How to "break in" a newly cut door key
January 28, 2020 8:04 AM   Subscribe

I just had a new door key cut, and it fits into the lock but can't actually unlock it -- I think it needs to be "broken in" because it wasn't cut exactly enough. What's a reasonably quick and easy way to do this?
posted by rue72 to Grab Bag (16 answers total)
 
Counterpoint anecdata: I was in possession of a spare key of similar fit for months (it did unlock the door, but only after serious wiggling) that I used almost every day while staying with friends and the only thing that improved the situation was going to the hardware store and getting a new key made off one of the originals.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:22 AM on January 28, 2020 [14 favorites]


Take it back. If your old key works they should be able to reproduce it.
posted by H21 at 8:24 AM on January 28, 2020 [13 favorites]


I've never heard of "breaking in" a newly cut key... sounds the key was just cut badly. I would get another key cut and ask for a refund.
posted by mekily at 8:24 AM on January 28, 2020 [9 favorites]


Response by poster: The hardware stores that I've gone to refuse to cut this sort of key because it requires an unusual blank. I used a KeyMe kiosk to read the key and then it was cut off-site by them and mailed to me. I need to make this key work.
posted by rue72 at 8:25 AM on January 28, 2020


If it is a Medco key, no amount of breaking in will help. Ask me how I know. It requires a special machine to cut.
posted by AugustWest at 8:27 AM on January 28, 2020 [3 favorites]


I've had very limited success with kiosk-scanned keys on weird blanks, I'm afraid; all too often, they just plain don't work. It's possible that with visual comparison with your own key you could figure out bits to file down and make it fit, but that's a tricky process and if your defective key is already cut down too far in places then there's no way to reverse that process.
posted by jackbishop at 8:29 AM on January 28, 2020 [4 favorites]


Best answer: I would lightly sand it all over, blow graphite into the lock, and try it again.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:46 AM on January 28, 2020 [2 favorites]


Best answer: I used to cut keys. Last step is a wire wheel brush to get rid of any tiny burrs. You can take the key to a hardware and ask them to use the wheel to clean up the edges. Not confident it will work, but that's how I would 'break in' a key.
posted by theora55 at 8:47 AM on January 28, 2020 [10 favorites]


Best answer: I would try colouring on it with a regular pencil, blowing off any big particles of graphite, and then using it in the lock again- finely powdered graphite lubricates locks (but you don't want chunks of graphite in there that could jam anything!)
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:50 AM on January 28, 2020


The wire brush technique is the one the guy with the lousy key cutting machine I'm periodically in need of using recommends.

If you still have the original, it's possibly worth a trip to a locksmith.
posted by Candleman at 9:05 AM on January 28, 2020 [4 favorites]


Best answer: > nouvelle-personne: I would try colouring on it with a regular pencil, blowing off any big particles of graphite, and then using it in the lock again- finely powdered graphite lubricates locks (but you don't want chunks of graphite in there that could jam anything!)

They actually sell little tubes of powdered graphite for exactly this purpose, and you can squeeze the dust into the lock itself. I've had very good results with this for keys and locks that were "sticky" but I'm not sure it will do much of anything if the key won't work at all.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:09 AM on January 28, 2020 [2 favorites]


If you stack it with he original you should be able to see where it doesn’t match up, and then file it down. This could take a while. I’ve done this with sticky keys but if yours doesn’t turn at all it may be beyond easy remedy.
posted by rodlymight at 9:39 AM on January 28, 2020 [4 favorites]


The hardware stores that I've gone to refuse to cut this sort of key because it requires an unusual blank

I'm gonna second Candleman and suggest a trip to an actual locksmith rather than a hardware store. Locksmiths usually have a wider selection of blanks and will take more care cutting and finishing the key.

A locksmith will probably be willing to do the filing and wire wheel work necessary to make your current key better.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:46 AM on January 28, 2020 [5 favorites]


Just on the off-chance - I've had keys cut that didn't seem to work until they were pulled back slightly out of the lock, because the tip of the new key was too short and it wasn't aligned properly.
posted by stillnocturnal at 11:01 AM on January 28, 2020 [5 favorites]


What type of blank is it? If it's a primus or medeco it could very well be copy controlled and it would be next to impossible to get it duplicated without special tools.
posted by Carillon at 1:11 PM on January 28, 2020 [1 favorite]


With Medeco keys, the cuts are made at oblique angles, and a normal pantographic key-cutter can't mimic that. If you look at the original key edge-on, does it look like the cuts are at weird angles?
posted by adamrice at 9:10 AM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]


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