Key Extractors

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Anyone who's ever accidentally broken off the tip of a key inside a lock has likely turned to key extractors to salvage the lock. Without a key extractor, metal pieces can remain permanently lodged in your keyways, rendering the locks useless. This is more than just a tiny headache since a compromised lock can jeopardize your safety.

If you're unlucky enough to have a key snap off inside your door, chances are you'll be forced to hire a locksmith. Keyways are too narrow to allow most home remedies (e.g. a pair of pliers, a straightened paper clip) to work effectively. If, on the other hand, you are a locksmith, you already know that key extraction alone can mean big business, irrespective of picking.

How Key Extractors Work

While there are some small differences between various key extractors, the basic design remains the same. Most employ some form of biting edge that grips or adheres to the broken key so that all a locksmith must do is insert the tip, grip the loose piece, and withdraw. Depending on the type of lock, of course, this may be easier or harder than described.

In addition to key extractors, some locksmiths prefer to carry scissor sets, saw blades, and other unique locksmith supplies that make extraction easier. Sidewinders, ice tongs, and shim extractors may also be helpful in removing bent or broken keys. In some cases, these instruments must lift the remaining engaged pins within a lock to expose the broken remnant, a technique that requires more skill than simply shoving in an adhesive tip and pulling it out with the lost fragment.

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