How to Wind-up Key


I made an updated video version of this tutorial! Check it out!

Hope this is helpful!


So, it’s been a while… stress filled senior year of college.  Anyway,  I’ve received a lot of comments asking for a tutorial on how to make this key for a Halloween costume I had made a while ago.  I had started to create a tutorial for this but I ended up moving and all that stuff got packed away, but I just so happened to find all my stuff the other day, so I figured I’d throw this post up before Halloween so hopefully you guys can make yours in time. 🙂

The parts:

All the parts

Here are the parts for the wind up key.

A few inches of dowel (really the length and size of the dowel are up to you.  I used what I had, which is a 1/4″ dowel which I cut to be 2 1/2″ long.  You’ll need to drill a small hole into one side of the dowel in order to fit the metal rod of the wind up mechanism.  I used a small drill kit that I bought from the local hardware store that looked like a screwdriver but with interchangeable drill-bit head things.   Be slow with this part, or you may split the wood like I did.  Don’t panic if you do though, it should be okay once we glue it all up.

The next thing you’ll need is a piece of foam core board cut to resemble a wind up key.  Cut the little notch at the bottom to be the same width as your dowel.  In my case it’s 1/4″.  I imagine you can use something other than foam core board, but you just need to make sure it’s lightweight, or else it will bog down the tiny wind up mechanism we’re using.

Speaking of, the third thing you’ll need is the wind up mechanism.  To get it, I took apart a dollar store wind up toy.  Usually there’s a little piece of plastic at the end of the metal rod that makes it easier to turn with your fingers that you need to remove so you can stick it in the dowel.  I just used some pliers and squeezed it a bunch until it broke off.

The epoxy

I used some quick drying epoxy to glue everything together.  You need to make sure to use some heavy duty stuff because people will be cranking that thing all night and you don’t want it to start falling apart on you.  If you choose to use epoxy, be sure to do so in a well ventilated area because this stuff reeks!

Epoxying in progress.

Here it is, now attached to the mechanism.  Be careful not to drop epoxy or glue down into the mechanism or else it may screw up the gears and whatnot inside and it won’t work anymore.  As mentioned before, I had split the wood somewhat during the drilling progress, so here I also squished some epoxy down into the crack to make it stronger.


And here it is painted.  I just used some craft paints on this one.  The very first one I did was spray painted, so really it’s up to you on how you want to do it.  If you spray paint it though, be sure to tape up the mechanism really well beforehand.  Or you could just paint it before you attach the mechanism.

Now, when I used this in a costume I ended up carefully duct taping the mechanism onto a piece of cardboard(to help stabilize it) that was a little smaller than the width of my back and a few inches high, then I proceeded to duct tape the cardboard onto the tank top I was wearing.  I literally duct taped this thing onto me for the whole night(it was hidden under my corset thing), but that was the best I could come up with at the time.  If anyone else has any better ideas on how to wear this thing please let me know, it would be much appreciated! Thanks 🙂

Hope this helps you guys out!

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  1. October 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm — Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this… so many great costume ideas! I’ll be linking.

  2. Yesenia
    October 24, 2010 at 9:45 pm — Reply

    Thanks for this tutorial! I had found another link for a key but it was just too cumbersome. I have a week….so hopefully I can make this in time….whole lot easier and I have a wind up toy already! yay!

  3. Lee
    October 28, 2010 at 8:09 pm — Reply

    Thank you so much! This fit for the perfect costume for a Halloween party! Works great and is very easy to make! WOW!

  4. Elise
    January 31, 2011 at 9:35 pm — Reply

    This is very original. I’d have never thought of doing something like that.
    But, I’d say sanding town the edges of the foam with a light grit sandpaper before painting to make the edges of the key a little more clean.

  5. March 15, 2011 at 4:41 am — Reply

    It looks very nice and also looks like any big homes key. Such a fantastic key, Superb art.

  6. La_armide
    November 9, 2011 at 10:26 pm — Reply

    You are a goddess! Too late for Halloween, but the key is perfect for a children’s recital piece (sans windup mechanism) that fits my idea perfectly! Also, I’d make one for myself anyways and randomly wear it just to see people’s reactions, lol! THANK YOU!!

  7. March 17, 2012 at 9:47 am — Reply

    Thanks alot for making this. I need it for a Black Butler cosplay and this will work perfectly!! 

  8. Lizabethrosario
    May 4, 2012 at 9:59 am — Reply

    Amazing! Just the thing I need and THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! 

  9. Robbie
    September 28, 2013 at 6:30 pm — Reply

    Thanks so much! I was overthinking how I was going to build it (gears and springs, etc) but I never thought to use an actual windup toy! Haha! Also, I attached mine to a belt with gaff tape so it was easy to wear. Thanks again!

  10. Viv
    January 15, 2014 at 8:54 pm — Reply

    What kind of toy did you get this out of? I have no idea where to find a toy with this mechanism in it.

  11. Andromeda Lazuli
    August 16, 2014 at 3:49 pm — Reply

    Where did you get the mechanism for the wind up key? I would like to do this as well for a few of my costumes but I can’t find the correct wind up part. If you can, send me a message at andromedalazuli@gmail.com so that I know you answered me. Thanks!

  12. Misha
    August 30, 2014 at 7:50 am — Reply

    I went to the dollar store to buy plastic wind up animals. One ended up not working so I was glad I had purchased another. I’m still working out the details of how to hide this is my daughter’s dress. It is going to be a beautiful costume, thanks for your help with the wind up key.

  13. Misha
    September 17, 2014 at 5:42 am — Reply

    I made two of these and they turned out okay., I was going to use spray paint but I tried it on a trial piece and found that it ate through the foam. I ended up painting the final project. I sewed the windup mechanism to a piece of wide elastic which was velcroed around my daughter’s waist and hidden by a sash and bow.I also made the foam board key a lot larger in size. Her costume was a homemade dress that was short with lots of pleats, layers, ruffles and lace. She wore lacy socks with large bows. A wig with an oversized bow on top. A little makeup finished the costume and she looked perfect.

    • September 17, 2014 at 5:19 pm — Reply

      I’m glad to hear it turned out well! It’s good you decided on testing out the compatibility of the spray paint and foam too. Most of the time it doesn’t work out because the solvents in the spray paint destroy the foam. I used craft paint for this one, and I should have mentioned that the very first wind up key I made that I spray painted was made with cardboard.

      It sounds like you came up with a great way to hide the key attachment! I don’t know why I never thought of a sash and bow, that’s genius! Her costume sounds awesome, I’m so happy to have helped with the creation of part of it 🙂

  14. October 9, 2014 at 1:54 pm — Reply

    […] years ago I posted a Halloween costume I made that featured a working wind up key. Four years ago I posted a tutorial on how to make said key and around Halloween it’s almost always my top visited post. My […]

  15. October 9, 2014 at 6:21 pm — Reply

    I am going to try this with a music box mechanism I have. Hope it works!!!

  16. Anonymous
    October 17, 2014 at 8:17 pm — Reply

    good work — great tutorial!

    • October 23, 2014 at 3:00 am — Reply

      Thank you! 🙂

  17. Destiney
    October 21, 2014 at 5:55 pm — Reply

    Add some clear straps, like the ones you can buy for bras. That might work.

    • October 23, 2014 at 3:02 am — Reply

      Oh yeah, that’s a good idea! I recently remade this project and just attached it to an elastic belt. Now I want to try this clear strap idea as well! Thanks! 😀

  18. Anonymous
    October 21, 2014 at 6:07 pm — Reply

    Love it!!! Thank you.

    • October 23, 2014 at 3:03 am — Reply

      Thanks for visiting my blog, I’m glad you liked this tutorial! 😀

  19. October 27, 2014 at 11:08 am — Reply

    Thank you for your instructions! This was perfect for my Halloween Costume! You wouldn’t believe how many people were shocked that my key actually turned! Thank you again!!

    • October 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm — Reply

      Yay, it makes me so happy to hear that! If you’re willing to share, I’d love to see the end result! You can email me at chezlin@gmail.com or just shoot me a tweet at ChezlinTM!

  20. crystal st north claire snowflake rosalynda
    July 26, 2015 at 6:48 pm — Reply

    its the perfect idea for my steampunk doll outfit.
    i cant wait to see my friends on Halloween.

  21. Fiona
    April 23, 2016 at 8:44 am — Reply

    How do you wind up they key once it’s on and how long does it stay spinning?

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