How Do Locksmiths Duplicate a Key Without an Original?

In life, situations develop, and somehow they always get resolved.  No, it is probably not by magic but by skill and technology.  One of these “mysteries” is how a locksmith can make a key when there is no original to be found. 

The initial step is to determine what kind of lock you are dealing with.  There are many, many different manufacturers and models as well as those in use that are no longer on the market.  The locksmith must first decide what type of blank will work with the particular lock you are trying to work with.

The Process

Usually, a technician will begin with several different types of blanks.  Using a special file called a Pippin, the blank is formed into a sharp point, and then the file is used on the sides.  Slowly this blank is formed into a blade shape.

Using vice grips, the technician will hold the shaped blank and heat the metal for a few seconds.  The warm blade is inserted into the lock and carefully twisted.  In this way, the pins inside the lock will make indentations and markings that will indicate how the key should be cut so that it will work in the lock.  

Using those markings, the locksmith will begin to shape the blank into a key, shaving the impressions bit by bit.  Periodically, the blank will be reinserted into the lock to see if there are still pins or markings that need adjustment. 

Then the locksmith will begin to create grooves as necessary.  Again, this is an ongoing process until the grooves are at the correct depth and in the right places.  Filing and adjusting continue until the blank becomes a key that will turn the cylinders and open the lock.  The job is still not complete.  The key must be refined until it is a perfect fit and operation.  

However, the job is still in progress.  This blank turned into a key is not a good choice for the regular operation of the lock.  It is thinned because of all of the shaving and digging out the grooves.  Now you can take this prototype to a locksmith’s shop and have a new, solid key cut.  Or the technician can create a key for you on the spot. 

After reading all of this, you may be thinking that it would make a fun DIY project for a Saturday afternoon.  If so, realize that you need to have access to the blanks and understand which will work and which won’t.  You will need infinite patience to shape and reshape until you have just the right design to turn in the lock.  Thinning the edges too much or making the grooves in the wrong places and you will need to start over from scratch. 

All of this adds up to contacting a reputable locksmith like S.O.S Locksmith.  They can dispatch a technician to your location and complete the process far easier than you would possibly be able to.  If there are errors, the technician will begin again, but that is far less likely than you having to restart multiple times.  In the long run, you will save time and effort by hiring a professional locksmith to make a new key for a lock that has none.

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