Many customer who call us to open the door to their home or business are confused by the process. Here are some answers to the most common questions we receive.

How much does it cost for a lockout?

There are a lot of different factors that go into pricing. If you google search “national rate for a locksmith service call” you will get “The minimum call out charge for a locksmith is typically $75 which usually covers the first hour. Hourly rates are $75 during regular hours and $95 during after-hours or emergencies.” is the answer provided by Google. A lockout is going to be slightly more simply because there is urgency involved. So a typical rate would be around $100 to unlock a residential door.

Anyone who says they’ll let you know when they get there or offers a $29 service call is almost certainly going to try and charge much as they can once they get to your location. If it is too good to be true it probably is.

Does the price depend on the type of locks?

It can, but in our years of experience the vast majority of home owners have standard Schlage or Kwikset locks that can easily be picked. Occasionally, we will come across an odd key on a door and need to drill and replace the lock. This is the exception not the rule. In those cases we typically offer a replacement lock at no additional cost as to not even appear like we’re trying to up the rates once we do the job – like some people do…

Why are lockouts for businesses more expensive?

Some people think that trades charge businesses more because they can. In reality, there are a lot of additional factors that go into servicing business. For a home lockout, there is typically only one person that the locksmith needs to speak with – the homeowner who is locked out. For businesses, the locksmith might need to speak with employees, managers, supervisors and other people in order to even start working. Once the work is complete there is typically more paperwork that needs to be done. Some businesses ask for certificates of insurance or W9 forms. All of that takes time to gather and email. Additionally, most businesses do not pay at the time of service. Instead, they request and invoice. All of that takes a significant amount of time than just completing the locksmith service.

How will a locksmith open your house?

There are a lot of ways to open a residential door. Typically we use standard picks, specialized picks, or other tools that we won’t get into. 98% of lockouts we complete are by picking the lock which does not damage the door. It’s true that anyone can learn to pick locks and open their door – however if you don’t have your key it’s unlikely that you would have your pick set on you. It’s easier to just carry a key.

Can a locksmith open the apartment front door?

Often times apartment entrances use higher security keys that are harder to pick and are impractical to spend the time picking. Typically, someone will eventually come by the apartment door and open it up so the person could at least get inside. Additionally, most apartment doors have some time of access control system which allows their tenants to gain entry to the building. If we do have to do anything to the apartment door, we would want permission from the apartment building owner first.

Can a locksmith make a lock from a key I lost?

Yes. This is a common request in apartment buildings. The building management might keep a key copy in a cabinet. The tenant might not want to change the key because they’ll have to provide another key to the apartment management staff or the key might be on a masterkey system. Whatever the case, we can make a key to your lock that will work and still allow the apartment to have access to your unit for repairs or emergencies.

Oberlin is another city that has a lot to do with my interest in becoming a locksmith. Growing up my sister sang in the Oberlin Choristers. At that time, they held their practices in a large church. The church was filled with interesting rooms, hallways, and even closets. What was fascinating to me is that sometimes doors would be locked and sometimes they weren’t. Depending on the week, I might be able to play inside a certain room and the next week that room would be locked. Maybe this is one of the reasons I developed such a strong interest in locks and doors. I also got the opportunity to frequent the local shops in the downtime – and now we get to service those same businesses!

Oberlin is a small city (total area of 4.96 square miles) with a very rich history. It was instrumental in the underground railroad a central part of the abolitionist movement. Most people know of Oberlin from the Oberlin College and Conservatory. The College and people who attended their were involved in some historic changes against slavery, inclusion of women in higher education, and other social causes.

Being a historic town Oberlin has older businesses and homes that have antique locks. One of our areas of expertise is servicing these older locks and doors. Some people want to preserve the original hardware and aesthetics and we are more than happy to help them do so. Being a college town, there is a frequent changeover of residents and many people want to change the locks on their apartments. In addition, a lot of college students tend to lose their keys. We won’t go into the many reasons why this is a frequent occurrence for college students :)

Regardless of the locksmith service you need in Oberlin, we are ready to help you with your residential, commercial, or automotive locksmith needs!

If you are having trouble getting your key copied at your local hardware store, Ace Hardware, Home Depot or Lowe’s there may be several reasons why. We are frequently asked to duplicate hard to find keys and sometimes keys that are not supposed to be copied! In this post I’ll detail some common reasons why and how you might still be able to obtain a key copy.

1: Worn Key

When you copy a key on a regular duplicator there might be some small variances. These variances are caused by 1) the way the key is placed into the jaw 2) the calibration of the machine 3) the angle of the duplicator’s cutting wheel. Some cuts on the key might end up higher and some might end up lower. This might make the key duplicate out of tolerance enough to make the key not work. Some self-service key duplicating machines scan the key and correct these mis-cuts. However, they may make corrections when they shouldn’t which results in a key that will not turn the lock.

2: I/C Key

IC, interchangeable core, locks are used for various reasons. One a control key allows you to remove the core allowing to quickly rekey the lock. Another benefit is increased security. Ideally, these keys should be punched not duplicated. An SFIC punch is an expensive dedicated piece of equipment that even many locksmiths don’t have. It IS possible to manually duplicate these keys but they often do not work 100% correctly. The tolerances on SFIC keys/ SFIC cores are very tight.

There are several manufactures of these key systems including: Best, Falcon, and Arrow and tens of different keyways available. Many of these keys do not indicate what keyway they are. Thus, in order to duplicate the key a locksmith first has to determine what type of key it is. SFIC locks also come in restricted keyways.

3: Locksmith-Only Key

In order to help control unauthorized key duplication property owners and business managers sometimes use what are called locksmith-only or restricted keys. There are dozens of keyways available only to locksmiths through distributors. They really do only sell these keys and blanks to locksmiths. Some examples of these keyways are LSA by LSDA and MX / MX Alpha by GMS.

 

There are at least three such keys on the market today:  and HS by Hardware Agencies. These key blanks are only sold to locksmiths and security professionals registered with authorized dealers of security products and access control solutions like, for instance, the International Distribution Network. If you have an LSA, MX10, or HS key, you will have to locate a locksmith that is registered to sell the blanks for your restricted key.

4: High Security Key With An Open Keyway

Business managers and property owners sometimes want locks and keys with additional security features like pick resistant, bump resistant, and/or drill resistant. Medeco‘s 00 keyway, CX5‘s ZOL keyway, and Schlage‘s Everest C123 keyway are all popular open keyways found in the field today. These locks can typically be bought from distributors that sell to the general public. So seeing a Medeco lock on a door doesn’t automatically mean that a locksmith installed the lock.

5: DND Key (Do Not Duplicate)

Even the most common key blanks are sold with a DND or DO NOT DUPLICATE stamped or embossed on the key. This stamping is on what’s called the bow or head of the key – that’s the part of the key that you hold. If you look and standard keys you’ll find that the bow of the key has a unique shape. These different shapes are part of the way locksmiths use to identify what type of key the lock is. DND keys typically come in what’s referred to as a neutered bow. The head of the key is a simple rectangular shape. This prevents someone from guessing the key by looking at the head of the key. Many seasoned locksmiths can look at the grooves on these keys and determine what type of key it is. Additionally, common keys like SC1 SC4 and KW1 can be read by key kiosks. So if you’re looking to prevent unauthorized copies this method is simply not enough anymore.

6: Old Key

Some older homes and even businesses have locks that use older keys that are not popular anymore. Many antique locks used Corbin Russwin keys that many hardware stores don’t stock.

Lock Alchemy Locksmiths & Security is now a provider of MX Alpha Restricted Key locks.

MX ALPHA provides several advantages over standard key systems.

1) Key holders are not able to duplicate the key at a hardware store, key machine, or even at a locksmith shop.

2) MX Alpha can easily be master keyed.

3) MX Alpha can be used with SFIC (small format interchangeable cores) and conventional cylinders. The key system can work with most existing hardware, reducing costly hardware replacement.

4) The cost of upgrading to MX Alpha is significantly less than other key systems. However, they do not have extra drill resistance and a UL rating that many high security key systems come with.

 

Who should do electronic access control? An IT company, a fire company, a security company, a locksmith, a general contractor? Short answer is someone who is qualified, licensed, and insured. But who is typically qualified? Who can install the required physical hardware, run wires, manage a WiFi network, and program everything in? Our answer, an alchemist.

I’m actively involved in many online forums and Facebook groups dedicated to security, locksmithing, computer networks, access control, alarm systems, and surveillance cameras. Yes, it’s a lot to keep up with. The gaps between what different groups of folks know, what they think, and how they complete their installations vary widely. In access control groups, I’m amazed by the basic questions people ask about lock and door hardware. In locksmith groups, I’m surprised by some peoples’ total lack of interest in electronic access control.

One of my friends said it best, “I think it’s easier to teach locksmiths how to wire things than teach IT people how to deal with locks.”

Our core belief is that the physical infrastructure has to be on point. Be that the locks, doors, frames, wiring, connectors etc. I’ve heard a statistic, that I kind of doubt the validity of, but that 80% of networking issues are rooted in physical problems: wiring, failed components, walls obstructing WiFi etc.

I’ve always had a passion for IT. I ran my first Cat5 cable when I was 12. I did and still do computer programming. I love Linux. However, when I started Lock Alchemy in Cleveland, I wanted to just to physical lock and door hardware. The Ring door bells and wireless locks came around every once in a while. Often times requiring door and lock knowledge to work properly. Then I met someone in access control and security that changed everything. He subbed all his lock work out. Everything to do with the physical door – the barrier protecting businesses and homes. The only obstacle physically stopping someone. The point of electronic access control is to “control the opening.” Perhaps we should focus a little on the physical opening.

Many access control companies actually sub out their lock and door work. Door closers, physical locks, cutting door strikes, hinges. In order for an electronic access system to work – the lock and door hardware have to be at least functional. A system can easily be compromised by a failure in the physical infrastructure. IT people don’t know how to diagnose hinge issues, problems with a door closer, or strike alignment. These can cause a door not to latch. An unlatched door is not a secure door.

Understanding why they do this is two fold. 1) There’s a lot of expensive equipment someone needs to purchase to be a real locksmith. 2) There’s a lot to know to be a good locksmith. I’ve invested thousands of dollars in key machines, keys, door hinge tools, jigs for cutting doors and strikes, and have a massive inventory of different style locks. The monetary barrier to entry to be a locksmith is high. Getting into access control, alarms, and cameras is much less. A few thousand dollars in cable, tools, and a ladder and you’re in. Most security professionals don’t carry an inventory and rightfully so. There’s no telling what a customer might need and there are too many products. Aside from some standard latches and maybe a spare camera, even larger operations carry a small inventory. Point two, knowledge. There’s a lot to being a locksmith. It can be hard dirty work. And a lot of people can’t or don’t want to do it. People that recognize their limitations and don’t do it should be commended. People who do sub-standard work should be reprimanded.

Technology is great but it’s not a panacea for security problems. After a door is functional with a closer, strike, and sensors it still needs a key. A think electronic access controls dirty secret is that locks still have keys. They still have keys for many reasons. They’re a pretty failure resistant backup, they allow emergency personal to gain access, and systems do experience problems. Often times these can be fixed quickly but in the meantime you want a viable solution – like a traditional physical key. The problem is that people don’t keep track of these keys. They get used to fobs and their system. They don’t think about their keys and their access control people don’t either.

 

Products are usually straightforward when it comes to pricing. You might be able to find a product cheaper online but have to wait for shipping. But generally, most products can be found within 10-15% of each other. Unfortunately, that is not the case with services. The same service might vary by 300% or more depending on the location, time, and several other factors.

In fact, if you look at online forums for the trades “how to price” services is one of the most talked about topics. Figuring out “how much should a locksmith cost” is actually really complicated. In this article, I’d like to break down some of the most common factors that go into pricing.

Service

If someone writes chicken scratch invoices and hands them over it certainly takes less time. If a company writes detailed notes and takes pictures it certainly takes more time. A company that doesn’t track things well will almost certainly be cheaper – at first. However, a company that takes time to write things out and do things properly can save a lot of money in the future. Taking the time to explain options and communicate with a customer – well, takes time. And that’s time that has to be built into the cost of service.

Location

Most locksmiths provide on-site services, meaning they are mobile. In order to provide those services they have to drive to your location. Gas, wear and tear on a vehicle, and insurance do add up. Some companies charge a flat rate for anyone inside their service area. For anything outside their area they may charge a flat fee or charge by the mile. Location certainly plays a role into the speed at which a locksmith can arrive.

Labor

Sometimes it’s an easy job and it’s all about having the right parts or tools. Some jobs require a lot of extra effort that may not be apparent to the customer or even the locksmith until they arrive in person. Some shops charge a flat rate for a service others charge by the hour and some use a combination of the two. A technician should provide a written estimate before starting complex work.

Parts

Having the correct parts in stock is extremely useful. It prevents return trips and delays while parts are ordered. The number of different items most locksmith shops have in stock would amaze people. Little pieces and parts collected over the years for when an obscure lock comes up again or a custom job needs to be completed. Some customers are upset that parts are marked up. There are a lot of reasons for this. Ordering, tracking inventory, and opening up packages takes time. And after all, time, is what most places bill for.

Urgency + Time

Emergency services are usually higher cost than non-emergency services. In some cases, locksmiths may adjust their schedule to accommodate an emergency. That inconvenience and extra effort is compensated by increasing the price of the work done. After hours and holidays often do incur additional charges.

 

At Lock Alchemy we strive to offer transparent pricing and are able to quote most jobs over the phone.

 

 

Pro Data Key immediately got my attention as a strong access control solution. I think the brand and image a company portrays gives an insight into the mindset that drives their products and services. Pro-data-key is a fun company. Bright yellow boxes, fun YouTube videos, and an understanding of what customers want. Cloud based access control is a going to play an even bigger part in the access control world. I believe Pro Data Key will be at the forefront of that movement.

Cost

Like it or not, cost is a huge factor for businesses. The price point of PDK’s hardware makes sense for many small businesses. The monthly cost of their cloud based subscription service is surprisingly low. Even their 99+ door tier is really accessible. The cost of their card readers makes you scratch your head and wonder why other companies sell them for twice the price.

The cost of the cloud subscriptions gets you more than just access to, well of course, their cloud. You get all of their updates. It’s also very easy to scale and add doors, add/delete/modify permissions, and keep track of what doors have been accessed by which person and when.

Technology

PDK is about cloud and mobile based access control which makes them at the forefront of tech. While using Bluetooth isn’t completely new, I think they implemented it in an intelligent way.  People lose fobs and cards. People absolutely panic if they misplace their phone and I don’t think anyone leaves home without their phone. Personally, I don’t like the idea of only having cell phones for access. People lose phone, set them down somewhere, or the battery dies. PDK offers keypad readers which I think should be the go to choice unless their is a reason not to (like the size of the stile.)

Infrastructure

PDK offers a lot to buildings that are hard to wire. The door controllers communicate wirelessly to the cloud node. This is a huge advantage to buildings that are difficult to wire, expensive to wire, and for tenants that can’t modify certain parts of their building. Access control in the real world often has challenges like tenants not being allowed to modify walls. It’s fairly easy to drop a door controller above drop ceiling and call it a day. They have repeaters in case the distance is too far or obstructions block the signal.

The Achilles heel of PDK is that the controllers must connect to the cloud node. If the cloud node goes down that’s bad news. The door controllers do not store the information on board. Meaning, if the cloud node goes down the doors won’t work. I truly don’t understand why the system was designed like this. Most controllers keep permission records on the door controllers in case of a failure like this. Of course, the controller couldn’t communicate to the main panel to add/delete/modify users but it should keep all of the permissions status quo.

PDK has a solution to this. In my opinion, it’s an absolute band-aid. Each controller can handle up to 10 emergency cards that will work in case of an outage. Distributing these cards seems like a logistical nightmare during an outage. I sincerely hope that PDK comes up with a better solution that this. I think an integrator needs to do their due diligence and disclose this to any potential customer.

 

 

 

 

We got a call to repair a storefront door for a business in South Euclid. Not to throw anyone under the bus, but the previous locksmith was just not up to doing the job.

These types of locks are called “Adams Rite” locks and they are typically found on aluminum glass storefront doors. They have pretty tight tolerances so you need to be careful to make sure everything is lined up properly and tightened enough – but not too much.

 

 

One of our locksmiths arrived to the job and removed the cover plate exposing a number of screws that were not tightened down. The cylinder was spinning whenever they tried to use the key. This means that the set screw for the mortise cylinder was not tightened down properly. The exit paddles also need to be carefully adjusted or else it will result in the paddle only working sometimes or not all.

You can clearly see the lose screws and that the lock body is out of alignment. The golden screws near the top of the lock are set screws that hold down internal parts. The left is for the cam and the right is for the lock cylinder. The locksmith adjusted the position of the lock inside the door and tightened all the screws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now you can see the lock all put back together with the face plate on. They are using the cylinder hold back function. This allows the door to remain locked during regular business hours. After hours the lock can be used from the inside by pressing the paddle or the key can be used from the outside.

 

We did not supply any parts for this job. We simply fixed what was in place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire safety is physical security. In 2019, there were 1.3 million fire incidents inside the United States. This has been fairly average over the last decade, since 2010. In general fire incidents are on the decline but they are still too common.

Fire-rated doors and door hardware exist for a reason and a purpose. They can mean the difference between minor damage and a total fire loss. In some cases fire doors are mandated either by local building code, the architectural plans, the fire marshal, or other AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction). Fire-rated equipment may be mandated in these cases is not optional. You should consult with a competent professional to determine your legal requirements. Here are some uses of fire rated doors and hardware.

 

1. Stairwells / Elevators

Building codes usually require that the doors accessing stairwells and elevators be fire rated. In addition to being fire rated doors in these cases might also have special features that help mitigate smoke. Aside from being dangerous or deadly to inhale, smoke reduces visibility and increases the time required to evacuate a building. These fire door assemblies need routine inspection.

2. Garages

Roll up gates and garages can also have fire ratings. These types of gates require very specific installation and specialized maintenance. Given that roll up gates and garages have cars many times doors adjacent to garages will carry a fire rating.

3. Hallways

It’s not uncommon for hallway doors to be fire rated. Fire doors slow the spread of the fire, so installing one for a hallway can protect a large amount of space. Some buildings might not require a fire rated door for hallway but as a facility manager or building owner it can be a smart upgrade. Hallway doors might also require a certain smoke rating as well.

4. Vulnerable Areas

Not every building or business is the same. Some companies have particular assets that are more valuable necessitating that the room they’re held in be more secure. This might mean installing locking hardware on the door or upgrading the door to a fire rated door. For example, a business might have a room with two desks that holds significant value for the business. It might be wise to upgrade the doors leading to and from that area with fire rated doors.

 

The East side suburbs have growing reports of car theft. Don’t panic, it’s still not that common and there are few simple things you can do to help protect yourself.

 

Don’t Leave your Keys in your Car

This is the number one thing you can start doing today to reduce your chances of having your car stolen. Most people who call us for locksmith service after their car was stolen and then recovered left their keys in the car. Don’t let the car run while you are making a quick trip to the store!

Lock your Doors

Many cars can be stolen without complicated tools. Locking your car doors helps prevent thieves from stealing items inside your car or the car itself. When you’re done parking your car – roll up the car windows and lock your car.

Don’t Leave your Spare Keys in Your Car

A surprising number of people leave spare keys in their car. If your car is locked the keys inside won’t help you. If you’ve lost your keys, after someone opens the car, you can use them to drive. However, it’s generally not the safest idea to store a spare key inside the vehicle. Instead, try carrying the spare in a day bag, in a wallet, or in a purse.

Don’t Leave Valuables in Your Car

Thieves might first be attracted to a vehicle if they see valuables inside your car. If you must store valuables inside your car, put them in the trunk or somehow hid them from plain sight.

How are People Stealing Cars

People have a perception of car thieves using a slim jim tool on the window and lock to open the door. Then they go inside the car and “hot wire” it. While some version of this is possible and certainly easier to do with some models than others this isn’t really the most common way.

1) They’re Using Tools

Here is an article from News 5 Cleveland that provides some details about tools and methods this crew was using. Essentially, they had a method for a certain type of car and repeated it. This was a more sophisticated care theft ring that is not the most common way people steal cars

2) Someone Left a Key in the Car

This is probably the most common, and preventable way, people steal cars. Someone left a key in the car on the seat or even left the car running.

3) Carjacking

Unfortunately, this is becoming the popular way that people are stealing cars. Transponders, high security key systems, and smart fobs are making it harder to use brute force methods similar to “hot wiring” the car. They need the physical key or car fob in order to start the car. There are several methods that people use.

       A) Fake Car accidents

One method is by using two different vehicles. The criminals will bump a car. The victim will stop their car and get out. At this point, a second vehicle will also stop, someone will get out and then grab the keys from the victim. The perpetrators will then drive off in their two original cars and the stolen one. If you are in an accident, it’s a good idea to stop, call the police, and remain in your vehicle.

      B) Wait and Rush

Car thieves will wait outside someone’s house early in the morning. They’re waiting for them to leave for the day. People are generally waiting for their morning coffee to kick in and are thinking about their day. When the person takes out their keys they’ll pop out, grab the keys, and take off with the vehicle. Sometimes people are pushed or assaulted in other ways. You never know what a criminal might do if they encounter resistance. Generally, criminals are not looking for a fight, they are looking for an easy way of making money. If they encounter resistance they may act out very violently to prevent getting caught. It’s wise to have good auto insurance and just let the person take the car. Most of the time the vehicles are recovered fairly soon after they are taken. Surprisingly, they are often not even damaged

Carjackings are a frightening thing. It’s pretty traumatic being robbed of one of your most valuable assets and/or being physically assaulted during a car theft. One thing you can do is have ample lighting outside your house and on your driveway. The second, is installing a security camera system. A visible security camera system will prevent many people from targeting that particular home or area.