Tuesday, September 29, 2009


No, not a Garand; I was opening the back door, hand on my key, when my purse slid down my arm.

That would be the key that cracked last week, the one I soldered up 'til I could get to a locksmith. Now with the key part stuck in the lock and the grip part still in my fingers.

This is why I wear a Leatherman tool; had the working part of the key backed out in a trice, the hard part being getting it lined up where it is free to slide out.

Tam pointed out Big Box Hardware/Materials was open and off we went.... Hey! they even had blanks that looked to be the right profile! Win!

Took forever to get a $D00D over and when he did arrive, he was like life in a state of nature: nasty, brutish and short. Took one look at the key and said, "Whoa. Can't do, we can't match that."

His boss, tall, older (by weeks) and with a nice collection of prison tattoos and an equally-winning demeanor shook his head. "Can't help yuh."

Tam was fuming, holding onto a blank that matched her house key. Shorty chimed up, "If the boss says we can't, we can't."

They traipsed off, perhaps to offer the same level of service to other soon-to-be-disgruntled customers, while Tam and I held a confab at the key counter. Eventually bossman showed up, just as happy as during his earlier visit, and Tam held up a blank. "Look, this matches." She'd had me get my broken key out and lay it on the counter, "And it matches hers, too. I really think this will work."

He gazed upon the keys in vague distaste tinged with loathing and favored us with the same. "I'll do it but you can't bring it back if it don't work." (We're talking a $3.00 key copy here...).

We both replied that was fine and good, we'd be happy just to try, la dah dee, smile, smile and he took the key and loaded it in the machine, ran it while helping another customer, gave it a lick-and-promise deburr and slapped it into my hand, assuring us, "Won't work."

We checked out at the self-service and on the way to my car, Tam remarked on how very pleasant the young men were not. I agreed. (Geez, do I hafta start wearin' somethin' low-cut to get decent service? Or wazzit the "Father knows best" thing with those two?)

Went home and tried the key. It's not great -- I even filed on it a little, with Tam wondering how wise that was (probably not very but hey, I'd rather fail trying, it's a geek thing) and it worked marginally better. It's still not great.

But it does work, and will do until we can run by a real locksmith.

Lowe's? Big Box Hardware And Attitude? Not my first choice for lock work, now more than ever. Come to think of it, rarely my first choice for anything; they're close and they sell water cheap.


Justin Buist said...

We grabbed one of those Schlage electronic dead-bolts about a year ago. I was sick of my dog flipping the dead bolt when I'd head out to get the mail. I'm amazed his shenanigans have never resulted in me sitting outside for a long period of time.

Anyway, we're happy with it. You can use a key if you want but it's nice to know that you can get in your own house if you know the PIN for the lock. Also nice that you can simply phone a friend with the code if they need to get something for you for whatever reason. Easy enough to change it too.

Ian Argent said...

The anonymous box-store does better than the Despot around here for keys - to the point that the Despot's keys never have worked for me and the other does.

OTOH, the guys running the counter in both places are doing it as a retirement gig.

Tango Juliet said...

I avoid the big box outfits too. I simply cannot depend on them for good help. That is, if the help can be found at all.

Ace is the place!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Menards. :(

Bruce B. said...

Since the key works already just work it back and forth in the lock a little and it will wear in and work more smoothly.

Anonymous said...

I put myself through college cutting keys. I cringe - deeply - every time I hear brass being gnawed upon, plagued by memories of those skinny bastard GM keys jumping out of the vise on their way toward my forehead.

See the bit on the Simpsons when Sideshow Bob steps on all the rakes.



Drang said...

"Dear Lowes:
Please the following blog post by a very good friend of mine and then explain to me why I should ever contemplate patronizing you again."

I, too, usually go to Ace for copies of keys, as long as they are unimportant (i.e., lockers at work.)

For important stuff, I go to a locksmith.

og said...

actual hardware stores are few and far between these days.

Having done some light locksmithing i can tell you, it's not uncommon at all to have to do a bit of filing.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Hate the big boxes.

I miss the old Ace Hardware at 71st and Michigan. Among other things, they sold shotguns and ammo. But they always had what you needed, and bonus, they always knew how it worked.

But then, I miss the soda fountain at the old Rexall next door to it, too.

Jeff said...

You didn't run over to the mom and pop at the corner of the two big streets there in Broadripple? Is that an Ace?

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Are you talking about Handy Hardware? They moved over to 56th and Keystone years ago, and I think they're long gone now.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Sorry, I meant "54th and Keystone". 56th is where the old Lum's was ("hot dogs cooked in beer!").

Old Grouch said...

@ Nathan,
Yes, Handy is long missed. (If they didn't have it, you didn't need it.)

Jeff may be thinking of Hedlund's, at Keystone & 62nd St. Another old-timer.

I've had good luck having keys copied at the Ace on Westfield in Nora (open until 9pm).

Tam said...

"You didn't run over to the mom and pop at the corner of the two big streets there in Broadripple?"

The one at 62nd & Keystone?

It was too late.

But there's a happy ending...

perlhaqr said...

Hunh. I always just run the bloody thing myself. The worst they can do is kick me out, and generally, there's never anyone around to even pretend to notice me anyway.

I can live without Bozo's opinion on what is and isn't copyable.

Jeff said...

Yup, 62nd and Keystone. Not over that way much. :)

Anonymous said...

I once broke the only key to a jeep I had, I managed to talk the guy into selling me a blank, and I cut it to match the broken pieces of the key. The result didn't look as preety as a machine cut key but it worked just fine. I've also modified blanks for keys that I could find a matching blank.

Stranger said...

One of the VERY best things I ever did was a $40.00 keyless lock bought off that "internet auction house." When it is locked, the house is deadlocked. With one of 9,999,999 possible combinations.

As long as I can remember my late mother in laws phone number (fat chance) I can get in my house. And if the battery goes dead, I still have a key.


Jacopo said...

Yeah, need to find an Ace. When I was the KeyMeister, I used to do broken key jobs with ease. Mind you these were on the manual machines, not the plug and pray ones at the bigBox stores, so there was much better luck.

Glad you found a lsmith to do the job right for you.

Ritchie said...

Mildly shocked here to find that neither the retrotechnologist nor the retroballistician command much lock-fu. At long last, have you no needle files!?

Aanoosh said...

Both of those home improvement chains are horrible. Awful help, cheap products that break in days, and a complete lack of interest in providing any customer service.

Roberta X said...

Flies, I got. I eve own more than one vise. What I didn't have was a key blank and sufficient time to fool with copying the existing key.

...Rather go to a locksmith with an old key anyway, as a guy who does locks and keys all day every day is considerably better at evaluating the wear on a key and producing a "copy" with some of the wear reversed. BigBoxStore can't do that. I probably could but I'd want spare blanks and a long afternoon. At 2115 on a school night, not so much.