Skeleton Key Props

skeleton key blog

Creating Lightweight, Sturdy Skeleton Key Props

I’ve used large, decorative metal keys as props many times, but I was looking for something a bit more replaceable.  Many directors can attest to the fact that actors can sometimes be rough on props.  In one show, I had a huge metal key that got broken.  I was able to have it welded back together, but I knew there had to be a better solution.  That’s when I came up with the idea to make my own. Since they’re made of cardboard, tape, and Popsicle sticks, I don’t have to worry quite so much about them being broken, and if they are, they’re easily replaceable.


Step 1: Creating the Key

The first thing that I did was go online and find a skeleton key template that I liked and printed it.  Next I cut out the key and used a Glue Stick  to attach it to corrugated cardboard; this will hold the template in place for you to cut the design out of the cardboard.  I used an Xacto Knife to cut out the inner sections and in the hard to get to areas.  The rest was cut out with a pair of scissors.

skeleton key template  scissors

Step 2: Adding Stability

To add stability, I cut Popsicle sticks the length of the key using a pair of scissors.  I attached the Popsicle Sticks with masking tape.  For a cohesive look I added a layer of masking tape over the entire key.  I tore the tape into small, thin strips to get into all of the nooks and crannies of the detailed areas.

stability seal with masking tape

Step 3: Paint

finished skeleton keys

Finally I added paint.  First I put a solid base coat of Metallics Gold Acrylic Paint on the key.  Once that was dry, I lightly dry-brushed Black Acrylic Paint over the key, and wiped off any excess with a paper towel.

In Conclusion:

Completing each skeleton key took under an hour. The skeleton keys are not only useful for shows, they’re aesthetically pleasing.  So much so that several actors even wanted to take them home after the show to use them as decorative pieces in their homes.

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