Have you ever found yourself locked out of your house, car or business and had to call a locksmith? If you have, then you know how expensive locksmiths can be. In a situation where the only other option is to break into your house or get in through a window, it might not seem like such a bad idea.
But before you leap at that option, consider whether or not there is an easier alternative and save yourself some money and heartache.
Many people ask if locksmiths can make keys with just your old key. The answer is generally yes. There are several types of locks that cannot be cut, but can be picked or drilled. They include the door and window locks in most homes and businesses, as well as deadbolts and master key systems for various commercial buildings.
There are many reputable locksmith companies out there who specialize in making keys with old keys. When you make an appointment, you will have to describe what type of lock you have and bring a sample key. That way they can match the key as closely as possible.
It’s usually best to bring both parts of the key—the part that goes in the lock as well as the part that turns it. If your lock has teeth on it, this makes it much easier for them to match up a reproduction key. With their expertise, a locksmith can make a key to fit almost any lock, no matter how complicated. So, if you ever need a key made from a lock, you know whom to call!
Methods a Locksmith Use to Make a Key from a Lock
Several methods can be used to make a key from a lock.
Key Code Cutting
Key replacement using the codes is a simple option for fixing locks. Lock features can be represented by letters and numbers known as key codes. The codes or inputs must be fed into the program to determine the lock’s parameters.
Even though it’s the simplest option, this strategy can only be used if a genuine key is available. The codes are often permanently etched into the keys or printed on cards to unlock the door. A professional locksmith would often call the maker to obtain the necessary code.
Locksmiths can select from two different types of codes: blind key codes and direct digit codes. A blind key code is a series of numbers and digits for the lock’s specifications. However, the manufacturer must make the lock code public, and the locksmith will require specialized software to decipher it.
Locksmiths often use serial digit codes rather than blind key codes due to increased complexity. The lock’s dimensions and the cutting patterns are presented explicitly through the numbers and digits. These codes are often read either from the bow to the tip or vice versa.
If you misplaced your car key, look in the owner’s handbook, the lock’s label, or the metal plate for the code. However, the code for a typical lock may be etched or scratched somewhere on the lock’s casing. Unfortunately, you can only get to the code if you take the lock apart.
Locksmiths utilize key-cutting equipment to facilitate their services. The punching machine is one example. It may be used without power and is controlled by hand. In addition, it is built to cut precisely and to survive for a very long period. However, using this machine to carve complex keys is impossible.
Electric code machines are another tool used by locksmiths. This machine is superior to a traditional punch system for handling technical and intricate key combinations. Keys can be manually cut with a physical card or automatically generated by key-cutting software on an electric code machine.
Making an impression of a lock is one option for creating a replacement key. There’s no need to decipher codes or take the lock apart; it’s a simple procedure.
Marking a key blank with the positions of the pins within the lock cylinder is called impressioning. While this may take a while to get the hang of at first, once you do, it only takes around 10–15 minutes at most. You may have faith that your locksmiths have things under control. Locks that are more complex than a typical pin tumbler lock, such as a disk detainer lock, may need more time to open.
In most cases, a locksmith will utilize a key blank, file, key grip and magnifying lens. As it is simpler to impress the pins within the cylinder using softer materials, locksmiths prefer brass key blanks over steel ones.
The 6-inch swiss #4 cut round file is the most popular choice among locksmiths because of its delicate and accurate cutting capabilities. The locksmith uses a key grip and a file to securely hold the key while using force to produce the markings. A magnifying lens is also employed to make an even more accurate slice.
An impression is made by putting the key blank into the lock and jiggling it back and forth to leave minute traces on the key blade. After the key blank has been marked appropriately, it is taken out of the lock and filed to provide the necessary cuts. The pins can only be lifted once it’s the right size.
Mechanical Key Duplication
Mechanical key duplication is the best option if you want to make a key quickly and easily. In this process, the locksmith uses machines designed specifically for mechanical key duplication.
Mechanical key duplication works by creating a standard impression of the original key blank on a master in order to create copies of it. Several tools are used for this process, including blank cutting dies, code wheels and wafer cutters.
Once the master key is finished, the blank cutting dies are used to create working keys. The blank cutting dies are made of hardened steel. It comes in either round or square shapes that can cut a key blank from one side to another.
For the wafers to be cut, a special machine called a wafer cutter is used. A wafer cutter has an opening for each of the tumbler pins with internal teeth and a spring that press down on it when the key is turned. This spring is used to cut the wafers. The wafers are removed from the machine and put back together correctly.
Once all these steps are done, a locksmith can use a key blank to make a working key. The process may be slower and more convenient than mechanical key duplication machines. However, it can be faster than impressioning or disassembling since it does not require specific skills or techniques.
Magnetic Key Duplication
Magnetic key duplication is a relatively new method that has become increasingly popular recently. This method uses an electrified transformer and strong electromagnets to generate copies of the car key and even home keys. It works by placing the key being duplicated between two magnets.
The magnetic pull of the magnets holds the key in place while the measurements are recorded. This method differs from mechanical key duplication in that the measurements are recorded electronically rather than manually. The procedure can be done at home with just a few supplies, like the magnetic rod, the metal plate on your car door and a blank key made of soft metal.
Aside from the choices of materials, the complexities of the key can also affect how much it costs to do this procedure. This method is very reliable, but it is also significantly more expensive than mechanical key duplication. It requires specialized equipment that only some locksmiths have access to.
Traditional Lock Picking
While others have largely replaced this method, it remains in use occasionally. It involves using a tool to push the internal parts of the lock out of the way, so they no longer prevent the key from turning the lock. Because lock picking was one of the first methods, many locksmiths still carry a set of lock pick tools.
Open locks are very similar to padlocks, so it is easy to pick them. However, the process is more difficult compared to other methods. It requires some experience and expertise that a locksmith might have after years of practice.
There are two main types of locks: pin tumblers and disc tumblers. In both cases, a lock is made up of several parts with embedded pins and discs inside them. Those components secure the lock and make it hard to open.
A locksmith must align the pins and discs to raise them all at once to open the lock. The locksmith needs to insert a pick within the keyhole. He will move it back and forth by adjusting its angle, depth and width. When done correctly, this process will raise all the pins simultaneously.
A skilled locksmith can open most kinds of padlocks through traditional lock picking. However, this method is only sometimes reliable, unlike picking a lock on a door. To gain access to a lock that uses anti-picking mechanisms like a 3-pin cylinder or even an electromagnet, the locksmith will need to learn the unique structure of that kind of lock.
Key Remote Duplication
When using key remote duplication, a locksmith will use a special device to read the key’s information to duplicate it. This process is fast and easy, but it can only be used when the original key is in hand since it requires the vehicle’s VIN and security code.
The main advantage of using this method is that you can use a car’s remote control even when you don’t have your original set of keys. It eliminates the need to carry extra keys with you.
Another advantage is that this process only takes a short amount of time. It can be done in a matter of minutes because all the necessary information is already recorded on the key. This way, all the locksmith needs to do is duplicate that information on another key.
Disassembling the Lock
A locksmith’s final resort is disassembling a lock if he has been unable to obtain the code or produce an imprint. This approach is more challenging than the other two since it requires knowledge of the lock’s internals, including the pins’ alignment and placement.
A locksmith needs to disassemble a lock in a non-destructive manner to protect the lock cylinder’s internal mechanisms. Forensic locksmiths employ this same technique when looking inside and analyzing locks. Locksmiths take off the lock from the door when working on pin-tumbler locks.
If the original key has been lost, the locksmith will need to “pick” the lock to open it. In order to access the screws inside the shackle, he will need to turn the lock to its unlocking position. He’ll take off the cap, the pin and the circlip when he has finished.
After the lock is taken apart, he will measure the pins and internal mechanisms to fashion a key. The locksmith must note the correct sequence of pin placement from head to shoulder. You can’t have any that don’t fit the pinning gauge.
After cutting a new key, the locksmith must put the lock back together by aligning the tabs on the back of the tumbler. The spindle is then reinstalled, and the lock is reapplied to the door.
If you have lost your keys and cannot find them, contact a locksmith service to get assistance. Don’t wait until it is too late because that will make it more complicated. Don’t take risks by trying to open the lock yourself because you can end up with further damage to your property or your car. That is why knowing a locksmith company that can help you is important. Several types of companies are available, so finding one should be pretty easy.
Ultimately, before you choose a Seattle locksmith to do the job, it is important to know the process he will use. After all, that will determine how much time and money you will save. If you need a locksmith, it is important to ask him what he can do in your unique situation.