribbon or twine, and I just couldn’t glue my old keys in case it ruins the patina.


First you will need some old keys – plenty of people sell them on etsy and ebay, and some stores also sell replicas.  You will also need an appropriately sized frame, and something for the background.  I found a free old dictionary page (explore – explosion) and a parchment paper texture and lightened the text until I liked the effect.  (You can get the 5×7 image I used [here] if you’d like.)  Play around with the layout of your keys until you are happy with the results.

Once you are happy with the placement of your keys, carefully roll each one back and mark a small spot beneath each end with a pencil.  I tried to center my mark by the top of the key just under the loop, and by the bottom of the key just above the part that juts out.  Mount your paper to the cardboard backing of your picture frame, and use an 1/8″ hole punch to punch holes where you marked for each key.  I used my cropodile since it has a long reach – you could also use an awl to make holes, but I figured the punch would be neater.

There are several types of clear thread / fishing line / monofilament / available – I used clear elastic for jewelry making since I had it on hand.  Clear thread for sewing would probably be the most unnoticeable – you really don’t notice the elastic though.  Cut a 2″-4″ length of clear string, and loop it over the key and insert both ends into a hole.  Repeat on the other end of the key, and adjust the strings so they are in the most unnoticeable location.  Tape the ends of the strings down to the back of the cardboard, and repeat with remaining keys.  Very easy.

I love how my keys look mounted in a frame!  I kept the glass and stuck it behind the cardboard with the keys – if I ever decided to use the keys or frame for something else in the future I will just need to remove the tape from the strings to release the keys.  Both the keys and frame remain intact and reusable.  You have to look closely to see the string, it is entirely unnoticeable when the frame is hanging on the wall.  (The frame is an old wooden one I picked up from a yard sale for a quarter and painted with oil rubbed bronze spray paint.)



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  1. This is awesome! I need to know more about this oil rubbed bronze spray paint. It looks amazing. Sweet attention to detail.

    • Thanks – I absolutely LOVE the oil rubbed bronze paint! I used it to update all the old shiny brass fans and light fixtures that came with our 70’s house. And an old shower curtain rod, and several picture frames, and a plastic soap dispenser… it seems to have held up really well so far. The paint has something in it that gives it a depth of color that regular black paint just can’t match. 🙂

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