Locksmith Business?

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tylerrr
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Locksmith Business?

Post by tylerrr » Thu May 22, 2014 6:43 pm

I live near a top notch locksmith school here in Boston.

I've considered it...

Is this a good small business to start? What do you think? Anyone have experience? I welcome all opinions...

thanks.....

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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by jacob » Thu May 22, 2014 6:50 pm

I practiced some lockpicking during my teens. I scared my mom after demonstrating that I could pick a pin tumbler in about ten seconds. I blame Richard Feynman.

Whether it's a good business I don't know. I'd imagine you'd be expected to be on call 24/7 and that you'd make most of your money tendering a machine that duplicates keys and dealing with customers whenever the machine got it wrong.

JamesR
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by JamesR » Thu May 22, 2014 8:18 pm

Try talking to locksmiths :P

Is there a barrier to entry in this business? Does it require an expensive license, etc?

The higher the barrier of entry the better it is, since competition will be lower & income higher.

workathome
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by workathome » Fri May 23, 2014 6:36 am

I think you'd be better off going into yard work or something where you can lock in reoccurring business or even subscriptions. Lock smithing probably doesn't have that.

ffj
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by ffj » Fri May 23, 2014 12:26 pm

I have a buddy who is a locksmith. When I expressed interest in learning how to do it he offered to sell me the business right away. That says a whole lot right there.

The money is good but inconsistent. Also, according to him, when you fix someone's problem in five minutes a lot of them balk at paying the bill. He told me a story of having to drive two hours to open a safe. When he arrived, he noticed the safe was unlocked but the owner had no idea how to do the two step process of opening the door. So he put on a show for thirty minutes and then opened the unlocked door. Otherwise, he said, the guy never would have paid him.

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tylerrr
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by tylerrr » Tue May 27, 2014 9:15 pm

ffj wrote:I have a buddy who is a locksmith. When I expressed interest in learning how to do it he offered to sell me the business right away. That says a whole lot right there.

The money is good but inconsistent. Also, according to him, when you fix someone's problem in five minutes a lot of them balk at paying the bill. He told me a story of having to drive two hours to open a safe. When he arrived, he noticed the safe was unlocked but the owner had no idea how to do the two step process of opening the door. So he put on a show for thirty minutes and then opened the unlocked door. Otherwise, he said, the guy never would have paid him.
Interesting.....

Yeah, I talked to one guy in my neighborhood who makes keys on the side with his machine and he says he gets a lot of business for that every year.

I will talk to more locksmiths and ask them what they think...

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Sclass
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by Sclass » Sat May 31, 2014 8:08 pm

I took the Foley Belsaw correspondence course from my college dorm.

It looks hit and miss. Miss because the money is made by doing emergency openings. You're selling your hour at weird hours. Miss because rekeying kits can be bought cheap at Home Depot for common locks like kwikset. Videos on YouTube show you how to rekey with these things. With Bluetooth locks the writing is on the wall...anyone will be able to rekey or emergency open with a smartphone.

Then there's the specialty aspect. You can become a contractor who does RFID badges for a big company. Or you can hook up with apartment owners. Go visit a lock and key shop and talk to the owners. I go to the good one in my town because I am too lazy to keep my key machine calibrated. He also has a huge inventory of key blanks (this is also a trick if you want to get business copying $3 keys...my guy always complains about the high cost of carrying the inventory). After getting to know him he told me his shop is quiet. It is literally dusty. The big money comes when he fixes up a house with electronic locks. We mostly chew the fat when I key my own locks and ask him to cut a key to code...we compare notes on the art of pin selection to make locks harder to pick. The joke at his shop is my thief will just break the window. I don't want to buy his shop.

I considered it when I wanted to drop out of the doctoral program. That's how depressed I got at one point ;) . It looked bad enough that I went back into the lab and finished my thesis.

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Ego
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by Ego » Sun Jun 01, 2014 7:09 am

The price and size of the machinery to make keys has come down significantly. My maintenance guy carries one of these portable key machines on his truck:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvClUcYyR0Y

He also carries a Kwikset do it yourself rekeying pin kit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJxa3K2Xnmc

The combination completely eliminates the need for a locksmith.

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Sclass
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by Sclass » Sun Jun 01, 2014 10:08 am

Hi Ego,

That's a nice Ilco machine. Mine is the Foley Belsaw clunker. I need to clean up around here and throw this away. It was really useful in college to duplicate laundry room keys for the dorms. I did a lot of "do not duplicate" keys a burger or a beer.

http://shop-foley-belsaw.com/foley/MODE ... 26000.prod

I should do a DIY post on Kwikset rekeying with the $10 home depot kits. The kit in your video is a pros kit. I'm thinking of these with precut keys for the total noob. I've started giving these out to friends who still ask me to rekey their new places. Single serving size!

http://www.kwikset.com/Products/Details ... T-SMT.aspx

Oops wrong one, this is some kind of kit for a new fangled lock they sell. I meant these wonders at home depot,

http://t.homedepot.com/p/Prime-Line-Ste ... /100127335

The kit comes with precut randomized keys. You just pin your lock with the dozen or so provided pins to match the key and presto rekey. It saves serious money over a locksmith with a key machine. Actually kwikset is so cheap a new lock from Walmart costs close to the rekeying kit. I guess these are good if you want one key to open the whole house.

SErickson
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by SErickson » Tue Dec 05, 2017 6:47 pm

Sclass wrote:
Sat May 31, 2014 8:08 pm
Then there's the specialty aspect. You can become a contractor who does RFID badges for a big company. Or you can hook up with apartment owners. Go visit a lock and key shop and talk to the owners. I go to the good one in my town because I am too lazy to keep my key machine calibrated. He also has a huge inventory of key blanks (this is also a trick if you want to get business copying $3 keys...my guy always complains about the high cost of carrying the inventory). After getting to know him he told me his shop is quiet. It is literally dusty. The big money comes when he fixes up a house with electronic locks.
I was thinking about this, and no one really followed up on the section that I am quoting.

In terms of the speed of being able to get these skills, what are we talking about? What is the commitment in terms of time and money, and what could the pay off be if you did the big ticket jobs exclusively?

When I was looking around for answers, the closest I could get was this: https://unitedlocksmith.net/blog/an-int ... cksmithing

They seem to say that everything changes pretty quick. It seems like it is a big time commitment to stay up to date on the different types of locks that come out. How much of the knowledge is transferable? It does not seem to me like locks have changed all that much, but that is just my uneducated view on it.

And in terms of "the high cost of carrying the inventory" when things change (if they change rapidly), what are the chances of that investment being more trouble than it is worth?

Honestly, I would not mind learning a new skill and doing work like this. I like puzzles and all that. Maybe there isn't enough money in it, even if you apply yourself to the harder stuff.

Let me know.

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Sclass
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by Sclass » Tue Dec 05, 2017 10:29 pm

SErickson wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 6:47 pm
In terms of the speed of being able to get these skills, what are we talking about? What is the commitment in terms of time and money, and what could the pay off be if you did the big ticket jobs exclusively?

It seems like it is a big time commitment to stay up to date on the different types of locks that come out. How much of the knowledge is transferable? It does not seem to me like locks have changed all that much, but that is just my uneducated view on it.

And in terms of "the high cost of carrying the inventory" when things change (if they change rapidly), what are the chances of that investment being more trouble than it is worth?
Let me know.
Wow you dug this artifact up. Ok. Lemme try and answer some of these questions.

You can learn the basics in a year or less. That will include making keys, emergency openings, rekeying 95% of the cheapo locks most people use. It can cost money or you can just teach yourself using all the videos on YouTube. It would be best to get ahold of a sample curriculum just so you know what to chase down. Get some locks to work on. I learned emergency auto opening at a junkyard with a mirror on the driver’s seat.

The knowledge is transferable because cheapo locks are cheapo locks. High security are trickier to deal with and require special tools. But most people don’t use these. So it was as I said, how much of a specialist do you want to be? It’s like being a general practitioner or a cardiologist. One gets more pay but needs to invest in more training and equipment.

Even “new”locks look pretty much like ones of old to me. It’s like cars, if you can rebuild a 289 mustang engine you probably can make the jump to a modern engine with some documentation. The thing you won’t have is an inventory of manufacturer specific pins, blanks, springs etc. to do a quick turn job.

I moved two years go and dumped lbs of blanks for 80s cars in the trash. That’s the kind of inventory you will have. Every blue moon somebody wants a copy for a 68 Plymouth Valiant ignition. Whoopie. You just made $3. To make things worse, try going to your local hardware store and getting a copy for a modern car like a Civic. You need a special key machine that looks like a mini vertical milling machine and an rfid duplicator. The bits have tight tolerances on their cutting flutes and will not copy well if worn. I’ve just gone through this and had to pay $30 duplicates, $5 for eBay blanks and I still had to cut the chips out of the key heads and glue them into my “new” keys. My mom and pop locksmith didn’t have everything to make a complete duplicate.

I’m not doing it. There are much easier ways to make a buck.

You can teach yourself rfid systems with manufacturers documents. This is where you can make money in big organizations. But, these systems can be rekeyed by a corporate hr department so maybe not so much work here if the system is already set up and debugged.

Sadly, the most money I made doing this stuff was Shady copies. Mostly laundry room keys for the dorms in my uni.

I am not interested in this business.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by Riggerjack » Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:02 pm

I'm not a locksmith, I'm a landlord, which led me to learning enough to change my own locks, and re key between tenants. But, my wife is an amateur safecracker.

And locksmithing falls in the "don't compete against hobbyists or retirees" category. Everything you want to know is on the internet, presented by the locksmiths who are dancing on the grave of their profession.

Locksmithing used to be a profession with a solid barrier to entry. You need a locksmith to teach, and to tool up, and to get supplies. So apprentice for a while, move and start up your shop.

Now the internet will teach you, supply you, and why would you open a shop, again? Lowe's has key copying by $3 vending machine, better than the pros do.

Safe cracking can take some special tooling, and more special knowledge, but when I spent an hour or so going over lock theory on the internet, then showed my wife, she just went downstairs, and came up 10 minutes later with the combinations. This isn't far behind on the road to nowhere.

We will always have locks, and safes, but this is nothing I would be interested in selling or servicing. It's fun, if it's your thing, but service calls are never at convenient times, and dealing with customers who discovered that they were locked out at midnight, finally call you at one am, and then get pissy because it's 2 am before you get to them, no thanks. There are retirees who need that money, and will make that trade. I plan to not be one of them.

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Sclass
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by Sclass » Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:17 pm

Riggerjack wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:02 pm
Safe cracking can take some special tooling, and more special knowledge, but when I spent an hour or so going over lock theory on the internet, then showed my wife, she just went downstairs, and came up 10 minutes later with the combinations. This isn't far behind on the road to nowhere.
Impressive. Hang on to that girl. :lol:

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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by tsch » Thu Dec 07, 2017 2:31 pm

One of my favorite forum threads to check in on, from time to time, is "day in the life of a locksmith" on the Lockpicking 101 forums:
http://www.lockpicking101.com/viewtopic ... 6b43148427

It sounds like a mix of interesting problem-solving stories and nightmare customer interactions.

There has always been something charming in the fantasy of locksmithing as a line of work to me. But when I've looked into it, I realize it's based on the physicality and mechanics of traditional locks—which are a lot of fun! But I suspect the more lucrative work is in electronic and networked physical security systems now. Possibly interesting but...just doesn't have the same satisfaction of hearing that nice "pop" when something opens.

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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by Lucky C » Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:23 am

Seems that the types of people who you would profit from, upper-middle to upper class who would have been eager to shell out money to a locksmith back in the day, would now be more likely to hop on the smart home bandwagon and get electronic locks, openable by smart phone, biometrics, etc. Not because they are a better solution but because they are newer, cooler, pricier, and are pitched as being easier than having to line up a piece of metal and turn it. I imagine these lock systems will be the type that, when they break, they either get replaced via the manufacturer or thrown in the garbage and replaced with this years new model.

The types of people who would stick to using mechanical locks, I believe would be the types who would be more likely to replace them themselves or with the help of a friend. I found a set of two locks & two deadbolts on clearance, half off for $30. Had no prior experience installing them and had to cut new holes but had no problem doing it myself. We got our keys duplicated at a MinuteKey kiosk in Lowe's. About $1 per key and totally automated so don't expect to be able to make money duplicating keys in the future. Total spent on locks and keys for our recently purchased house: $35, and the thought of using a locksmith never entered my mind.

This is just my intuition having done no research on locksmithing and I could be totally wrong. How could the opposite be true? Well there are a ton of historic homes in New England, and you will find plenty needing maintenance in affluent neighborhoods where the owners don't have any home maintenance skills. To keep the historic feel of the house, the owners would like to have the locks repaired or replaced with similar hardware rather than going with new electronic devices. Just look at any This Old House episode, with recent seasons taking place in Arlington and Newton, and you'll see that well-off homeowners are willing to shell out plenty of cash to contractors to maintain the historic feel of the home. Locksmithing is probably a skill that is in decline as older practitioners retire and young people aren't likely to want to take it up. Even though electronic security is replacing some mechanical locks, the total amount of hardware to maintain is increasing as people are adding electronic security on top of mechanical security, and the total number of secured doors is rising as population and house size grows. Plus the electronic stuff still requires locksmith skills on top of electronic skills to service.

The more research you do, the better you will determine whether the pessimistic or optimistic scenario is closer to the truth.

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TimeTravel
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by TimeTravel » Sat Dec 09, 2017 12:02 pm

No experience with locksmithing but recently got some keys made at a locksmith. Cool place.

When to a hardware store before to get a key made but they couldn't as didn't have the blank. Went to the locksmith and easy peasy, done it about 10 minutes.

Augustus
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by Augustus » Sat Dec 09, 2017 2:18 pm

Lucky C wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:23 am
Seems that the types of people who you would profit from, upper-middle to upper class who would have been eager to shell out money to a locksmith back in the day, would now be more likely to hop on the smart home bandwagon and get electronic locks, openable by smart phone, biometrics, etc. Not because they are a better solution but because they are newer, cooler, pricier, and are pitched as being easier than having to line up a piece of metal and turn it. I imagine these lock systems will be the type that, when they break, they either get replaced via the manufacturer or thrown in the garbage and replaced with this years new model.
Does anyone actually trust smart phone locks? They freak me the hell out, I'd never use a lock that was networked to anything, ESPECIALLY a phone. It's a horrible security practice in my opinion. Given the complexity and number of vulnerabilities in phone software, the complexity and vulnerabilities in networks, etc. I'd much rather trust a tried and true dumb lock. Besides, they'll just break your windows to get in anyways...

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Sclass
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by Sclass » Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:41 pm

Augustus wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 2:18 pm
Does anyone actually trust smart phone locks? They freak me the hell out,
The fact they use Bluetooth doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy either.

Then there’s the whole problem like today my phone went unlocked in my pocket and went completely dead.

That being said the convenience of rekeying say when you ditch your current love or when you change housekeepers is priceless. It’ll really put a dent in locksmith income.

Another problem I see is phone OS updates. What happens when you lose support for the OS or the lock on your phone. Do you swap all locks like you swap pc hardware every few years?

Rfid systems are notorious for being easily hacked. I recall seeing card/fob duplicators on dx.com a few years ago. Makes those swipe moves by Darlene in Mr. Robot believable.

Augustus
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Re: Locksmith Business?

Post by Augustus » Mon Dec 11, 2017 12:14 am

Yeah to me it's practically putting a neon sign up to anyone sufficiently nerdy, come on in guys! And look legitimate doing it. I'm sure most people will be fine, but some people won't...

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