Creating a new key using just a lock can actually be a pretty straightforward process for somebody who knows what they are doing. While some of the techniques used for this can be a little daunting for a layman, the beauty about all of them is that there is a strong element of DIY involved for anybody who does not feel like securing the services of a locksmith, which won’t always be the most inexpensive or affordable option.
However, because key cutting can be an intricate process at the best of times, it is probably most sensible to hire a locksmith for this job. The important thing, though, is knowing that a locksmith can make a key from a lock.
Can A Locksmith Make A Key Without The Original?
Yes, a locksmith can create a key without the original, provided he has the required skills and the right tools at his disposal. A skilled locksmith can do this by using impressions, a code cutter, or dismantling the lock altogether. Which method they adopt will usually be determined by the nature of the emergency.
While the process might take a little more time with a higher security lock cylinder, professional locksmiths (especially an experienced locksmith) will still be able to get the job done with almost any type of lock.
A skilled locksmith will only need to know which company manufactured the lock cylinder (lock manufacturers are pretty well known in this industry) before telling you if they can do the job for you or not.
There are many “locksmiths” on the market who wouldn’t be able to get the job done for you, because they aren’t actually trained to do the work. They usually charge significantly lower prices than skilled professionals, regardless of whether they need additional tools or not. That is normally a red flag.
How A New Key Can Be Made From A Lock Step-By-Step
You can cut a new key by adopting any of the following three options or methods.
Cut Your Key By Code
Key codes are cut by using an impressive piece of equipment called a Code Milling Machine (commonly known as the HPC Blitz), which will usually be owned by a licensed locksmith, who will probably charge substantial locksmith fees. That is probably also going to be a good sign that the job will be done right the first time.
If you try this out yourself, you will definitely find that this is the most efficient process of them all.
If you decide to purchase the code milling machine yourself (for whatever reason), you will also get a set of code cards. On the code card you will find key blanks and code series references, The cards will tell you how exactly to cut that key, depending on the type of lock that you are dealing with.
When you have sufficient clarity on which card you will need, you will simply need to slip it into the machine. On the card you will encounter instructions on what jaw to use (either jaw A or jaw B), The card will also instruct you what cutter you should use. Tools are usually supplied with the code milling machine, to help you swap out and replace the different set of components required to cut your key.
At this point, the next step will be to adjust your spacing on the machine (left-to-right) and your depth (going deeper into the blade). Once adjusted, the key blank is loaded into the machine
Once you have cut out the entire lock code, you will remove the key from the machine and (by using the brush at the back of the machine) you can brush off any burrs.
The key (pun intended) to what is actually a very simple and quick process is understanding how to find the sequence of letters and numbers that reveal the characteristics of the lock on your door.
In the context of this article, the best place for you to find that code will be on the label of the lock or on the metal plate of the lock. The only caveat is that you will often have to actually remove the entire lock to find this code.
Impression Your Key
To effectively pull this method off you will need your lock, a set of key blanks, a pair of pliers (or an adjustable wrench), a Swiss file, and magnifiers.
Before you can start with this, you want to prepare your key for the impressioning job, by removing any rough grooves that might be on the key blank because of the coating or covering on it. Essentially, you want a key blank that is completely smooth. This can be done by simply using some sandpaper and rubbing the key against a relatively flat surface.
When you are satisfied that you have a nice and smooth finish on your key, you want to put some starter grooves on it, by sliding the key into the lock. Using just your fingers, you should then just wriggle the key back and forth so the lock pins scrape against the surface of your key blank.
After a little wriggling, you can remove the key from the lock and you should find some markings giving a glimpse of where you will need to cut out your grooves.
When you are ready, you can then put your magnifiers on and line the Swiss file up with each of the markings and just create that initial groove for each mark. It is usually best to use the edge or tip of the Swiff file to pull this off well.
Once you have the initial grooves, you will then place the key back inside the lock and apply a little more pressure to wriggle the key inside, which helps give a better indication on where you will need to cut. Every time you turn the key, the binding pins will dig a little deeper into the key.
When you remove your key, you will spot a groove that is slightly deeper than the others on the key. When you are satisfied you have that mark, you can then use your Swiss file to start working away at that groove specifically.
Insert the key again to establish if you have reached the proper depth for that particular pin. Keep working away at this until the lock is opened. The time this takes to get this right will vary depending on the type of lock that you are working with.
All it takes to get this right in the long-term is a little practice. Once you become accomplished with what you are doing, this should be little more than a 15-minute job.
Dismantle Your Lock
To disassemble a lock you will need some cardboard. Remove the backing of that cardboard on one side. The corrugated bit of the cardboard will give you the perfect pinning tray, which will effectively hold the pins for you.
You will also need any small and pointy tool, like a half-diamond pick. You will use this to access a small retaining pin at the back of your lock, that helps keep the lock cylinder cap on. Regardless of what retaining pin you have at the back of the lock, you should be able to figure out how to get it out with a brief examination.
You should then depress the retaining pin, while unscrewing the cylinder cap on your lock. Remove the tail piece of the lock, the cap, and the little spring that you will find inside the lock cylinder. Also make sure to not lose track of where your retaining pin is because you will need all of those things again.
When you are ready, you should then put your key into the lock, and turn the housing of the lock about 90 degrees. Make sure all the pins are up when you place a plug follower through the housing of the lock. At this point, you should carefully remove the key from the lock,
If you can, you will then need to look for a security tag, usually found on a DVD, or clothing. Inside that tag, you will find two perfect little pieces of metal. The key detail here is that those pieces of metal are thin enough to slide into the entire lock cylinder.
When you push down on the piece of metal, you should try and lift on the pin that it is touching. This should give you a chance to slide the metal right down and get held into place. This will help you remove the plug from your lock.
With the plug removed from your lock, you want to carefully lay out each pin in the right order on the cardboard cutting that you made earlier. Make sure that you get the order right for this too.
When you are ready, you should then take the plug follower out the housing of the lock. You will slowly remove a spring for each of the accompanying pins that you just removed, and then line them up on your cardboard tray or cutting. This can be done with a set of tweezers. Once you are done with the springs in this extraction process, you can then start assembling the driver pins in corresponding order.
That just makes it easier to reassemble the lock when you are done. Using the measurements and combinations of all the parts that were disassembled from the lock body, an expert locksmith can then be able to make a working key out of the lock.
If you are planning some form of DIY, this method will undoubtedly be the most complicated and difficult to pull off. You will be better off leaving this delicate process in the hands of a trained professional locksmith near you. This is a technique usually used by forensic locksmiths during and for specific investigations.