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There are two locks on my apartment door. The key to the bottom lock was lost long ago - before I moved in - and we now just use the top lock.

The bottom lock is probably 50-60 years old and doesn't have any identifying information on its exterior. It works fine. We just don't use it because we don't have a key.

Once, when a locksmith was here working on the other lock, I asked him about it, but he just tried to sell me a replacement, which was going to be very expensive.

Is it possible to have a new key made for an old lock? What would be the challenge in a case like this - is there any reason it would be easier to just replace the whole thing?

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You could make yourself a bump key and use that... –  Jay Bazuzi Sep 6 '11 at 5:58
    
@ Jay: a bump key? are you a former second story man? LOL. What is a bump key? –  shirlock homes Sep 6 '11 at 9:51
    
@Shirlock, I think Jay is suggesting breaking into their own home every time they return: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lock_bumping –  BMitch Sep 6 '11 at 12:46
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2 Answers

For a lock that's 50-60 years old, I'd be tempted to replace the whole thing. Just go to the hardware store and pick a similar one up so all you need to do is unscrew the old and screw in the new. Typically the inside of the lock is screwed into the outside half of the lock, and the bolt is screwed into the door on the side.

The biggest gotcha is if the hole changes size or position, not uncommon with an old lock, which is why you're better off finding a very close match. When I had to enlarge a hole in a metal door, I managed to rig two hole saws together on a common center mount so that the smaller hole saw guided the larger saw. Without this particular hole saw model, or if you need to shift the position of the hole, you'd need to first patch the hole so the saw has something to keep it from sliding all over the door, and of course this only works if you're enlarging the hole to include the entire space of the old lock.

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If a good locksmith can figure out what type of lock they are dealing with, they might be able to re-key it to a new tumbler pattern (they aren't going to be able to easily figure out the pattern of the existing tumblers).

The problem is that with a 50-60 year old lock, it's not necessarily a given that they'll be able to figure out what it is or obtain blanks for it. So it might still end up being expensive to re-key.

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