Help me open this oak chest
February 9, 2019 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I have a conundrum it was suggested I present to the cloud mind that is Metafilter. I bought this big old oak chest at a flea market today (it's probably 1300x600x600 mm or so) with three locks in the front, and but one key.

The locks seem to all be different, but fortunately the one on the right is already open, and the middle one has a key. Any ideas about convincing the lock on the left to acquiesce? There's a small post in the keyhole for the key to rotate around. I've tried some general keys from random furniture with the appropriate topography, but none reach in deep enough.

The lock's already lost its faceplate, and the middle lock will suffice for any security concerns. If I can't jimmy the lock open I'm not opposed to using destructive force on the mechanism if need be.

The chest will serve as storage for bedding and as a coffee table. It appears (by peeking through the cracks) to contain some sort of rusting agricultural implement that may be fun to refurbish and display.
posted by St. Oops to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is maybe an obvious suggestion, but have you tried the key you have in the other keyhole? Basically are you sure the keyholes take different keys?
posted by mskyle at 9:04 AM on February 9, 2019

It sounds like a tubular pin tumbler lock.
According to Wikipedia: Vulnerabilities

Such locks can be picked by a special tubular lock pick with a minimum of effort in very little time; it is also possible to defeat them by drilling with a hole-saw drill bit. Standard tubular-lock drill bit diameters are 0.375 in (9.5 mm) and 0.394 in (10.0 mm).[2] To prevent drilling, many tubular locks have a middle pin made from hardened steel or contain a ball bearing in the middle pin.

Some tubular locks, such as those used on certain models of kryptonite bike locks, can be opened with the back end of a ball point pen

posted by Botanizer at 9:11 AM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Have you bent a paper clip into a hook, and swept it around at various depths?

Are you curious enough to try to learn, by watching a couple videos? I believe Lockpicking Lawyer is the name of one YT-er whose stuff is popular.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:17 AM on February 9, 2019

Response by poster: The existing key is of a whole different type than the others. I've watched a couple videos (apparently lock picking is some kind of sport in the UK) but lacking specialized tools besides bike spokes I'm kind of at a loss. Right now I'm trying to probe with a hacksaw blade but the lip of the lid makes access impossible. Holesaw may be a solution, but the hole saws I have on hand are far too big.
posted by St. Oops at 9:26 AM on February 9, 2019

No paper clips or bobby pins around?
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:45 AM on February 9, 2019

Lock picks are cheap on EBay!
posted by quacks like a duck at 9:54 AM on February 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

You could post a picture of it to the lockpicking subreddit and ask for advice.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:02 AM on February 9, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, folks. It's my personal goal to get this thing open tonight while the ladies of the house watch the Eurovision qualifiers. Paper clips and bobby pins are in short supply here, but I have an abundance of bike spokes and brazing rod at my disposal!

I fashioned a hole saw from a bit of 8mm tubing I have, and chucked that into the drill. I succeeded in pushing the lock mechanism further into the chest, but haven't broken through yet.
posted by St. Oops at 10:06 AM on February 9, 2019

This page shows the workings of and old fashioned drawer lock but it you rotate the image #3 by 90 degrees counter clockwise, it’ll be the same as what you’re likely dealing with. Chest locks have a couple of hooks that would be sticking up from the part marked "l", that slide to lock them into slots in a plate on the lid. It doesn’t look like there's a skirt on the lid, so if you can slide something thin and rigid into the gap, you might be able to knock those hooks sideways enough to release the lid. I’d try knocking to the right.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:24 AM on February 9, 2019

Response by poster: So, after mostly dislodging the mechanism it was still stuck with a couple screws, so I changed tack and resumed my original strategy of knocking out the hinge pins. Now I guess the penetrating oil had a chance to do its magic and they slid out. I was able to carefully twist the top off and lo and behold: a pair of milkmaid yokes and, in the till, the key to the right and left locks. Huh.
I'll try to post some pics in a bit. Thanks again for all the advice!
posted by St. Oops at 12:11 PM on February 9, 2019 [11 favorites]

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