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One Way to Remove a Broken Key from a Lock


In eleven years of homeownership,  I don’t recall ever having to deal with it.  Remove a Broken Key. But, I got the call.  It was a Friday afternoon, and it snapped flush off.  In the deadbolt. Which was still locked . . . and yep, six exterior doors on our house, all but one with that same key.

Fortunately, I had placed a key to our basement door on her key ring.  I had to remind her of that.  So she did in fact actually make it in.  We said our goodbyes, and I hung up.

On my commute home later, we discussed the situation.  . . . “Hmmm. Tape? . . . Gum?” I suggested.

By the time I arrived home, she had tried these things, and some others … nothing so far had worked.  I reached for a set of steak knives (I know I shouldn’t treat our steak knives like that).  My wife grabbed a pair of tweezers.  We went that way, taking turns trying, for about a half an hour.  But we eventually put it down for the evening, still with broke-off key in the lock.

Note: While this article is more an essay on working with your partner, I was successfully able to remove a broken key from my lock. I don’t necessarily recommend disassembling the lockset as I did here. Rather, if you are having difficulty, just jump to the Magic Step that worked for me. Honestly, all you need is patience and a pair of needle nose.


Some Backstory :: I still Love my Baldwin Locksets

Fast forward about a day. This door, the side porch door, opens right into our kitchen.  And staring at it (only after trying with the steak knives for a few more minutes), I decided to take the lock off.  And just about that time – wiping down the counters or something, my wife says, “Now what do we do?“  (*pause*) . . . I said – “Call a Locksmith.”  (*pause*) . . . “Or run it down to the hardware store.”

(*pause*) . . .  (Mind you Clement Hardware, where I purchased my sweet Baldwin locks (absolutely love them) and really one of the BEST hardware stores I have ever been in . . . ever, is about 45 minutes away. I KNEW they had/have a locksmith on staff.)

I calmly ask, “Can you Google ‘How to remove a broken key from a lock’?”

She did.  And she came up with this article:  She proceeded to read from it, out loud, and I listened . . . for the most part.  I heard, “. . . coping saw blade, jig saw blade, . . . tweezers, . . . lock pick set,” and I thought for a moment.  (*pause*) . . . And I headed down into the basement.

When I returned, I had a coping saw blade, which I actually discharged from my coping saw (I had extras), and my needle nose pliers in my hand.

One Way to Remove a Broken Key from a Lock (Building Moxie style)


The Magic Step in Removing a Broken Key from a Lock

The funny thing is I really am not sure what I did.  But it clicked (or unclicked) almost like magic.  And while I have no real expertise on this subject (as you can see), it actually ended up being a nice opportunity for my wife and I to “work” together.  (Really?  It comes to this . . . after two kids.  Yep!)

And as I was organizing this post, this little section from the link above caught my eye. While I really don’t understand fully what it means, I feel it probably did have some bearing . . .

If the broken key shaft won’t budge, the lock may not be in a “neutral” position. The tumblers inside the lock are still holding onto the key shaft. If the lock isn’t in a neutral position, you can probably get it aligned by turning it with your saw blade in the lock.

Thanks for reading and enjoy. ~jb

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