Making Keys for locks

One of my hobbies is picking locks. As part of that hobby, I have attended workshops that have taught me various skills for gutting and repinning locks. One of the workshops was at SteelCon and presented by Mad Bob's Lockpicks. MadBob produce some really nice lock picks, so if you haven't heard of them before, check them out. The picks are so much better than the my crappy GOSO lock picks that I bought form Amazon.

For Steelcon this year, Scott Helme ran a "Stickers for Charity" stall. Madbob dropped off a bag of locks for the stall, and I purchased a couple. The couple in question didn't have any keys. I thought that would be ok, I could just repin them. Then it dawned on me, I would need a key for that. At that point, I had already purchased the locks.

Blank key and lock

The blank key and the lock before starting anything.

The lock I am going to walk through on how I made a key for is a six pin lock, branded ERA. Since I didn't have any blank keys, I ordered 10 off ebay, and waiting the few days for them to arrive. This is far more than I need for this one lock, so I plan to make a bump key, as well as try to make a key from just imprinting the key.

Tools Required:

  • Blank Keys

  • Files

  • Follower (A tube the same size as the barrel of the lock)

  • Shims (or a thin piece of metal which goes between the barrel and the lock)

  • Lock Pick (For Single Pin Picking)

  • Sand paper

  • A vise

In order to make the key, the first thing I needed to do was disassemble the lock. Normally, this is straight forward, as you just insert the key, remove the circlip and pop out the barrel using a follower. So, how do I get the lock out with out the key? I initially tried picking the lock. This was indeed my first reason for actually buying the lock in the first place. After a lot of attempts, I gave up. When I got the lock disassembled, I discovered I had 4 spool pins in it, which had defeated me.

My next thought about disassembling the lock was to pick the lock, but use a shim at the same time. In this case, you only "pick" 1 pin at a time, and push the shim in to hold the pin in place. Once complete, you can either turn the cylinder, or just remove the cylinder with the shim in place, using a follower.


Once I had the lock disassembled, I placed the blank key in to the barrel, to confirm that the blank fitted, and to mark on the key where all the pins are going to sit. I used a cd marker for marking the key. Once done, I put the blank key in to my vise and started to mark the key using a circular file to start each of the cuts. Each one was started with 3 runs of the file over the hole.


Key in a vise

Key in a vise

Once started, I placed the key in the barrel, and added the pin in th ecorrect slot. If the pin wasn't flush with the top of the barrel, I removed the key, filed it with 3 swipes, and retried.

Testing the key

Once you have one pin done, repeat for the rest. The entire process took me around 3 hours to cut my key. Once I had completed the key, it is a bit rough and ready.

Spikey Key

Key not yet filed

Once I was at this stage, my key was looking good, but it wouldn't work properly. The pins would get jammed as the key slide in and out. In order to sort this, I then filed off the sharp ridges between the pins. Filing off the key allows the key to slide in and out much easier.

working key

Working key, with all pins reassembled.

The barrel when the key and all the pins are reassembled should look like this, with all the pins flush with the top of the barrel.


key and lock

My Final key and the lock


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