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Types of Lock Keys

"Skeleton Key" by Margot and the Nuclear So and So's


You would think that keys are a rather simple subject but you would be wrong. It turns out there are many different kinds of keys for many different kinds of locks both for your home and business. Probably the most common type of key that most people have in their pocket or purse is the cylinder key. Most commonly used with locks securing doors in a residence are cylinder keys that work in conjunction with pin and disc tumbler locks.



These types of keys are mostly used with locks on commercial machines like washing and drying machines in Laundromats or vending machines located in retail or restaurant businesses. Tumblar keys are distinctive due to the circular cuts around the end of the tumblar blade. Many padlocks are unlocked using this type of corrugated key.

Flat and Bit

Flat keys are used to lock and unlock lever tumbler locks like those found on your luggage. Bit keys are used guessed it...bit locks. As opposed to the barrel key the bit key usually has a shank that is made solid. The barrel shank is either drilled out starting at the bit end or by folding the metal into a barrel shape when the key is forged.

Hollow Shank Barrel

This type of key can be mistaken for a bit key but comes in many different sizes with varying shapes. One can recognize the hallow shank barrel key due to the distinctive right angle cut on the blade which is designed to rotate the lock tumblers to a pre-set position inside the cylinder. These type of locks are often used when high security is required.


The Skelton key sometimes is referred to as a passkey. It is simply designed with one to two flat rectangular teeth at the end of a cylindrical metal shank made of brass, bronze or pewter. Skeleton keys have of a bow, which is the part you turn, then a "handle" and lastly the combination for inserting into the lock.

Functionally, it is designed to "bypass" the wards placed in the center or outside of the lock and can be made to unlock a number of so called warded locks. The shaft is hollowed out so that it can by pass through the wards inside of the locking mechanism without either locking OR unlocking the lock. This unique functionality makes it harder for "illegal" entry attempts to successfully unlock the lock.

Your Grandfather's Skelton keys 

Skelton keys are often used for securing cabinets as well as doors and have been used for longer than the U.S. has been a sovereign state. They were the most commonly used key in the U.S. up until the end of World War II when pin tumbler locks replaced them for the most part. They now mostly are antique or "vintage" collectors’ items. Many can be bought cheaply and used for decoration especially if they have unique and attractive designs on the bow. Skelton keys sometimes are used in hand crafted jewelry as a necklace, lapel pin or brooch.

Whether you are looking for keys to lock things up or keys to'll find them here!

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