How To Make a Key to the Steampunk Treehouse

When we took the Steampunk Treehouse to Coachella last week we knew we were not going to be allowed to let the ~45 000 attendees up into the house and we would want to be able to lock up the house when we were off playing.

So we picked up this nice old lock for the door. There was one problem — we only had two keys. So, last week, before I left, I made a few copies. Because I wanted to keep it as a surprise for the crew (some of whom read Almost Scientific) I did not post anything about them as I was making them.

I made two keys using the same basic method bellow. Two are shown at then end. The third, my favorite, I did not get a chance to photo but I’ll get a photo of it as soon as Sean Orland returns


Above is the original lock which I would have loved to make (next time perhaps) but was instead purchased, I believe, from the Pirate Store in SF.


I start off making the key by scribing out a piece that will become the teeth of the key. This is about 0.5″ x 0.75″. I then cut it out with a hand saw.


Above you can see the tooth, cut and flied down beside a 0.25″ rod that I lathed a 0.125″ wide, 1″ deep hole in and cut to ~3″ lenght. You can also see a channel I filed in the rod where the filed side of the tooth goes into. I did this because I’ll eventual want to file down the weld that holds them together and this slight space creates an area that can fill with weld that wont be filed away.


Above you can see the tooth and rod jigged up and ready to be welded.


Here you can see the tooth and rod welded together and being slowly filed down .


Piper, my shop assistant, is dubious the key will work.


Above you can see that I’ve welded the key to a piece of scrap to get a better grip on it as I slowly file it down and continually test it’s avility to lock and unlock the lock.


The hardest part was coming up with clever hands for the key given the little time I had and the scrap in my shop. For this key, I drilled a 0.25″ hole in piece of red brass and another 0.218″ hole on the other side. The smaller hole and the end of the key were then threaded and the rod inserted though the 0.25″ hole and screwed in place.


Above, you can see that I cut the red brass pipe and filed some groves into it to improve its ergonomics. You can also see the second key which was finished with a copper rivet.

Like I said earlier, the third key is the best looking but I don’t have a photo yet.

All three keys worked like a charm. I passed them out the crew and told them to share them so that everyone had their own chance to get themselves up into the tree.

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