Posts Tagged ‘vintage key’

You probably never heard of them, but these are some interesting keys with an unusual shape and history. First of all, let me brag with my little collection:

First time I saw one of these keys I was so puzzled, I even begun to think the previous owner of it made the weird slits by himself for an unknown purpose. I’ve seen a lot of unusual vintage keys since then.

But after researching I found there was a proper name for these types of keys, and I discovered their history.

The Bramah keys are named after their inventor, Joseph Bramah (1748-1814), a cabinet maker that invented many things, from the hydraulic press, a paper making machine, to an improved flushing system for the toilet 😀 This is how inventors were back then, they looked around and thought about what they could improve in the world around them.

Around 1800, he made the Bramah padlock, and he was so confident and proud of his invention that he challenged people to lock-pick it, displaying the “Challenge Lock” in the window of his shop with a note saying: “The artist who can make an instrument that will pick or open this lock shall receive 200 guineas the moment it is produced.” 200 guineas were a lot of money back then. Anyone could try, but it took more than 60 years until someone finally succeeded. So for 60 years, the locks held the title of unpickable locks and were used for diamond safes and important secrets 🙂 Most burglars and thieves gave up instantly when they saw a Bramah lock.

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The American locksmith Alfred Charles Hobbs worked 16 days, few hours a day totaling 52 hours, and finally managed to open it and got the big prize. Hobbs was a seller of locks too, and he was driven not by the large money amount, but he was determined to ruin the reputation of the locks sold by his competition, something he did on regular basis 🙂 After he opened the Bramah lock, the Bank of England got scared and had all of their locks swapped out for the ones Hubbs was selling. Talking about a good salesman!

The Challenge Lock is now displayed at the Science Museum in London. Bramah locks and their tubular keys are still made today with variations and no two keys are ever repeated.


[avatar user=”ILONKA” size=”100″ align=”left” /]

Ilonka has an eye for finding the most interesting treasures for us to use in our work, to collect and sell in our shop. She’s in love with everything vintage and doesn’t miss a fair day, like, ever! Ilonka is an artist and her designs are mostly one of a kind art books. That’s because she’s got too many ideas and too little time.

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Even though it is a fairly straightforward thing, to make a pendant out of a vintage key, there are several tips I want to share with you.

First and most important is the shape of the key – the easiest ones to work with are those that have a round bow, or a quatrefoil bow, that is because the key will stay vertical when it’s hanging from a chain. Otherwise, if the bow is oval, the gravity will make it slide in the jump ring and the key will fall in an diagonal position.

If you use an oval bow key like most are, you can use this design instead:

this will only work if the necklace is a short one as the bow of the key will have two distant supporting jump rings right and left. If the key would be on a long chain, the jump rings would be too close to each other, one slightly left and the other slightly right, and then the key might still tend to fall on one side.

Another approach would be to allow the oval bow key to slide on one side and fall diagonally and add some other little bits and pieces, beads or whatever to the necklace for a more hippie free-form gypsy look.

A thing to mention would be the thickness of the circular metal band from which the bow of the key is made, if it’s too thick, you’d have to use a large jump ring and that may not look too pretty if you’re aiming to make a delicate necklace. If, on the other hand, your key is a larger more industrial type of key, you can use large elements like a larger jump ring and a thicker bolder chain.

The last thing to mention would be protecting the keys from rust/oxydizing (after cleaning them beforehand).

There are a lot of solutions out there to protect metal from rust, basically any varnish, but the more specialized, the better. I use a metal sealer from Ranger which I like, as it has a satin finish, this doesn’t alter the look of the keys, doesn’t make them too shiny or too matte.

As for the chain, I prefer sturdy chains, ’cause I am a power user 🙂 the ones with soldered links are very solid, even though they look delicate.

The rest is up to you – I love to use gunpowder black chains or antiqued silver ones if I have an iron key, or brass if I have a brass key.

As each vintage key has its own personality, they will guide you to a certain type of necklace. Have fun and if you felt inspired to make something, show me your experiments!



[avatar user=”Anca” size=”100″ align=”left” /]

Anca is an artistic soul, with lots of ideas. She wants to try this and that, buys all the possible craft supplies that no one ever heard of, “for future projects” (she says)… She is a social media inamorata and ensures a quality customer service. She is our calligrapher and she plays the piano. a lot.

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