Pieces of the Pie

June 19, 2018

During the 1930's a locksmith named E.D. Reed began collecting key codes and assembling them into books of codes. Mr. Reed was not the only one; there were a few other locksmiths, locksmith associations and lock manufacturers who also offered key code books during that same time period. Companies such as Curtis and Baxter introduced their own code book versions a few years later.

After key code books appeared locksmiths became keepers of the codes. Key cutting machines were available to car dealers and some dealers could originate keys for their own particular model but the vast majority of key origination was done by locksmiths.

Making keys by code is possible because depths and spacing is known for each lock manufacturer. In many cases a manufacturer will use the same set of depth/space dimensionings for almost every type of original key they produce. Schlage and Kwikset are prime examples.

Now we have a new upstart company which is combining digital pictures with key dimensioning information to decode key cuts. Special kiosks have been placed in several cities across the nation. An announcement from the company states that they have "thousands of kiosks located at major retailers."

This company launched a campaign June 4th in both San Francisco and New York complete with advertising on public transportation and in the media. The campaign is designed "to make people more aware that they never have to go out of their way to make keys again…."

Customers can use the kiosks to take a picture of their operating key. Special software is then used to read the key image using known depth and space dimensions to determine customer key cuts and digitally store the information. If at a future time the customer loses their key or requires a duplicate, he or she can visit any kiosk owned by this company. With proper identification, stored cuts for the customer's key are retrieved and a new key can be produced at the kiosk.

Locksmiths are described on this upstart company website as persons who "manually trace" keys. This company claims to make accurate keys to original cut dimensions which can "avoid repeat trips to the locksmith."

Nothing beats the experience of a locksmith who can look at an owner’s key and determine what must be done to produce an operable duplicate. We cannot stop customers from trying other sources for key duplication but in the end the public will always understand that locksmiths are their ultimate choice. Our piece of the pie will always be the biggest.