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How to Make Skeleton Keys

Updated March 23, 2017

Skeleton keys are one of the most original forms of keys. Such keys were first created in medieval times. The reason that these keys came to be known as a key that could open all locks is because so many locks had the same form back then. Actually, the only reason a skeleton key works is because the design of the lock is not unique, and so a common form of key can open it. The true “skeleton key” of today is actually the master key, which is designed to open all locks in a particular set.

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  1. Take the lock that you want to pattern the key after, and place in the vice. Using the screwdriver and hammer, pop the back panel off the lock to get to the locking mechanism.

  2. Taking the second panel off. Using the same method, use the screwdriver and hammer to get the second, thicker plate off the back of the lock. This will be a similar technique to getting the lid off a paint can. Once the lid is off, take the keyhole out of the lock.

  3. Sawing the keyhole is the next step. Place the keyhole in the vice grip. Using the metal saw, make three incisions into the keyhole on each side of the cylindrical shaft. Saw the top, and two sides of the keyhole. This procedure will eliminate the metal casing around the keyhole, revealing the key pattern.

  4. Hold the casing upright in your hand so that the protruding end faces up. Remove the two thinner sides of the casing from the keyhole very carefully. Next remove the protruding bit of casing. Be extremely careful, otherwise loose pieces will go flying all over the room, and you will have to start over with a new lock. The springs should fall away gently. The only thing left visible should be the pins standing on what is left of the keyhole.

  5. Remove the top set of pins from the keyhole, leaving the bottom set. Insert the blank key into the keyhole. This will cause the remaining pins to poke through the top of the keyhole. Take the key out of the lock. Use the metal file to file the blank key until all the pins lay flat across the top of the keyhole. This will make the key fit most locks of a similar size.

  6. Tip

    An electric metal file will make the filing process go much quicker. Be sure to use the kind of lock that you want to open when making your skeleton key, otherwise it probably won’t work in the lock you need opened.


    When filing the key, make sure not to file too much. Otherwise the pins will not lay flat on the surface of the lock, and the key will not work.

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Things You'll Need

  • Blank Key
  • Metal Saw
  • Vice Grip
  • Metal File
  • Combination Key Lock to Open
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer

About the Author

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