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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Posts
    8

    Question How to key warded locks?

    The 1890 house I recently bought has a box lock on every interior door and they, and the front door, have slots for the old warded keys. However, I didn't get any keys. Are there standard sets you can buy, or do I have to hire a locksmith to fit keys to them? Would any locksmith do it, or do I need a spe******t (or a really old one)?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,558

    Default Re: How to key warded locks?

    Your question is not as simple as it sounds. Many lock produced during that period were mas produced and used standard configurations and standard keys were available or you could use one of several skeleton key such as one of those found here http://www.houseofantiquehardware.co...&partner=msnpc
    However, some were manufactured with more custom wards that required a special key, they were often found on buildings used as banks or higher end homes that required additional security.
    Any locksmith should be able to cut a key to fit if the standard keys won't work.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    1,101

    Default Re: How to key warded locks?

    One more thing to do here is to clean and lubricate that lock and insure there are no broken parts inside. Most of these older locks used flat springs which can break and if they were ever painted you may find a lot of dried paint inside causing things to stick or work stiffly. A thin film of any kind of stiff grease on the friction areas will keep these working for decades or until a spring breaks. Also the lock cases and parts are usually cast mild steel or iron so straightening anything that has been bent risks breaking it. Keep an eye out at the rehab stores and yard sales and if you see this exact style of lock for sale at a decent price, get a couple spares for future parts scrounging.

    Phil

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Boston area
    Posts
    55

    Default Re: How to key warded locks?

    I too have tons of warded locks and I have found two keys so far. One of the keys locks one door but wont come out when it's unlocked. In another lock the key rotates some and then stops. Are those signs the lock has problems or that I have the wrong key?

    And I don't suppose there is some sort of malleable key I can sick in a lock, turn, and based on the impression see what pattern of key I need to buy?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    1,101

    Default Re: How to key warded locks?

    To properly fit a warded key you must have the proper key blank. Sometimes a smaller one will work, larger ones have to be filed down to fit. Once you have that, hold the key over a candle to let the carbon of the smoke coat the key. Insert the key very carefully as to not wipe the smoke off. Once it is in properly, turn the key till it stops- that won't be much. Turn it back to remove it, again being careful to not wipe the smoke off as you remove it. Now that you've got the key out, look for where the wards removed the smoke- that is where you remove the metal on the key. If you file that away and it still doesn't work, re-smoke the key and try again.

    Here's my shortcut method: Remove the lock, disassemble it, and see where the key needs fitting visually and where it contacts the locking lever. That will show you what to do and is far easier than smoking in the blind. With the springs removed you can file and test till the key works the mechanism. If you're prone to, it is sometimes easier to use pliers and break the wards off instead of fitting the key but this will make it to where almost any key will fit so you lose what little security you had.

    Phil

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Posts
    8

    Red face Re: How to key warded locks?

    Thanks for the info. There is a one-dollar pair of skeleton keys at Lowe's that are way too small. Where do I get a bigger blank key?
    One lock-picker's website says that burglars won't have the tools to open an old warded lock, so the lock actually is more secure than a modern one. Nice if true. They can always get in, though.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    florida
    Posts
    598

    Default Re: How to key warded locks?

    If you can get the lock apart take it to a lock smith. Ive tossed plenty of doors out over the yrs with the locks on them from remodeling jobs. Never thought about taking one off to see how the mechanics work. If you can get the lock off go to a flea market. There are usally boxes of keys for sale you can try.

    http://deabath.com/Keys/keys.html

    If my grandfather was still alive I bet he could re-produce the key. That old timer never tossed anything away. I can see him now smoking a cigar with a 2" ash hanging off the end filing a key.
    Gizmo

    Cut it 3 times & it's still to short.
    Inventor of the Miter Master Plus.

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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Posts
    975

    Default Re: How to key warded locks?

    Hi,
    You can buy blank keys from some locksmiths or hardware stores. The size of the blank is determined by the tip diameter. If the tip is too large, you'll suffer needless work making it fit. Then it's a matter of taking the lock apart and looking at the warding. It can have three types: a nib on the edge of the keyhole requires cutting a slot lengthwise along the key tab. A circular trace inside the face of the lock requires notches in the parallel edges of the key. Finally, the one or two levers require notches in the contact edge of the key. Now, remember, these keys must get cut so they work from both sides' keyholes. I had a lock at a "locksmith" in town for 2 weeks, and when I got the lock back and installed it, I found that the key would only work from one side, and it was not the side my lady customer wanted to lock!
    A couple of years ago I bought an antique lockset ****** for my screen door, of course the key was gone; I found a suitable old key to experiment with, and with a dremel and small files, cut a working key for it in under an hour.

    Casey
    Remove not the ancient landmark, which your fathers have set.

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