Adventures in Multifunctionalism: A Key-Holding, Bottle-Opening Wallet

Vivek Gani - 01. November 2014

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A few months ago I locked myself out for the second time in a year, and my ‘ripstop nylon’ wallet was well, ripping apart after five years. Looking at a smorgasbord of crowdfunded ‘minimalist’-themed wallets and various keychain alternatives, I stumbled upon one solution that’s worked for me and others have asked about.

The Wallet

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The wallet I ended up switching to is called the AJ-Wallet, which stood out for having a solid aluminum frame, a foldaround ‘comb’ for holding cash, and with a trip to the hardware store a way to hold keys.

Anyways, before jumping into the key modification, let’s look into a few aspects of the wallet.

Holding Cash

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The metal billfold is a neat idea and is originally what drove me to buy the wallet, but feels like a balancing act – carry too much and the cash becomes too hard to stuff it in-between the metal ‘comb’, carry too little and cash can fall out. Ideally the comb would have some type of spring loaded aspect to it to help ‘grip’ the cash, or there could be a latch on the underside to lock it in place.

Without this, loading cash feels a bit too cumbersome, and when shopping I’ve found myself slipping cash straight into my pocket to load in later.

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This wallet can’t hold change, but in theory one could replace side with a pouch or rubber material to hold a few coins in place. Hopefully arcade machines & laundry machines will be using [insert new-age bitcoin-ish currency here] soon.

Holding Cards

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I can’t complain much about how this holds cards. It works well enough, despite being limited to just around seven cards.

Opening Bottles

Yep, it does that too. I’ll spare you a picture since you should be getting beer from a tap.

And it can hold Keys!

Silvrback blog image This thought occurred a day after the lockout, and I immediately biked to the hardware store to try things out. To modify the wallet, you’ll need the following:

  • An M .25 machine screw - thats point two five.If you have no idea what I just said call a local hardware store or hobby shop, they should have them in stock. Length varies depending on the number of keys you plan to hold, but mine’s about 20mm to hold 3 keys.
  • Two M .25 nuts - these will be tightened against each other in a “jam nut” configuration
  • A few washers to put between the keys and the wallet frame - these should be larger than the bolt size since the keys will have wider openings - I used a mix of M .3 and M .4 washers.
  • A hex driver toolset to remove the original bolt (which needs two hex drivers of the same size), and tighten in the new one.
  • A small wrench to tighten the M .25 nuts.

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For the wrench, I used a sweet little thing called the engineer pocket wrench, and while it may seem odd to blow nearly 30 bucks on a tiny wrench, it’s managed to serve many uses for bicycle maintenance (notably a wheel spanner wrench), and for electronics work.

Also, when loading the keys, play around with different configurations. The pictures show one key on the backside, but the way I now use the wallet is with all three keys on the frontside, which has felt more ‘out-of-the-way’ when dealing with removing cash. They key shapes themselves will also influence ordering - for instance below is a key with a large square head that interferes with the other bolt on the wallet, so it has to be placed further out.

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Usability tradeoffs

Anything that tries to combine functions and save space means tradeoffs. Beyond the earlier issues mentioned Here they are:

  1. Living with metal protrusions - Yeah, the wallet has a metal latch that produces out, and my key hack adds another metal protrusion. I don’t notice it as long as I put it in my pocket the right way, but yes it’s annoying when I occasionally forget. On the plus side though, I almost never have to deal with a floating keychain poking me again. Silvrback blog image

  2. It’s heavier than a normal wallet - Yep, it’s heavier, but there’s plenty of other fancy key holder things that involve metal and probably add weight too.

  3. What about the car keys? I don’t drive much these days and am trying to keep it that way, so keeping a separate hard-to-find keychain has been a nice environmental hack. The other solutions don’t seem to answer that question either.

NOTE: I intentionally didn’t link to where to buy one now. While I’m happy with the wallet, the kickstarter comments reveal some shadiness from the maker. I’ll also note that the wallet was shipped from Malaysia and doesn’t say ‘Made in UK’ as the original campaign’s photos hinted at. This said, I’d love to see someone improve on this wallet in regards to loading cash and holding keys and launch yet-another crowdfunded wallet campaign. I’d do it myself but I’m too busy with my own projects at the moment.