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A Snapping Key Problem


Previously in one of our blogs we have referred to the phrase “in hindsight”. This being a phrase that pops up quite regularly in the locksmithing world.

Over a two-day period, we heard this statement said to us by two separate customers in Syston and in Coalville. Both customers and their problems had one thing in common however…their keys!

The customer from Syston contacted us in a mild panic after they had opened a door to their residence only for them not to be able to remove the key.

This issue can be for a number of reasons and tends to rear its head if a cylinder isn’t regularly cleaned with silicon-based lubricant or if the weather has changed and the damp/dry climate has seized the pins. 9 times out of 10 the key can be removed without issue, the cylinder cleaned, pins checked and “Bobs your Uncle” life carries on…this was the 1 time out of 10!

We arrived on site within 15 minutes of the call and began working our magic…pulling every trick that we knew out of the bag.

We sat for approximately 45 minutes with picks, extractors, you name it in an attempt to free the lodged key however it would not release. In fact, there was no movement whatsoever leading us to the conclusion that an internal failure had taken place.

Luckily, we were able to supply and fit a new cylinder to the door whilst on site ensuring that the customer was able to lock and secure their property.

Now for the “in hindsight” part

Towards the end of the job the customer made a comment that they had had a number of issues with keys cut for this cylinder. They stated that they had been refunded on the last THREE sets of keys due to them not working after they returned home.

The customer then stated, “that’s the problem with taking them to be cut by someone who hasn’t got a licence and does it as a hobby!”

Needless to say the slap on my forehead could probably be heard from a mile away. Ideally a key should be cut by a locksmith, or someone properly trained to do so. In this particular instance the cylinder was designed in such a way that key replacements had to be cut by the manufacturer…or someone with a licence to complete the cuts/sell the blanks.

The customer had chosen to go to someone on a recommendation who was “cheap”, and part of this came with NOT using original/correct blanks (probably purchased online).

The cylinder was investigated further on the back of this knowledge, and it was found that the key had become trapped (permanently) because of an incorrect blank and poor cutting technique (because of a lack of training).

The locksmith customer from Coalville had a slightly simpler job, however it was one that (frustratingly) I am coming across more often nowadays.

The customer reported that the lock on his back UPVC door was not engaging/locking correctly, and this was leaving his home insecure.

On taking the call we attended immediately and were set up and working within 30 minutes.

After a short investigation it became apparent that the issue was not with the cylinder or the lock itself…it was the key.

The new key had been cut from a poor quality, very thin and lightweight metal. The key did not fit the lock very well and had all the tell-tale signs of a poorly cut copy.

Because of this we were unable to be sure that we could create a new key that would be ‘perfect’ as we would have been working off a ‘bad cut’.

With this in mind the customer decided to have a new cylinder fitted. With JG Locksmiths this was an anti-snap, anti-pick and anti-drill lock at no extra cost. This came with 5 sets of keys for customer peace of mind.

Now for the “in hindsight” part

Unfortunately, the customer had done what many other people do and had approached the cheapest and most convenient person who offered to cut the key for him.

We are seeing a high number of snapped keys in cylinders at the moment and the common factor seems to be the quality of metal that is being used in the key blanks. As can be seen in the photographs on the blog, the yellow capped key was originally straight! Knowing that I would be replacing the cylinder, and the key would be void, I gave an example to the customer of how weak the metal was and bent that between two fingers!!!!

Nicely, in both of these cases, there were no negative repercussions or outcomes. We were able to have both doors open quickly, we were able to ascertain the issues with both circumstances, and we were able to change the cylinders to fully functioning ones with extra keys when requested.

At JG Locksmiths we only use blanks of a good quality material, supplied by reputable companies, that are tried and tested. We do not do half measures, and our prices are comparable to any high street key cutter.

Tips for getting a good key cut:

– Only use an experienced Locksmith or cobbler/key cutter

– Only use quality blanks (try to avoid ‘own brand’) – don’t be afraid to give the new key a little bend to test for metal quality

– To get the BEST key cut take the original key that came with the lock

– Where possible take the barrel with the key so that it can be tested on site

– Where this is not possible check the key side by side to the one cut – check each ridge and furrow match

– When checking your new key, hold them side by side at the “collar/shoulder” of the key (the raised portion just after the grip and just before the teeth) – this is the point of measuring the key cutting alignment NOT from the furthest end in.

– Be prepared to pay that little bit more for a better quality key and cut! It may cost you £1 or £2 extra, but by the time you’ve had 3 bad keys cut you have easily saved money.


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