Back in September, Handan told me that she had a great project for me. She had just published a post about her knockoff Pottery Barn outdoor pumpkins, and she was riding a glorious wave of accolades and adulation. She had knockoffs on the brain, so what better way to capitalize than to make some more knockoffs? And who better to make them than me? She showed me a picture and pointed towards the basement.
I protested that there was a good movie on TV that required viewing.
She thrust the picture closer to my face. She pointed to the basement.
I informed her that my video game characters hadn’t seen me all day, so they were probably missing me. Even robots get the blues, I warned her.
She pointed at the picture, then stabbed her finger towards the basement.
I changed tactics and told her that I needed to mow the lawn. The grass couldn’t possibly survive another day without my immediate attention.
I knew the fight was lost. The fix was in. It was over before it even began. I took the picture and gave it a closer look.
Where the hell did she get a Pottery Barn catalog, anyway? She’s never even been to a Pottery Barn! Meh, probably best not to ask.
I had learned long ago not to question her sources. Or her motives. Or her opinions. Or her wardrobe. It’s an unforgiving world, and a man must learn quickly if he is to survive.
Yeah, so I could make those keys. But I wasn’t keen on the crossed ones, so I decided to make two big ones and one little one. We had some old, mismatched chair spindles in the basement, but they were a little too mismatched. I wouldn’t have been able to stain them to a uniform color, so I bought some table legs from Home Depot instead.
My original thought was to make the bow (that’s the part of the key you squeeze between your thumb and forefinger) at the thick end and the bit (that’s the business end of the key) at the tapered end. The problem with that idea was that it would be hard to attach the bit to a tapered cylinder. I waited for an idea to spark in my gray mush, but after a few sputters and backfires, I flip-flopped my original thought and decided to make the bow at the tapered end and the bit at the big end.
Since the table legs were some sort of hardwood (they looked and felt like oak, but they didn’t smell like it), I went with oak for the bit. Unless you have a bandsaw, I would recommend using a softer wood, like pine. It would be much easier to cut and shape using hand tools (jigsaw, sandpaper, etc) than oak. I had a lot of spare oak in the basement from a shelf that I had built for our son a few years back and recently disassembled. One of the planks is pictured above. I wanted the bit to be a little fancier than the Pottery Barn keys – something with curves and angles. I grabbed a pencil and a ruler and started to sketch out a design.
When I was satisfied, I cut out the design on the bandsaw and then used that piece as a template for the other two.
I sanded off the old stain so I could pick another color once the keys were built.
With the bits cut out, I turned my attention to the bows. The Pottery Barn keys had used the same shape bow for all of the keys, but the short key’s bow was smaller. I’m lazy. That would require additional work that I was just not willing to give. If the bits were all the same, the bows could be the same, too! I traced one half of a bow onto some scrap MDF. This would serve as the template from which I would make all of the bows.
Then I traced the outline of the template onto a piece of oak. Again, if you’re not using big machines, don’t use oak.
And then cut out the shape with my bandsaw.
I cut as close to the line as I was able.
It wasn’t perfect, but I smoothed everything down by sanding. I first hit the outside curve with a disc sander.
And then tackled the inside curve with a spindle sander.
Looking much better!
While the bows were drying, I attached the bits to the shaft. (o_0) First, I created a flat area on the shaft by pressing the table leg against a belt sander until I had a flat area sanded away with a width equal to the width of the bit.
When all the glue was dry, it was time to attach the shaft to the bow. I decided that the easiest way to accomplish this was to cut the head off of a screw…
…then drill a hole into the center of a shaft. Finding the center was easy – I used Handan’s method.
Drilling a straight hole was much harder. The best I could do was eyeball it and hope.
I put a bit of super glue gel into the hole and inserted the screw.
So I wouldn’t split the bow at the seam, I drilled a hole for the screw.
Then I attached the shaft to the bow. I decided against gluing, in case I wanted to disassemble them in the future.
A word to the wise: don’t over-screw it, or you’ll split the bow. Totally didn’t happen to me, I swear :-/
And with that, a key was built, but not finished.
Since I wasn’t sure what wood the table leg was made from, and since hardwoods like oak can be finicky with stain, I decided to try something new with these: I would “stain” them with Annie Sloan’s Black Wax. Handan set me up at her crafting table upstairs. (Upstairs! I was actually working upstairs! No more basement lair for this guy! Woohoo!)
You get the picture.
After I finished waxing, I let the wax dry for a day, then I moved the keys to long-term storage in my office until such time as I could display and photograph them.
That day was yesterday.
It only took five months to get them into a display, but here are my rustic wooden keys, inspired by Pottery Barn.