Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Make Typewriter Key Jewelry ~ A Tutorial


As much as I love re-habbing furniture, I also enjoying making unique jewelry, especially in the winter when the days are shorter and the weather isn't great for painting outside.  Although I still have much to learn about jewelry-making, I think I can make typewriter jewelry in my sleep now.


When I picked up an old typewriter at a thrift store two years ago, it was just too rusted out and stained with ink to do much with besides take the keys off for jewelry.  At the time I'd never made any kind of jewelry and when I turned to the Internet to learn the process, I couldn't find any kind of tutorial. It's taken a bit of time to find what type of keys are the easiest to work with, etc.
Since then, there have been quite a few fellow typewriter fans googling "how to make typewriter jewelry" and landing back at my old post of my first typewriter necklaces two years ago.  Since I've been working on some new batches of necklaces this last week, I thought I'd share the process in case you come along a typewriter that isn't quite pretty enough for display.
First, as you can see from above, there are many different brands, shapes, colors, and conditions of typewriters and their keys out there.  I'm usually not too picky because they generally clean up well and I love all the variations in patina, font, etc.  If you know that you'll be removing the keys from a typewriter before you purchase it, do a quick check under the keys to see how they are attached.  The most common I come across is the "pronged key"...
These are the easiest to work with, but since they have plastic backs, the typewriter is likely newer and most likely won't have glass keys.  The older typewriter keys are soldered on and a bit more work to get them where they need to be.  So far, I've come across two kinds of soldered keys...
If you see keys that have multiple layers of solder, think twice about purchasing it for jewelry.  I'm sure that there is a way to get these keys off without burning your fingers in a metal grinder, I just haven't found it yet...
The first step is removing the metal arm attaching the keys to the typewriter with some heavy-duty wire cutters...
Clip them as far away from the keys as possible because the extra length of the metal comes in handy and provides leverage for the next step. I also want to add that if you do not plan to use the rest of the typewriter for any other kind of purpose, please recycle them.  As you can see there are no pictures of a complete typewriter because all of these keys had already been removed when I came across them at an antique show.
Gather a scrap block of wood, large hammer or mallet, and chisel...
Placing the key on it's side against the wood, set the flat side of the chisel as close as you can to the backside of the key and drive the mallet or hammer head down on the handle of the chisel.  The chisel acts as a wedge to pop that key right off!
After your first few keys, nice little divots will form in the wood, making this process easier as the key is held in place.  Keep this board handy if you plan on making typewriter keys regularly!
Once that key is popped off, the next step is making sure the backside is flat in order to adhere to any kind of jewelry setting.
Use a large metal file (found at any hardware store) to grind down any leftover metal from the back of the key...
Test out your keys on a flat surface to make sure the back is flush.  I've found that a quick tap to the back of a key with a hammer (only do this with non-glass keys) helps get the backs of the keys flat as well.
As you can see, some typewriters are not-so-clean when found, but soaking the keys in warm water and vinegar or glass cleaner and scrubbing them up with Q-tips does the job.  After getting the keys as clean as you can, you can either use the key as-is for adhering to bracelets, etc, but I like to use a jewelry setting to make them a bit more polished and as a way to make a pendant.
You can find settings like these at specialty jewelry supply shops or Etsy.  Most typewriter keys are 15mm in diameter, but just double check before you order.  To adhere the keys in the settings, I use E-6000 adhesive, which can be found at any craft store.
This glue seems to run out of the tube quickly so have some Q-tips handy for clean up and put something disposable down under your workspace.  Also, I cannot stress enough to have adequate ventilation when using this stuff!  I always go outside with it, winter or not.  As much as I hate using products that can have harmful side effects, nothing adheres like this glue.
E-6000 dries fairly quickly, but I usually let it set overnight for good measure.  To make a standard typewriter key pendant, it is then as simple as gently bending back one of the scallops on the setting with jewelry pliers and securing a jump ring through it...
Run your choice of chain through the jump ring and there you have it!
You can get even more creative by adding the typewriter keys to keys...
or to watch faces for steampunk jewelry...
or to bracelet blanks (also found on Etsy or other jewelry suppliers)...
The possibilities are endless!


30 comments:

fiona anderson said...

Wow, they're absolutely gorgeous, so unique and clever !

Andrea said...

Those are gorgeous! I love that I've never seen them before...a unique idea! I've also meant to write to say I've been checking out your blog and really enjoying it! Going to follow now =)

Andrea said...

ps I also moved from the Pacific Northwest recently (Vancouver Island) and miss it so!

dee dee said...

Sophia,
Not only are your pieces beautiful, your photos are too!
I love, Love, Love your bracelets!
I will have to keep my eyes open for old typewriters!
Dee Dee

Debra @ Common Ground said...

Kristin, this is a great tutorial. I love your key jewelry. Please link up this post to VIF!! xoxo
ps sending you an email!!

Blissful Blooms said...

WOW! This is an awesome tutorial! Thank you so much for sharing! I have a typewriter bracelet that I bought at Farm Chicks and I LOVE it! i also am a sucker for old typewriters! :) I'm off to check out the rest of your blog and your shop! Visiting you from Stuff and Nonsense!

Blissful Blooms said...

Love this tutorial! I love typewriter jewelery- I bought one at Farm Chicks and it's my favorite bling to wear! And I'm always a sucker for old typewriters! I'm off to check out the rest of your blog and your shop! Visiting from Stuff and Nonsense!

Chelsea said...

Thanks for this, it is so great! Now following your blog!

Cottage and Broome said...

So nice of you to share how to make these, they came out great. It does make me a little sad to see the typewriters go by the wayside those. Thanks, Laura

Honey at 2805 said...

These are charming! Thank you for sharing your tutorial at Potpourri Friday!

Terry said...

I don't think I will ever do this but this tutorial was fantastic and informative. Best of all, I love these and the outcome you came up with.

Etcetorize said...

Great tutorial! Looks like an awful lot of work though. The finished product is awesome~

Funky Junk Antique Show said...

Um, I want them all!! Beautiful easy to read and follow tutorial! Hollie

Revi said...

These excite my sensibilities! I have always loved found object art and jewelry, so I just HAD to become a new follower on my first visit! Glad to find you!
-Revi

Renee @ Rustic Crafts said...

This is a great tutorial and would be a great one to share at my Shabby Shares Saturday link party!

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

Such a fun tutorial! I'm looking forward to trying to make some with some of the letters I have! I am a new follower!

Adventure Mom said...

Really cool jewelry! Time to find some typewriters. Stopping by from inspiration friday

-Nedra
http://adventuremomblog.com

Tammy of {Tattered and Timeless} said...

Those are so cute. I hope you bring some to Cameron in May..I want to buy some. :)
tammy

Erin of Salvaged Whimsy said...

Your jewelry is beautiful - it makes me want to go find some old typewriters! Thanks for sharing the great tutorial!

thistlewoodfarm said...

I poured over this post! Great writing! Great information and beautiful pictures!

blessings,
karianne

Deena said...

I love the typewriter key jewelry and that bed of your daughter's. Oh my gosh that is beautiful. I hope you will check out my blog and follow. It is new, just established last week. Please check it out.

Peggy Ward said...

Thank you SO much for this tutorial! I have my own bead shop, and make so many things, but I was stumped with removing the keys from the typewriter workings. You solved my problem! Best to you!

maureen said...

Thanks! I've been stumped on how to do this, and broken one key trying to figure it out.

Laura said...

fantastic tutorial!
I get excited just to see your pics of old typewriter keys!
I have one old typewriter and didn't know how to get the keys off. Thanks so much!

Farmer's Wyfe said...

These look so fun!! I've always wanted to try to make this kind of jewelry. Thanks so much for all the great instructions!!

Unknown said...

Oh myyyyyyyy. This is so right up my alley. I LOVE this so much and MUST make them as soon as possible. I actually have an old typewriter too. Thank you so much for your creative inspiration!

Ornate Splendor said...

Thank you so much for the tutorial! My 11-year old daughter wants me to make a bracelet out of typewriter keys, but I wasn't quite sure how to do it....I'm off to find bracelet blanks!! : )

lauren @ West Furniture Revival said...

love the tutorial the jewelry is
so cool, I would love to feature it, if that would be ok please let me know,
lauren

Chris Meyer said...

Thanks for the generous tutorial!

Chris Meyer said...

Thanks for this generous tutorial!

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