How to Make a Keyhole in Wood

Wade Shaddy

Wooden keyholes can be used to hang pictures. They consist of a round opening with a small vertical slot that runs downward. The wooden keyhole is created with a special router bit that bores into the wood to create a small cavity. It is then slid forward to fashion the channel.

Use a keyhole bit and router to make wood keyholes.

When used to hang pictures, the head of a nail extends out from the wall and fits into the round opening; it is then allowed to drop into the slot where the head of the nail is trapped in the channel.

  1. Clamp the wood to a worktable with a hand clamp. It should be face-down with the top side toward you.

  2. Install the keyhole bit in the router and tighten with the router wrenches. Set the depth of cut on the router so that the bit extends 1/2-inch from the tip of the bit to the router base.

  3. Mark the location of the desired keyhole on the wood with a pencil.

  4. Hold the router with both hands. Position the router directly above the marked point.

  5. Pull the trigger to turn on the router. Plunge the bit downward into the wood until it the router base is flat on the wood.

  6. Pull the router toward your body 1/2-inch and stop. Push the router back to the original position where you made the plunge following the small channel that you just cut. Pull the bit straight up out of the hole. Turn off the router.

  7. Tip

    Do a few test cuts on some scrap wood to get the feel of it. There are different sizes of keyhole bits. Select the size that best fits your needs.


    Work steadily and smoothly for the best looking keyhole. If you wobble, you can ruin the keyhole when the bit bites into the sides of the keyhole and chips it. Always wear safety glasses.