When a skeleton key goes missing, hopefully, it isn’t when there is a door that needs to be unlocked right now. But what can go wrong, will go wrong, it’s a genuine possibility, especially since the skeleton key is likely to go missing long before it’s wanted, and when it’s needed it won’t be anywhere around.

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What’s a Skeleton Key?

Skeleton keys are different than most keys in one way: the interior bit on them is hollowed. It gives the key the power to open just about any lock in the home, except for keys that weren’t built in the house. They’re often employed in antique pieces of furniture, like china hutches, jewelry boxes, and trunks.

Note: there are more modern versions, which are little more than a straight pin that can release the hatch on a one-way locked door. These are privacy locks. A doorknob with a button lock on one side and a small hole in the center on the other is an example, and those are unlockable from the outside.


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What to do if the Skeleton key is missing

If the skeleton key is missing: don’t panic. Both kinds of locks are surprisingly easy to pick, which is why they’re not used more extensively for security purposes.

Antique Styled Skeleton key workarounds and replacements

The antique styled ones require a bit of patience and effort, but between safety pins, paperclips, (or heaven forbid an actual lock pick set) it will eventually pop loose, which is a good temporary solution to the immediate problem. But for a more long-term solution, call a Phoenix-area locksmith, and they’ll help through the steps of replacing the key or the lock or both.

If picking the lock proves to be too much of a challenge, or the piece of furniture is too precious to risk damaging by picking the lock, be sure to call the locksmith first before trying to mess with it too much and risk ruining it.

If it’s a genuine emergency, like someone’s life is in danger, call 911 right away and try not to panic and escalate the situation.

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“Modern Styled” skeleton key workarounds and replacements

This kind of key very rarely requires the intervention of a locksmith. Replacing one of these is easy with a strong paperclip as it is with a “proper replacement.”

If a door with this kind is locked, and there is an urgent need to get on the other side, straighten out a paperclip and use it to catch the latch on the inside. If that fails to work these doors, usually pop open rather quickly without much damage to the door, the doorknob or the frame. Once it’s opened a “standard” key replacement can be purchased at your local hardware store, or online.