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Intermediate Custom Car Key Remote Fob

  • Software:
    Adobe Illustrator, OpenBuilds CAM, OpenBuilds Control
    Machine Time:
    4 hours aluminum, 20 minutes wood
    Bit or Laser Size:
    16th" 2-flute fishtail/upcut, 90 degree V-bit
    Feeds & Speeds:
    Aluminum: 10 in/min, depth .002"
    Wood: 40 in/min, depth .03"
    .25" 6061 aluminum, .25" Chechen wood, stainless M3 hex button-head machine screws
    Here is how I made a custom hardwood and aluminum key fob for my car. This would be a great way to salvage a broken fob or to even combine a remote to a key that did not originally have one, though this first one I made just for fun.


    Aside from a slight range reduction due to the heavier materials, all of the original remote's functionality is maintained - this is really just a cosmetic update.

    Here is the key that I'm starting with - it's for a 2010 CRV. A boring key for a boring car. One of these things, I can fix with an evening in the workshop.

    A tiny screw and a clip hold the plastic shell together. The screw threads into the base of the key. The remote portion is neatly contained in its own little unit - pretty nice design.

    Here's the inside of the little remote unit. I decided to only keep the bottom piece that holds the battery and the circuit board - everything else was designed around this.

    The key was glued into the shell of the fob, so I had to break that part to free it. To keep this work simple, I'm not going to mess with the key much at all.

    With all the parts examined, I was ready to measure every little nook and cranny to make sure the buttons, lights and key all ended up in the right spot. I haven't opened up many car keys before, so I don't know how typical my example is, but I imagine that this process could roughly be applied to many different makes.

    Here are the parts that I'm going to make. I wasn't a fan of the original soft, oval body, so I opted for a slightly more aggressive angular shape. I laid out a frame and buttons to be cut out of aluminum, and then two shells out of hard wood. Two machine screws will thread into the aluminum frame, securing the bottom shell of the fob and the key in place. It's important that nothing can move around, so I spent a lot of time measuring from various points and matching against the old remote and key. This was all very tedious, but it's always faster to do it right the first time. But with the design part of the process done, it was time to get to the fun stuff.
    Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 12.37.31 AM.png

    I started by milling the aluminum parts with a 1/16" upcut bit with my Lead CNC 1010. I've been incorporating more aluminum parts into my projects lately, and I think it's a great choice for something like this that needs to withstand a little abuse.

    It takes a little while for this tiny bit to get through the 1/4" plate (close to 4 hours!), but allows me to get a lot of detail out of it. The holes around the frame are to help with adhesion later on.

    After cutting the tabs to release the parts and some quick cleanup with a file and some sandpaper, the parts were looking pretty awesome to me. Next up was the wood parts.

    I used a scrap piece of some nice Chechen wood for the shell and again using the Lead CNC to mill the parts. This is quick work, only taking about 20 minutes.

    After some quick cleanup, I now had all my parts roughly ready with just a couple small tweaks left to make.

    First I recessed the screw holes from the back on my drill press.

    And then ran a small chamfer on the outside faces of the shell.

    Instead of threading into the key, the machine screw is going to go through it and thread into the aluminum frame. So I have to enlarge this hole to allow the M3 screw to pass through.

    Then I tapped the frame to receive the screw. With this step complete, I cleaned down the aluminum and attached it to the top face of the key. These parts are too thin for wood screws, so I opted to use epoxy to hold the one side to the frame. This is my first time doing this, so I hope to not be disappointed by it failing in the future but it's been holding up great for a couple weeks so far. I would be happy to hear any feedback on this step, as I really don't know if it's kosher or not - I'm pretty new to this stuff!

    The last step is to engrave my logo into the back of the shell with a 90° V-bit.

    Here are all the finished parts just before being oiled up. Assembly involved just dropping in the buttons, the circuit board and then closing it up with the two screws.

    And here it is - from one of millions to one of one.

    Thanks for checking my project out! This is my first auto-related project, but now some ideas are starting to bubble up, so it might have to do some exploring there. If you'd like to follow more stuff that I'm making, you can check me out at www.instagram.com/michicanery
    fob-wip1.jpg fob-wip2.jpg fob-wip3.jpg fob-wip4.jpg fob-wip5.jpg fob-wip7.jpg fob-wip8.jpg fob-wip9.jpg fob-wip10.jpg fob-wip11.jpg fob-wip12.jpg fob-wip13.jpg fob-wip14.jpg fob-wip15.jpg fob-wip16.jpg fob-wip17.jpg fob-wip18.jpg fob-wip19.jpg fob-hero1.jpg fob-hero2.jpg fob-wip20.jpg Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 12.37.31 AM.png

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Rhett E, J.R., RedHat33 and 12 others like this.

User Comments

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  1. Jesse Rosvall
    Cool project idea. You could even take it a step farther by adding the lock, unlock and panic detail to the buttons. Thumbs up on the pics and details!!!
  2. Andreas Bockert
    Looks awesome. Could you share your feeds and speeds for the aluminum milling?
  3. MFCarew
    Great build, excellent photography and story plus a cool quote " from one of millions to one of one" You hit the trifecta with this project.
      Michiglenn likes this.
    1. Michiglenn
      Thanks very much! This was a really fun one, and I'm actually almost done with an updated version that really blows this one away—was able to shave off over 1/8" of thickness and make it a little shorter too. Now I just need to get better at finishing the aluminum parts, and then I have to get an anodizing setup going so the parts will hold up better. Every project seems to lead to much more work, but this all feels really useful to learn at least!
      Michiglenn, Feb 19, 2019
  4. Giarc
    That is beautiful! I have never used an endmill that small for aluminum. I am curious what you feed and speed was?
      Michiglenn likes this.
  5. Peter Van Der Walt
    Now this one I got to do too! Awesome man~!
      Michiglenn likes this.
  6. Mark Carew
    Incredible project brother! Thank you for the in-depth share
      Michiglenn likes this.
    1. Michiglenn
      Thanks Mark, I appreciate it! This is the smallest thing I've worked on yet and while it makes the finishing stressful because there's so little surface area, the result has definitely been worth it. Wait til you see the revised version!
      Michiglenn, Feb 19, 2019
    2. CarlitoCulpable
      @Michiglenn I would love to get in touch with you about making a key fob for, I sent you a message on ig as well. Thank you
      CarlitoCulpable, Dec 15, 2023
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