Help me not get locked out!
October 30, 2010 10:35 PM   Subscribe

Where in Seattle can I get a "Do Not Duplicate" key, well, duplicated?

I need to have a backup copy made for an external apartment door. The key is clearly marked "Do Not Duplicate," and getting a second key from the building management isn't an option.

Is there somewhere in Seattle I can have a key cut with no hassle? If it's a matter of putting it on the counter on top of a $20 bill, I'm okay with that.

posted by fracas to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This may take a little bit of scouting, but some places have DIY key replicators. It's fairly simple and they're designed so a member of the general public can use them. Maybe call around to different hardware stores and see? I think your average locksmith will refuse to duplicate a DND key. Good luck!
posted by allseeingabstract at 10:40 PM on October 30, 2010

Here in Maryland, I took an apartment key prominently marked 'do not duplicate' to the nearest Home Depot and had it duplicated.

Then I had it duplicated five more times at other Home Depot locations and hardware stores, because the original key had a weird groove that made it difficult to copy. The key-copying machines had a tolerance that was set too high, and the cutter bit just kept cutting a hole where the original key just had a deep dip.

Then I had the maintenance people re-key the lock entirely.

Then I had the new 'do not duplicate' key duplicated again.
posted by Nomyte at 10:41 PM on October 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

"....getting a second key from the building management isn't an option."

That doesn't sound right. Can't you tell them you lost yours? What if, indeed, you lose yours before you have the chance to make a copy? If they ask for a ridiculous fee ($75 at my old building), try tipping the doorman and nicely asking for a spare. Worked for me.

Having said that, locksmiths (in my experience, two out of two so far) don't actually care about the "Do Not Duplicate" note; as far as I know it's not legally binding for them – but check your lease, there might be a provision against you making extra copies.
posted by halogen at 10:46 PM on October 30, 2010

I took a key to a TrueValue hardware store to be duplicated. I was nervous about it because, y'know, rule-breaking makes me nervous. The guy looked at it and read out loud: "Do not duplicate. Haha! Ha! Ha! how many copies do you want?"

I don't know what I was scared would happen. That he would say no and I would leave and try a different hardware store?
posted by ootandaboot at 10:49 PM on October 30, 2010 [11 favorites]

Just go to a few different hardware stores. They aren't going to call the cops on you or anything crazy like that.
posted by Brent Parker at 11:07 PM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a feeling this is "Do not remove this mattress tag" territory.
posted by Buffaload at 11:11 PM on October 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Can't you say you're the one who had the "do not duplicate" key made in the first place so it doesn't apply to you?
posted by IndigoRain at 11:17 PM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

nthing that the guy who runs the grinder at the hardware store won't care what the key says on it. And if he does have a sudden attack of morals, he won't turn you in or keep the key or anything.
posted by maryr at 11:27 PM on October 30, 2010

I actually had the Home Depot guy on Rainier Ave. balk when I had to do the same thing. Maybe he was exceptionally a hardass about it, or they had a major crackdown on this sort of thing recently. But he outright refused to copy it.

So I wouldn't take it there.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:38 PM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, my 'do not duplicate' keys were copied at small chains (Ace Hardware) with close to college campuses.
posted by maryr at 11:50 PM on October 30, 2010

Cover that side with masking tape and write "Shed" on it.
posted by panmunjom at 11:58 PM on October 30, 2010 [24 favorites]

Put some duck tape over the DND part of the key and write something like "Key 1" on the tape. Then have it duplicated. Worked for me, they never removed the tape.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 12:01 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

If the local hardware stores refuse, just buy a blank and a needle file, it's not that hard to file one yourself.
posted by Marky at 12:24 AM on October 31, 2010

I have had numerous "Do Not Duplicate" keys duplicated at a wide variety of places without the staff ever batting an eye.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:28 AM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As others have said, the majority of shops with key cutters will not care as long as they have the appropriate key blank in stock (Medeco blanks can pose difficulties for various reasons). The tape trick wandering_not_lost suggests is something you can do if you're feeling nervous about it. Keep in mind that if they say no, they are just going to say no. Absolutely no one is going to call the cops or turn you in for trying to have such a key duplicated. If at first you don't succeed...
posted by zachlipton at 12:48 AM on October 31, 2010

There is no reason that a locksmith or Ace won't copy a standard key blank. If its a Schlage, the standard diamond shape keys, or a kwikset, which are more domed, there shouldn't be a problem. WHen I worked at a lockshop, we literally had a little stamp we would put on at the request of customers, knowing full well its only effect would be to prevent people from coming in.

However, if it is a certain kind of Medeco key, the ones with the angled teeth or say a Mul-t-loc those blue keys, then it really likely won't be copyable without the company's approval. That is a legal obligation on certain patented keys and I think they might even sign a contract, etc.

And there is no harm in asking. If you go to a lockshop, they won't take the key either way. If they can't copy it they'll just let you know that they have a legal obligation not to. It'll be pretty easy.
posted by Carillon at 1:38 AM on October 31, 2010

I have duplicated such keys at the Home Depot in Sodo and up on Aurora Ave., due west of Northgate Mall.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:58 AM on October 31, 2010

As long as it's duplicable at all, within 3 tries you'll find a hardware store to do it. Some keys cannot be directly duplicated however, without sophisticated tools and the right blanks.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:13 AM on October 31, 2010

How is it not an option to get another key? Presumably you're a legitimate tenant in the building and have a contract allowing access to it. It would seem entirely reasonable to expect management to have a means for you to obtain whatever number of keys are necessary to use the facility within your contractual rights.

Or are you engaging in something the management or lease-holders are unlikely to approve of?
posted by wkearney99 at 7:44 AM on October 31, 2010

wandering_not_lost has it. I have duplicated many apartment keys in Seattle (at the long lost City People's on 15th as well as at Home Depot) by using this exact same trick, and nobody says anything about it.
posted by pdb at 7:50 AM on October 31, 2010

Best answer: The couple times I've had overly cautious key cutters say they couldnt copy a key with those markings I went home, covered the top of the key is masking tape, and then scuffed it up so it looked like it had been like that for a while. Overly cautious guy didn't even look at t twice, and the key was successfully copied.
posted by cgg at 8:35 AM on October 31, 2010

I used to copy keys when I worked at Ace Hardware; echoing the duct tape idea. To make it look even more like your normal house key, put one of those colored rubber house things on it the covered up the "do not duplicate" section. I didn't know anybody who went through the trouble of taking a key off the keyring and taking off the house piece just to see if do not duplicate's on there.

Another way to make copying all the more likely is to see if it's one of the two most popular brands of house/apt keys- an sc-1 or kw-1, which you can usually tell by looking at the grooves.. If it's either one, the key maker will have seen so many they won't think twice. It's when you start getting into specialized, rare keys that somebody might notice.
posted by jmd82 at 8:48 AM on October 31, 2010

I put colored tape on my keys so I can easily identify them. All my keys (except for home key) are DND. So far no one (I usually get mine done at ACE hardware) has bothered to stop me.
posted by special-k at 10:31 AM on October 31, 2010

I've never had trouble with 'do not duplicate'. Even at the super-reputable, do-everything-by-the-book place in town, they just wanted me to sign my name in a register.

As people have mentioned though, keys based on trademarked blanks can be problematic to duplicate.
posted by Hither at 11:01 AM on October 31, 2010

I tried 3 times at 3 different hardware stores to get an external apartment door key duplicated. They all did it without question, despite the message on the key, but none of the duplicates actually worked. It turns out the blank needed is similar but not identical to the ones these stores all had in stock, and none of the guys noticed the difference when they were grinding my key.

I say take the key in and ask, but definitely try out your new copy to make sure it works on the door before you rely on it as your only key. I'd hate for you to give it to your girlfriend to let herself in late at night, or your mom to feed your cat while you're on vacation, or whatever and have it not work.
posted by vytae at 11:19 AM on October 31, 2010

When I asked my local locksmith about it they said they wouldn't do it, for liability reasons, but that Bulger Safe and Lock might.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:56 PM on October 31, 2010

When I was a manager in retail I simply wrote myself a letter on company letterhead authorizing myself to have the key duplicated. You can do this with any company. As others have pointed out, this will not work with Medeco though, and licensed Medeco locksmith's will verify with the registered lock-holder before duplicating one of their keys.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:46 PM on October 31, 2010

Response by poster: vytae has it right on two counts: I'm making a backup for my girlfriend to let herself in late at night, and so she can check on things when I'm out of town. The landlord's a hardass, so yeah, I'm breaking the rules, but there you go...

Sounds like I just need to take it to a number of shops and see who'll do it. And the tape/plastic cover trick sounds brilliant. Guess I expected more resistance? Regardless, thanks!
posted by fracas at 9:29 PM on November 1, 2010

I've had a hardware store refuse to copy Do Not Duplicate keys. I then went to Chinatown and a small convenience store copied the keys with no questions asked but charged about $1 extra a key.
posted by Shusha at 11:11 AM on November 2, 2010

Response by poster: Turns out that I needed a special key blank that garden-variety hardware stores didn't stock, so I just started making the rounds from locksmith to locksmith until I found one that didn't refuse me outright:

Them: [frowning] "Are you authorized to duplicate this key?"
Me: "Um, it's MY apartment."
Them: "So is that a yes?"
Me: "I suppose so."
Them: [smiling now] "Okay! That'll be $3.50!"

Thanks for everyone's help!
posted by fracas at 6:54 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

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