Locks and keys

A good lock and a key that fits

Somewhere along the line, as history went careening into civilization, humans proved themselves to be exactly what they are.

They learned to trust one another. Then, they learned to trust one another so long as only one of them had the key.

It’s hard to overlook the evidence, which is fairly old, that leaving something valuable out in the open wasn’t always a plan rewarded. It goes back to the pyramids themselves – the locks keeping the tops of sarcophagi closed weren’t put their with Geraldo Rivera in mind

Today, The Hardware Guys at Frentz and Sons do so much lock, keying, and key copying work that they consider the business of helping protect your belongings one of their premiere service areas.

"We have an extensive key inventory," Mike said, which he later checked and said counted out, this week, to 12,802 key blanks. That inventory is updated at least monthly.

Who comes in for all that work? We all do:

A lot of real estate agents and Realtors need keys to keep in the lock boxes on doors of homes they show.

Many people go to drug stores or other places that don’t cut keys as a specialty, so they end up handing the customer a key that doesn’t work. That’s how they end up at Frentz, "often saying they’ve been to three or four places and can’t seem to get a key that will fit. We can almost always do it," Mike said. Most people look at the top (bow) of the key for a match – wrong end. Look at the tip. Mike lined up half a dozen keys on the counter and asked me if they were all the same. I knew it was a trick question but I still answered incorrectly. All the keys had different bows, but all the tips were the same. Which brings us to locks.

Most of us have two locks on our doors – a regular one and a deadbolt. Frentz offers the service of adjusting the locks so one key will fit both, thus saving a lot of time fiddling for keys at the front door.

The best protection Frentz has to offer comes from a brand called Titan. "They have thicker metal parts and different key designs," Mike said, which makes them more difficult to pick. Plus, most locks have 5 pins. Titans have 6. "If someone wants to pick a lock, they want to do it a quickly as they can. This is going to take them a lot longer," he said.

How long is long? That fastest Mike has ever seen anyone pick a lock was 1 minute, by an experienced locksmith. When it’s necessary Mike will pick a lock someone has brought in for service, but his fastest time is about 5 minutes.

Most of us seem reluctant to do a little of our own handy work and install a lock in our own front or back door. If you’re going to install something like a deadbolt it might involve drilling about a 2-inch hole in the door, and Mike figures most people are afraid they’ll blow it and end up having to get a new door.

"We’ll show them how to do it, step by step, Mike said. "It’s pretty easy, really." One way to do it involves using the template included with the lock. Taping it onto the door, in the proper place, shows you exactly where to drill and how the lock will fit on the door.

If there isn’t a template, or even if there is and it just seems difficult to understand, Mike or one of his brothers will draw out the instructions for you. Often, they stay available by phone when a customer is doing something like the first time.

And that stuff you see on TV – people kicking in a door with one shot – can happen, but it’s usually just stuff you see on TV.

"Sometimes, the bolt (the piece of metal that goes from the lock into the doorway) is only half an inch into the door. That, you probably could kick in after a while. But if you follow our instructions, that bolt will be sunk at least an inch into the door. That’ll hold."

Frentz also can do a lot of other things with locks – for example, one service is keying a group of padlocks to open with one key.

It isn’t always necessary to buy a whole new setup – bring your lock in and have them check it out first.