DIY key rack, wood-burned keychains

This project started when I picked up a small wooden shelf for $2 at my favourite local thrift store (New To You, for Truro readers). It was probably designed to hold tchotchkes (which make me shudder), but I knew it would be the perfect key rack for our entryway.

I’d been in the habit of hanging my keys on a coat hook in the hall closet and then panicking when they got covered up with a coat and I couldn’t find them. My husband was in the habit of dropping his keys wherever he felt like it, which was often smack in the middle of the kitchen counter.

After two coats of creamy white paint (Fusion Mineral Paint in Casement), the shelf was looking a heck of a lot nicer.

I used my tiniest drill bit to pre-drill little holes, screwed in nine brass hooks and secured it to a wall near the front door. Done!

It was nice to get the keys out of the closet (or off the top of the microwave, the counter, the dresser, etc. for my husband). But our keychains were a garish mismatch of freebie dealership rings and carabiners (his) and sparkly pink doodads (hers), so the key rack wasn’t looking as nice as it could.

The answer came to me one day when I was looking at a package of wooden shims. Now, Wikipedia tells me a shim is “a thin and often tapered or wedged piece of material, used to fill small gaps or spaces between objects,” but I would define it as “a thin, cheap strip of wood that’s useful for craft projects.”

I knew shims would be the perfect material for custom keychains.

I got out the woodburning kit my sister gave me last Christmas, along with the set of metal letters that can be screwed on to the end of the tool. Burning words this way can take a long time, since each letter takes a couple of minutes to heat up. 

I decided to speed up the process by doing all of the letters at once, rather than spelling out each word in sequence. Once I’d burned all of the Hs, I unscrewed the (really hot) metal H using my pliers, dropped it into a metal pan to cool down, and moved onto doing all of the Os. 

When all of the words were burned — “House,” “Shed,” “Porch,” etc. — I trimmed down the shims using my mitre saw, leaving a space right before each word. Then I drilled a hole at the beginning of each keychain so it could go on a ring. I liberated the rings from our various old keychains so some of them — the thick, tightly-coiled rings — were difficult to coax over the wood. 

It was exciting to match up the keys to their new keychains and hang them on the hooks. The key rack looks so nice now that everything coordinates.


It’s easy for us to grab the key to the shed or to the storage area under our porch, and our son can read the words, too. It used to be tricky to keep track of our neighbour’s house key for the few times a year we house-sit, but now it’s always in the same spot with a prominent “B&G” to remind us.

An added bonus is that because some of the words are long — like “Trailer” — the keychain is pretty hefty and less likely to get lost!


So what do you think?

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