Let me preface this post: the idea for this project came from the beautiful OrbitKey. I wanted to try the format before buying, and quite liked my own creation. If you want something professional looking with actual engineering behind it, head on over to their website! If, on the other hand, you like making stuff or you'd like to try the format before committing to purchasing an OrbitKey or similar, then I hope this is of interest to you.
This is a simple make - it involves cutting out some leather, making holes in it, threading everything onto a bolt, then trimming the excess metal.
I've tried a few combinations of nuts & bolts and made some mistakes, so I'll try to give that info without rambling on and making it look difficult.
Time: 15/20 mins
Materials you need:
Something sturdy, but flexible and not too thick; I used a ladies belt from a charity/thrift shop.
1x M5 bolt
M5 (5mm thread) is a good width for the hole in my keys, if your hole is narrower, just move down widths. Regarding bolt length: start long and trim down; I ordered too short then had to buy longer bolts, I use a 25mm bolt to hold 4 keys with little excess (results may vary). Choose your head type on looks & profile; I chose a stainless steel torx security bolt because it looks cool; hex/allen heads also look the business and even slotted heads look good. (I used this)
2x M5x20mm Washer
Sometimes called penny washers or repair washers. The width of the washer dictates the width of the strap, 20mm outside diameter was best for me (probably you too). Use the flattest/thinnest washers you can find. (I used this)
1x M5 Nyloc Lock Nut
You really need a lock nut rather than a regular nut (to stop the nut loosening and falling off). They're a little taller, which is annoying. I tried using a domed lock nut to hide the cut end of the bar, but found it too obtrusive. (I used this)
Before you cut anything, you need to know how many keys you'll use (one of the limitations of this DIY method).
Tools you need:
- Knife or sturdy scissors for cutting the leather
- Hacksaw or Dremel etc for trimming the metal bolt
- Leather punch (or drill if you're stuck) for making holes in the leather
1 - Cut the leather
The length of the leather part will vary depending on how long your keys are and how many of them you have. Wrap the leather around the length of the keys and mark to get your length - you need enough room to be able to freely rotate the keys and the leather needs to protrude ~7mm above the hole in your keys to accommodate the entire washer. The width of the leather is very slightly wider than your washers. Use the washers as a template to mark the round ends of your rectangle, then cut it out. If you want to be precise, I'm sure you can make a template out of paper first and adjust your measurements accordingly.
2 - Punch the holes
Use the washers as a template and mark where the holes in the ends of your leather need to be, then punch or drill them out. Make the holes slightly wider than the thread of your bolt, it makes assembly easier. The holes are covered by the washer, so if they're messy, it doesn't show.
3 - Assemble
Start with your bolt, feed a washer onto the bolt, then one end of the leather, then all your keys, then the other end of the leather, then the other washer and finish with the Nyloc nut.
4 - Trim the bolt
Tighten the nut & bolt so your keys can move freely, but don't flop around (holding the nut with pliers and tightening the bolt with another tool). When you're happy with the tension, trim the protruding end of the M5 bolt.
In my version, I've included a USB drive. I mounted it by fixing it on a thin piece of metal, attaching it like a regular key, but twisting the metal support 90 degrees so it sits behind the keys rather than along side. (it's such a hack job, but it worked)
If you want to add keys, just cut another bolt. If you want a different colour, just cut another piece of leather. You could easily go titanium to save weight and I considered making a version with brass fittings, (but struggled to find brass washers the correct size). eBay has M5 anodised bolts in lots of colours and you could swap leather for rubber etc.
I've used this thing for 6 months (as of this post), and there are good points and bad:
Things I like:
- I made it myself
- It's compact
- It doesn't rattle
- When I slide out a key, it stays out until I put it back in (I leave my back door key selected at night so I can unlock the door quickly in an emergency)
Things I don't like:
- It can be fiddly to slide out keys, esp with the USB drive
- It can be difficult to get a carabiner to attach nicely (I clip my car key to the loop end of the leather)
- You're limited to what you can attach, e.g. pocket tools (but I reckon you could attach a pry bar / bottle opener etc)
Show me yours!
If anyone makes their own, something similar, or has an improvement or addition to the design; post a reply!