Vintage Typewriter Key Locket By Jewelry Designer Heather Walton
Where do you get vintage typewriter keys?
You may have seen one at Goodwill or your local neighborhood yard sale...but if you've been suckered into buying an old typewriter and have tried to remove the keys for jewelry making, I bet you would happily fork over the fifty or sixty bucks on Ebay for a complete set of flat back keys. An artist friend of mine, pottery genius Becky Terry and yard sale queen, sold me a vintage black Royal typewriter for $20. I was thrilled, sure I had gotten a great deal. I couldn't wait to pop those keys off and resell them online. I ordered a special tool that looked like a wire whisk that was supposed to be for removing typewriter keys. That little made in China tool was no match for the vintage typewriter. Those keys did not budge. I convinced my dad to remove them with his snips and to flatten the backs with his grinder. Heat from the grinder discolored the face of a few keys...from a yellow background to a blackened mess due to the intense heat. Plus we were only able to get one key out of four flattened enough to use in one of my jewelry designs.
I now order my typewriter keys on Ebay and let some other powerseller make a few bucks. The time it saves is well worth it. Note: Read the FULL description when buying typewriter keys online because it is easy to mistakenly assume the backs are flat and find out later that they're not. Ask questions before buying.
I bought some really great typewriter keys. Now what?
I love to make typewriter key lockets. These are extremely popular and certain letters fly out of my shop. You definitely need to keep the following letters in stock: A, E, S, D, B and K are favorites. I found the best lockets on Etsy which have a round bezel soldered to the front of a silver-colored locket. The lockets are not sterling silver but are extremely well-made and the perfect size for my typewriter keys. Check sizing to make sure your typewriter key will fit. I use a strong adhesive to glue the typewriter key in place. Let that dry overnight. My favorite glue is E-6000. It never lets me down. It is made for jewelry and glass work. Once the glue is dry, take your flat-nosed pliers and gently squeeze the bezel (part surrounding your key which will cup the key in place) as flush as possible to the typewriter key.
Can I make a ring like this?
I've yet to find a ring blank that works well for this. Hobby Lobby ring blanks are adjustable but cheap looking. Even the sterling silver adjustable band is flimsier than what I like. I am on the lookout for a solid band with a blank top. You can glue your flat-backed typewriter key into the bezel setting, close the sides flush against the key with your flat-nosed jewelry pliers, then glue that piece onto the ring blank. Sterling silver can be easily manipulated with your bare hands. Therefore, if the band on your ring is not sturdy enough, the ring will loosen itself while on your finger. A thicker band will stay in place as you move about.
I prefer vintage jewelry to modern because of how sturdy it is. I'd like to find and old adjustable ring blank. I purchased an awesome typewriter key ring with my first initial on it from an artist on Etsy. It is adjustable but the band is sturdy enough to wear every day without shifting around. The ring blanks at my local jewelry shops just did not work for this.
What about Making Bracelets with Typewriter Keys?
I've seen loads of these on Ebay with random leftover letters that look cute. The important part about making these is to check the spacing between the pads for the keys. When I went through a dichroic glass stage (bought those cabochons in every size and color) I found some silver bracelet blank chain on Ebay and ordered dozens, eager to make my creations. The pads are set too close together for the bracelets I have in mind plus the silver looks too shiny and new. Give me an antique look over modern every time. I recommend finding one on Etsy or Ebay made by a quality artist using good materials and using that for a template. The best part about jewelry design is that no two creations ever come out exactly the same.
Make Quality Jewelry and Sell for a Sweet Profit
Take your time to get your techniques down pat before you approach local retail shops. When I first got interested in jewelry making back in 2008, I found a book at Michael's called The Impatient Beader's Guide to Jewelry Design. Something like that with a cute red-headed lady who made amazing crystal jewelry. She was my first beading mentor. I carried that book around the house, constantly trying out new designs and carefully following the instructions for making eye pins and wire-wrapping techniques. After I got more skilled at design, I got my hands on Bead Fantasies II by Samejima Takako
. Her very popular books include My Beaded Accessories, Sweet Bead Collection, and Pure Beads. Those books are really well illustrated. Following step-by-step design instructions can be difficult, especially if you are using really tiny seed beads and crystals. Download the e-book Bead Fantasies III with luscious photos, detailed drawings and easy to understand instructions to get started making original beaded accessories.
Do not give up if you get frustrated. Simply put your beads down and get out of the house for a bit. I love spending time in the garden. Surrounding myself with my plants reminds me that anything is possible. I can be a great jewelry designer and I will stick with it no matter what.
Margot Potter's Easy to Make Projects will Inspire You
Margot Potter's book The Impatient Beader was the beading book which springboarded my jewelry design career. Her simple instructions and classy jewelry designs are sure to inspire you. She breaks her projects down by level of difficulty from Busy Beginner to Advanced and offers helpful hints and firsthand insight. Her lighthearted humor is sprinkled throughout the pages. Her books also have top notch photos that are sure to make you drool.
Check Out My Other Articles on Jewelry Making and Selling on Ebay
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Use Sterling Silver Chain
After the locket is completed, I attach my locket to a high quality sterling silver chain between 16 and 18 inches long. Make sure your findings (clasp, jump rings, and/or toggle) are sterling silver. These are treasured lockets, not just a bit of costume jewelry. You can charge more money for pieces made of sterling plus they look better and generally withstand daily use without discoloring like some plated chains. Split jump rings are perfect for keeping your clasp in place.
Jump rings that are "open" can easily pull apart and the jewelry will need to be repaired. Test your pieces out on yourself and your friends before selling online or in shops. Commercially sold jewelry must be well made or you will have a flood of repairs to deal with. Save yourself unneeded repair jobs and use small, sterling split rings to attach the sterling chain to the toggle.
To keep sterling silver from tarnishing, store your jewelry and findings in Ziploc bags. This will save you the chore of polishing your silver. Inexpensive sterling silver polishing clothes can be purchased from most jewelry stores. These handy cloths can be used until they are worn to shreds. They are well worth the cost.
Jewelry Design Tutorials on YouTube are Great For Beginners
Do You Sell Jewelry You Make?
Heather Walton (author) from Charlotte, NC on April 23, 2016:
I found my settings on Etsy. Try searching for "typewriter key locket." The silver ones are from The Crafty Store on Etsy. Be sure and read the descriptions since I bought some clearance lockets expecting silver and had ordered brass instead. Not the vintage look I like. Hope that helps!
Marty on April 23, 2016:
Where can I find settings like the one you show in the photo. My keys are about 12mm and I am having a very difficult time finding settings!
Mr.E on June 23, 2015:
I collect these typewriters
And do not like to see them destroyed
So don't be or buy from Keychoppers
Heather Walton (author) from Charlotte, NC on March 19, 2015:
I stopped trying to grind the backs of typewriter keys flat myself...I purchase them with flat backs then use a jewelry file to smooth any rough spots.
Chaka on March 19, 2015:
What tool do you use to flatten the back of the key?? Instead of a dremel can I use some other tool?? Thank you. Chaka
Heather Walton (author) from Charlotte, NC on December 01, 2014:
Absolutely! I love vintage pieces and I love jewelry...
SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on December 01, 2014:
This is a very cute and vintagey idea. I imagine someone who is into writing and vintage jewelry would love this idea. That necklace would look great with a vintage dress as well. Gee, you could sell an entire outfit around the vintage typewriter key theme.