Making a key from scanned image or xerox
August 25, 2007 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to find a locksmith (in particular in NYC) who'd make a key from, say, a scanned image (kind of like here: -- for when you just need it faster than Fedexing the key...
posted by debedb to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I suspect you won't find any reputable locksmith willing to do that for you. How does he know that you're legitimately entitled to have that key?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:44 PM on August 25, 2007

Yeah, that would be a) somewhat difficult and b) very shady. If someone needs to get in somewhere they are legitimately allowed to just have the locksmith meet them there to let them in after checking ID and whatnot.
posted by frieze at 6:48 PM on August 25, 2007

What kind of key is it? Car, or housekey, or other?
posted by jayder at 6:58 PM on August 25, 2007

I have to disagree with SCDB, a lot of locksmiths aren't all that worried about legitimacy. For example, you can just put a rubber marker over the "do not duplicate" part and get a copy made easily enough (yes, I used to work with a locksmith).
posted by jmd82 at 7:01 PM on August 25, 2007

Years ago I took a car key in to a locksmith to be duped. Once he was done the locksmith uttered ~8 digit string of numbers and said "remember that, and next time you can a locksmith to make you a key without having to bring in an original."

He didn't seem shady, and seemed to think other locksmiths would work from a numeric description of a key.

Why not try using the yellow pages and asking a few locksmiths in NYC.
posted by Good Brain at 7:03 PM on August 25, 2007

OTOH, shady locksmiths are usually lazy too, and keys are duplicated by using a machine that follows along the key you do have. You might be able to do it by tracing it by eye but it would be a pain and I doubt it would work on good locks.
posted by smackfu at 7:03 PM on August 25, 2007

You might be able to do it by tracing it by eye but it would be a pain and I doubt it would work on good locks.

With a normal key maker that follows grooves purely by eye? No way in hell unless you transfer the scan to a wooden block or something similar to trace along- and even then, you'll have to make sure the scan is not a millimeter smaller than the actual size or you'll loose necessary accuracy when the scan has to enlarged. It's hard to realize until you make keys, but the degree of accuracy needed is pretty bloody high, lockpicks notwithstanding.
posted by jmd82 at 7:16 PM on August 25, 2007

I assume you've already thought of having any locksmith pick and re-key the lock.
posted by popechunk at 7:23 PM on August 25, 2007

If you need a car key, sometimes it's a lot cheaper to go to the dealership. When my husband locked his keys in his car, we took the VIN number and a copy of our insurance (which had the VIN number along with his name so we could prove ownership) to the dealership. They quickly cut a new key for around $10. A lot cheaper than a locksmith! If you've lost the key entirely and you car is a newer car with the microchip in the key they can still do this but it'll be more expensive.
posted by GlowWyrm at 7:29 PM on August 25, 2007

The reason I asked what kind of key it is, is this. When I was on vacation once I lost the key to a rental vehicle. The agency I rented the car from did not have any locations in the city where I lost the key. I despaired. I called the agency, with much trepidation, and told them what had happened. They gave me the key code, and told me to call a locksmith, saying that the locksmith could make a key based on the key code.

When the locksmith got there, he had to hook some kind of computer up to the car (not sure why) but he did use the code to make a key.

It cost $300.
posted by jayder at 7:54 PM on August 25, 2007

Some locksmiths have a computer that scans and read keys, and produces new keys. Maybe you can have one locksmith do the scanning. Then have them call a 2nd locksmith (presumably in a different city) and tell them your key code or email the scan file. Then have the 2nd locksmith make the key. I presume locksmiths are more likely to trust each other, and the data from their scanning computer would be more accurate than your scanning. You can call locksmiths in both cities with this proposal and see if they are willing to do either part of this. Bonus points if both lock smiths have the same scanning equipment.

I went to the locksmith yesterday to duplicate a key. They did so using the common manual key-grinding method. This key is supposed to work for 2 different doors at the same time (my apartment door and my building door) but my new replica key only worked for 1 door. I went back today and told them what happened, and they said it must be because my old key is a duplicate itself and the key information is deteriorating. So they made me a special copy and told me that this copy is better than the old key I had. Intrigued by the simulacrum, I asked how this could be so. The locksmith said that they have a computer that scans the keys, rounds the ridge values to hard values that original keys would have had, and makes the new keys - the bumps from these keys usually work better. I only got charged what I paid for yesterday - $2.
posted by alex3005 at 8:15 PM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's a household key; it's a long story but there's something in the apartment I forgot, and I can fedex the key back and have my friend enter it and pick up the item and fedex it back to me, but I thought I'd win one day of fedexing by this approach, that's all...
posted by debedb at 9:41 PM on August 25, 2007

IANAL(ocksmith), but my rather basic understanding of keys is that there are about 5 (it varies) 'parts' of the key, each with, I think, 9 possible depths that part can be cut to. (Hence the "999" bumpkeys.) The specifics are probably off, but I think the concept is right.

Hence the 'keycodes' people have been given, and hence alex3005's story: some of the ridges were probably in between two values.

So, in theory at least, you could take the key to a locksmith and have him call the distant locksmith with the information on the depths of each groove. I have no idea if it would work in practice, though, and it might seem awfully suspicious. But from a technical standpoint, I think it's perfectly feasible.
posted by fogster at 4:30 AM on August 26, 2007

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