Has anyone tried (or had to try) ordering replacement skeleton keys for antique or vintage furniture? The two sideboards in our set have a total of four working locks - which are locked. Each lock is keyed differently. Two of the four keys were palmed/pocketed by a thief while sitting in a dusty corner of the warehouse of the furniture store where we purchased our dining set.
The local locksmith, who is well experienced, has only one skeleton key that MAY fit the locks, and if it doesn't work? We're out of luck - he is familiar with the style of lock my sideboards have, and he claimed "I've never been able to get one of those rascals open without tearing the lock out or tearing up the door" Something I DON'T want to happen.
IF this key doesn't work, and I seriously doubt it will work, anyone have any suggestions for replacing the keys? I've been wondering if this might be the thing to try:
For that matter - anyone know how difficult or easy it may be to have copies made of the two remaining keys, just so I don't lock my china, flatware, linens, and crystal up one day, and my 8 year old and a herd of his friends lose the keys I do have... and then I'm stuck not being able to get the doors open?
Thank you for your enquiry .
In order to facilitate your request, could you please post a couple of photo’s. Especially of the eschutcheons, and door hinges from the outside, and the spare keys you mentioned. Take a photo of the back of the furniture, while you are at it.
Yours etc ….DL
No escutcheons. There's a simple brass insert in the hole, and that's it.
Like this: http://www.kennedyhardware.com/brass-keyhole-insert.html
Hinge picture is included in this reply. Its not a close, close-up, but that's all you see - a thin strip of metal - on the outside.
Can take pix of the backs tonight when I get home, but I warn you in advance, there isn't a mark of any sort back there, no hint of old labels, nadda (if that's what you're looking for) We've looked it over with a flashlight - three different times. Also, what am I looking at here? Is this set done in the Edwardian style? I can't narrow down the style at all. Its almost a hodge podge to my untrained eye.
You may want to try local Flea markets Thrift stores and Auctions these are usually good places to find old skeleton keys and usually at somewhat reasonable prices.
Well, I've checked three antique dealers and the usual 'junk' store type places today on my lunch hour and the ladies working in each store just chuckled when I showed them an example of the type of key I need. I noted that every piece of furniture in the antique stores that has a lock/s like my set all had locks that were broken or drilled out. *EEEEK!*
But if all else fails, that'll be my only option (combing antique stores - not breaking the lock!). I'm thinking about just purchasing the 19 key <email> . I'm thinking to start with, 50.00 is less than I'll spend in gas combing the countryside for skeleton keys.
And if it doesn't work? *sigh* Back to the old drawing board.
That is, unless anyone here has any additional suggestions (DL?).
Estate auctions will probably be your best option if time is not an issue Preview several a week poking thru box lots is where most are found. Another option is Ebay which has several hundred lots of skeleton keys at any given time. Also check Craigslist for people looking for old keys a collector may be willing to help out. Good luck
2nd, and last request.
Thank you for your enquiry .
In order to facilitate your request, could you please post a couple of photo’s. Especially clear photo's of the eschutcheons, and clear close up photo's of the door hinges from the outside, and the spare keys you mentioned. Take a photo of the back of the furniture, while you are at it, as this also very inportant.
Yours etc ….DL
I do have more pictures. Sorry I couldn't upload them last night. We had family night and those nights are spent with no computer or tv and with board games and one another.
I'm relieved its only once a week we do that.
Also, the master sideboard weighs about 35 stone/500 lbs and is now laden with china and crystal. Moving it to get a shot of the back is out of the question. Even without the contents, it took four grown men to move it in and set it down - Even they had trouble hanging onto it its so heavy.
As a final note before I leave for the office - the lone skeleton key the local locksmith had that could possibly fit this set, did not. We are still locked out. Which was the expected result.
This shot is from the INSIDE of the locked, smaller sideboard. I removed a drawer and dangled the camera inside. Apparently, doors that are mated, and have only one lock to hold them both secure have this rod mechanism that drives into the top and bottom of the sideboard/server. Doors that are individuals have the type of lock that has a 'tongue' mechanism.
And voila! Water damage - yet this is the only sign of any water damage on any of the pieces, and only on the back. The veneer and mouldings are perfect.
Re; The locksmith problem.
Remember Murphys Law???
When things go pear shaped.....
Well there are a number of alternatives, and thank God that we are not dealing with a Bramah lock and a horribly expensive article. You have my deepest sympathy. This occurance is a very common human weakness, and I include myself among the many unhappy victims world wide.
All hope however is not lost, and the main choices are as thus;
1. Drill the lock out by means of a DIY job, and take the risk of damaging the escutcheon + mortise.
2. Or, find ASAP a qualified furniture restorer and explain the situation, let him come to the house and try to sort it out.
3. Or, in case of doubt (it's sometimes best wear both belts and braces), find and old school qualified restorer and ask him to bring his usual > Peterman < along, as an insurance policy. Its' normally an all in price, along with a nice cup of tea or coffee for the >Peterman< and don't forget to give him a tip.
4. Or, if you are feeling particuarly energetic and in need of exercise, remove the plywood backing, after removing the furnitures contents. Then with torch and screwdiver, or drill+bit; in hand; try to remove the lock fasteners from the inside.
5. Lastly, fit identical locks to all doors and get a spare set of keys made.
Mea culpa, as I am in the same situation with my 18th century bookcase, with 9 different door locks, which I have never got round to changing.
Good luck, it is not insurmountable, especially with a good >Peterman < at hand.
Ah, if we only had that sort of reputable furniture restoration specialist in this part of the U.S. Unfortunately, we have a lot of people that claim to be, and ultimately do amateur refinishing jobs on simple pieces from the American Great Depression. The elderly couple I worked for almost 15 years ago and owned an antiques 'consortium' were always horrified at the so-called restoration jobs that came through their work shop. I will never forget a turn of the century, tiger oak upright piano that was brought to them to repair and restore. Someone had painted it with that horrible, 1970s, 'antiquing' paint. The carvings were completely filled with the stuff. It was painstaking to get it clean and refinished correctly.
How I wish I could consult with them.
Tangent completed, I would gladly spare a cup of Earl Grey (Or coffee) and a monetary tip if we had someone in this area who could help. I have to laugh at the >Peterman< suggestion - my husband is a parole officer by day, and I asked him yesterday if he happened to know anyone *experienced* in lock picking or safe cracking. He laughed and said anyone he would know wouldn't take the time to be careful, they'd just wrench it open with a screwdriver. Thus the usual reason they get caught - they're sloppy and in a hurry. LOL
I genuinely cringe at the idea of removing the back, but it is something I had considered. However, my husband insists if we can't get into the pieces, then so be it. We don't HAVE to utilize the storage they offer. Still, it would be nice to be able to do so.
I will continue to hunt for keys. I suppose this will be my excuse to frequent antique and 'junk' stores on the many trips we make for my husband's side business (Buying/Selling cars and boats)
Re; The annoying locks.
There is a bit of hope yet.
If you contact the American Institute for Conservation, they will give you a list of very well qualified people in your area.
Unfortunately I must remain impartial to one and all. Therefore, I am really not allowed to drop individual names, or push people to the fore.
You can find all the details and <email> .
It will not cost a fortune as it is a relatively simple operation, and a restorer can replace all of the old locks with new….retro ones, but all to used by the same key+ the extra keys.
Er, please do not use the word > Peterman< when communicating with the A.I.f C. !!!
That is solely a term, we use within the trade. So, for around the sum of 90 USD for the new locks, keys, for the time and service of a restorer & his >Peterman<… if needed, plus a cup of tea, that’s not too expensive? Also the restorer while he is at it, he can perhaps give the piece a good buffing and shine , all for the same price and also tell you how best to care for the furniture. In fact if you catch him in the right mood, he may even leave a quality can of his own special professional furniture polish behind. It’s all part of the service.
By the by, it was a bit naughty of you to let the cat out of the bag, regarding the true identity of a real > Peterman < in public. Mind you; our particular > Peterman <, who is now 96 years of age, comes complete with a chromium walker with elegant racing stripes. He also parades on duty in a pinstriped suit with matching waistcoat, mother of pearl cufflinks, watch and fob chain, Malacca cane, complete with monocle, polka dot handkerchief and spats. When on duty, he also carries a Gladstone bag for all of his tools of the trade. Needless to say, he retired ages ago, and he now works by appointment only, and obviously no longer does any of his former free lance work.
If you are interested in furnishings generally, go to the top of this page. Go to photo album. Click on it and see on the top left a photo called general community photo’s and click on it. Look on the right about 1-2 photo’s down. Find a cabinet with the double door opened and which looks black, then click on that object. As you move the mouse, you activate a magnifying glass in order to see the details better. This is an object which we have recently restored, after serious water damage had mauled it rather badly. It took about 11 months of intense work and effort to complete, it is now safely back with its owner.
So do not give up there is light at the end of the tunnel, and help is available, so be a bit patient and next time you drive almost drive past G>>>>ways on the corner, pull in and get some aspirins.
If we can be any further assistance here at this site, then please do contact us, and thank you for the effort you put into the photo’s.
Ah well. You know. Vulgar Americans and all that. Always letting various and sundry cats out of the bag at all the wrong times and locations, in front of all the wrong people. Your > Peterman < sounds far classier than our own backwoods version. Our version usually wears dirty jeans, a long sleeved shirt with the sleeves cut out and will have the name BIG EARL embroidered on the front. A mullet hair cut is almost a requirement of the uniform, as are failed drug tests. The more, the better. Their tools of trade consist of a claw hammer and screw driver, possibly a lookout who's not paying any attention to anything, whatsoever, and a muddy, rusted out 3/4 ton Chevrolet pick up.
Thank you for all the suggestions and recommendation of contacting the AIC. I'd have honestly never thought of that.
I will go investigate the photos. I absolutely love antiques and select vintage styles of furniture, glassware, china, even old silver flatware and hand embroidered linens. I have my own personal hoard of those later items and am working on the furniture hoard.
Update: On the recommendation of an antiques dealing friend and appraiser, we contacted a locksmith that he and other antique owners use regularly for just such occasions.
He worked for a full hour, and ultimately proclaimed the locks cannot be picked.
It seems the Victorians or Edwardians were serious about not having their silver and other possessions they might store in the sideboards absconded with.
I have a friend in Leicester UK attempting to find skeleton keys as I seriously doubt American skeleton keys will work on an English lock.
Re; the lock.
In 1784 Joseph Brahma designed a special lock.
He took out a patent for his work, which would require <phone> keys to be able to open it; given all of the variations. He offered 200 guineas reward to anyone who could foil it. In 1851 at the great exhibition in London; England, an Amercan locksmith called Hobbes spent 16 days in trying, and claimed the prize.
Thankfully, as I mentioned previously; yours not a Brahmh lock.
It would be far easier, just to remove the back plywood and get the job done. Of course, you always have the > Peterman < option, up your sleeve in just in case.
Those old barrel keys are not too difficult to replicate, and even today, they are mass produced as blanks, which only need to be cut and filed to the required shape.
I understand the situation, but not the method of dealing with a very annoying, but technically simple problem.
Of course there are; locksmith and locksmiths, out there who ply their trade. I gather that you have difficulty finding the right one, which brings me back to subject of a reputable >Peterman< with either some dental hooks and prongs, or a large bent paperclip in times of emergency.
I have a collection of over 1500 skeleton and antique keys. I charge for my time and travel plus cost of key. <email> . In Louisiana.
Just for the record, unfortunately, what you need are not SKELETON keys, but bit keys to LEVER locks. These appear to be 3-lever locks, but are quite possibly actually only 2-lever. A competent locksmith with experience and tools for LEVER locks should not have much of a task opening these, but such experience is not so common in the USA, where such locks are now unusual.
With a box of suitable lever cabinet keys and possibly some jiggling, it is likely the locks can be opened. Or you can buy a set of cabinet jiggler keys ready-made from British locksmith suppliers.
The usual forcible method of opening cabinet locks with little damage only works on cut [half mortise, US] cabinet locks, and these are morticed into the door. Probably these pieces were exported from Germany in the 1950's (or maybe 1930's) with the large doors having an espagnolette locking system, and the smaller doors a mortice lock. Removing the back will not help access the mortice locks. Carefully, slowly, wedging apart the door and doorframe will free the bolt from engagement without damage.
If the espagnolette lock cannot be picked, removing the back panel will give access to it.