Can You Define Locksmith?
Angie's List defines a locksmith as a professional contractor who specializes in entry systems such as locks, door knobs, and other security features.
While locksmiths once dealt almost solely with locks, keys, and safes, security innovations and technological advances have expanded the scope of the profession to include far more than most people realize. Locksmiths have to be knowledgeable about everything security related, from traditional deadbolts and doorknobs to high-tech burglar alarms and digital access systems.
People seldom realize just how integral a locksmith’s job is to their daily lives, taking for granted the countless doors they walk through each day and all the different locks and keys that protect their homes, cars, and possessions. Without locksmiths, we would lack the basic security we have all become so accustomed to having. But before diving into all that locksmiths do these days, let’s take a look at their role throughout history.
4,000 Year History: Locksmiths Through the Ages
Locksmithing is thought to be one of the oldest professions in the world, dating back nearly 4,000 years to Ancient Egypt and Babylon. Though locks were originally much larger and made of wood, the first ones worked in much the same way as locks today. They contained a series of pins and required a key in order to be unlocked (though these keys resembled oversized wooden toothbrushes). Little did the creators of this innovative technology know that people would still be utilizing and adapting their invention thousands of years later.
Lock technology spread without seeing many major innovations for many centuries until the increased use of metal in the 9th and 10th century led to significant advances in security and effectiveness. As new locks were invented and their demand increased, the locksmith trade really began to come into its own.
Traditionally, locksmiths were craftsmen who actually made the locks for a community. Most started off as blacksmiths, or metal workers, and then began specializing in lock-making. The growing use of locks called for more blacksmiths to focus on making locks, leading to the emergence of the name locksmith, by which they are still called today.
Industrialization caused the next major shift in the locksmithing industry as mass production diminished the need for handcrafted locks. Locksmith where forced to shift their profession from lock-making to lock repair and expertise. Some locksmiths went to work for industrial lock companies and others went into security, doing anything from working as repairmen and key-makers to designing and building custom safes and other security devices.
Today most locksmiths operate out of some form of workshop or mobile locksmithing van. They can specialize in a specific type of locksmithing, such as residential or commercial, or offer more general services and are found in every city across the country, as well as in communities around the world.
4 Famous Historical Figures You Never Knew Were Locksmiths
If asked to think of five famous locksmiths, chances are that most people couldn’t even come up with one. The locksmith trade tends to be a humble profession, though their work is necessary to ensure the security of the world in which we live.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that famous historical figures have taken interest in the trade throughout the centuries. Here are a few names you are likely to recognize that understood the importance of locksmithing and may have even dabbled in it themselves.
Pharaoh Khafre (c. 2550 BC)
Most people know Pharaoh Khafre as the iconic face immortalized on the Great Sphinx, which he had built along with the second largest pyramid in Giza more than 4,000 years ago. While there is no way to know if he studied locks himself, he was a driving force behind the creation of some of the world’s first locking mechanisms thanks to Egyptian determination to secure possessions, both in this life and the next.
King Louis XVI (1754-1793)
King Louis XVI is well-known for being the husband of the infamous Marie Antoinette, the last king of France, and the only French king ever to meet his end at the guillotine, but few know that he was an excellent locksmith as well. It has been reported that he loved all things mechanical and practiced as an amateur locksmith.
Unfortunately, a locksmith also played a key role in his demise. Louis was betrayed by his friend Francois Gamain, who had served as the royal locksmith and taught the king much of what he knew about the trade. Louis asked him to construct a secure chest for important documents, which Gamain eventually turned over to revolutionaries, ultimately leading to the king’s infamous beheading.
Harry Houdini (1874-1926)
It should come as no surprise that famed magician and escape artist Harry Houdini trained as a locksmith early in life. After moving to America from Hungary with his family, 11 year old Houdini began working for the local locksmith and quickly picked up the trade.
Though he did not stick with the profession, his knowledge of locks and the way they functioned was influential in his success as a magician and escape artist. He collected locks all his life and studied each one with great care to memorize the way it worked and how it could be opened.
Houdini may not have ruled a country or made a scientific discovery, but he did revolutionize the magic industry and is still considered to be one of the world’s greatest escape artists and magicians.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Everyone has heard of Albert Einstein, whose name probably brings to mind mathematical equations or the image of an elderly man with unruly white hair sticking his tongue out at the camera.
Though Einstein was never truly a locksmith, this Nobel Prize winner and world-renowned physicist still drew attention to the profession with his infamous quote, “If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith”. He respected the modest trade and, in light of the use of the atomic bomb in WWII, felt that maybe his achievements were not so respectable.
Despite how he may have viewed himself, Einstein is considered one of the greatest minds of all time. TIME Magazine even named him Person of the (20th) Century for shaping history, calling him “the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom and the Universe”.
All the Remarkable Things a Locksmith Can Do
There are only a few circumstances in which the average person thinks to call a locksmith. Generally, the most common times are when you are locked out of your car or house and when you need to change the locks on your home after moving or due to a lost or stolen key. Most people are uninformed when it comes to the broad spectrum of services a locksmith can offer and have no idea that modern-day locksmiths are trained to be security experts as well.
There are three main types of locksmiths: residential, auto (vehicle), and commercial. Each one focuses on a specialized sector of the locksmithing industry to more adequately meet customers’ needs, though all require comparable training and utilize similar skill sets.
When someone says the word locksmith, a residential locksmith is probably what comes to mind. These are the technicians that specialize in home security and the types of locks used in and around a house. They are who you would call if you were ever locked out of your home or wanted to change your locks after moving into a new house.
The most common services provided by residential locksmiths include:
A locksmith should be able to cut keys for nearly any type of lock. They can do this either by making copies of your existing key or by creating a new key to match your lock (helpful if you lost a key or have no available copies).
Domestic Lock-out Assistance
If there is ever a time that locksmiths get to take center stage, it is during a lock-out. No one wants to experience that moment of dread that comes with realizing their key is locked in their house, making the locksmith that swoops in to save the day a hero for providing relief by reuniting owner and key.
Usually gaining entry during a lock-out requires a locksmith to pick the lock on the front or back door of the house. In very rare cases, the lock may have to be broken or drilled, but 95% of locks should be pickable by a professionally trained locksmith.
If you are worried about the security of your locks, rekeying is a cost-effective alternative to completely replacing your locks. To rekey a lock, a locksmith removes it from the door and alters the configuration of the pins and springs inside so that the original key no longer works to open it. New keys are cut that match the reconfigured lock, and it is placed back on the door, essentially as secure as if it were brand new.
Repairing or Replacing Broken Lock Hardware
Though rekeying is an inexpensive and effective way to change your locks, it is not always an adequate solution to lock trouble. If one of the locks on your home breaks or is wearing out, whether it’s as vital as your front door lock or as trivial as a desk drawer latch, you will need to repair or replace it.
Residential locksmiths will be able to assess the damaged lock and determine whether or not it can be fixed. If it cannot be salvaged, they will offer to replace it and can usually sell you the replacement hardware as well.
Locksmiths can do more than work on locks you already have; they can also install locks where there were none before. If you want to install new locking devices on doors or windows around your home, a locksmith can make recommendations for the best type of locks and handles to use, sell you the necessary hardware, and perform the installation. Talk about a one-stop shop.
Door Installation or Repair
Despite the name, locksmiths don’t just work on locks; they can work on doors as well. If you need a new door installed, some locksmiths offer full door and door frame installation services. They may also be able to do repair work on a door that is not properly functioning.
Lock & Door Hardware Sales
Though locksmiths no longer make their own locks, they are still in the business of selling them and the hardware they require. Most locksmiths, even if they do not have a physical location, carry several brands of locks and lock-related hardware that they usually sell along with installation services.
If you have a specific type of lock on your home that you are looking to match when replacing or installing locks, a locksmith is your best resource for tracking it down, as long as it is still available. Most locksmiths are willing to order hardware for customers, even when it is not a brand they generally carry.
These 7 locksmith services are by no means all that residential locksmiths can do, and every locksmith offers slightly different services depending on their level of training and areas of expertise. Home security and safety are other areas in which residential locksmiths are knowledgeable, and many offer a variety of safety and security services, such as checking smoke and CO detectors and inspecting alarm systems, as well.
Have you ever experienced that frustrating moment when you realize your keys are still in your car about 5 seconds too late? Most people have called an auto locksmith at least once in their lives but often don’t realize there is far more to the job than just unlocking cars for stranded drivers.
Locksmiths specializing in vehicle security are trained to program key fobs, transponder keys, and car remotes, reproduce new keys when owners have lost the original and spare copies, repair door and ignition locks, and help solve other problems that may arise with car locks or keys. In short, auto locksmiths are your number one resource when something goes wrong with the locks or keys on your car.
Did you know that some locksmiths specialize solely in servicing businesses and corporations? Companies and organizations often have security needs that fall outside the realm of standard locksmithing, and commercial locksmiths are trained to meet those needs. They still offer many of the same services as a residential locksmith, such as rekeying and lock installation, but concentrate on mastering the types of locks most commonly used in a commercial setting, which often vary significantly from those used on cars and homes.
Commercial locksmiths also address broader security issues by offering services like control access systems and keyless entry, and it’s crucial that they stay up-to-date on the latest lock and security innovations because businesses are much more likely to employ the newest technologies.
Locksmiths Offer Security Services Too?
Seeing as the sole purpose of a lock is to provide security, it should come as no surprise that locksmiths are also security experts. Yet people often do not think to turn to a locksmith when looking for guidance about security.
Though the services offered from locksmith to locksmith vary, most will give security advice at the very least. Some companies provide full security system installation services, as well as surveillance and alarm monitoring. This can be provided by residential locksmiths within a home or by commercial locksmiths on a much larger scale, and some auto locksmiths can even help you with the alarm system on your vehicle.
Locksmiths can also perform security audits to assess the security of either a home or business. An audit will help identify the strengths and weaknesses in an area’s security and allows the home or business owners to determine how to address the components that need improvement.
Specialized Locksmith Services
Aside from the standard locksmith fields, there are other, more specialized areas that have emerged over the years.
Forensic locksmithing is a field that has grown significantly in recent years as the technology used in criminal investigation continues to advance. Forensic locksmiths usually work with law enforcement to determine a criminal’s method of entry to a building, safe, or other device or to assess any weaknesses in a compromised security system.
Safe locksmiths predominantly specialize in services like safe cracking, safe repair, and safe maintenance. They offer assistance when someone loses the key or forgets the combination to open their safe and can even replace locks on certain types of safes. Some residential and commercial locksmiths will also service safes but may be more limited in their knowledge of these devices.
Thinking of Becoming a Locksmith?
If you are looking for a sustainable profession that has withstood the tests of time, locksmithing just might be for you. Though the locksmith industry has grown and changed throughout the years, people’s need to secure themselves and their belongings has not. If anything, the world we live in today has a more heightened desire for security than ever before, increasing the need for locksmiths and their services.
In order to determine if locksmithing is a good fit for you, you need to consider what is required to enter into and be successful in the industry. There are certain skills you need and training you must undergo, so it’s not a job you can just jump into without being committed to learning the trade. Here are 7 questions you need to answer for yourself about the basic requirements and key aspects of the job before deciding if it’s the right career for you.
1. Do I Meet the Education Requirements?
There are no formal educational requirements for becoming a locksmith, but most companies prefer their technicians to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Many states also require locksmiths to be licensed, which can entail certain classes and different levels of vocational education. The requirements vary from state to state, so it is important to research licensing in your intended service area.
2. What Characteristics Does a Locksmith Need?
Almost anyone can train to be a locksmith, but there are several character traits that are valuable to have in order to be successful in the field. Locksmiths need to be dedicated and self-motivated, especially if going into business for themselves. Lock technology is always changing, so a locksmith must be adaptable and willing to take the initiative to stay up-to-date on the newest developments and techniques.
In many cases, customers will present difficult situations that need to be addressed quickly and effectively, meaning someone who enjoys working puzzles and being mentally challenged will thrive in this profession. Locksmithing is ultimately a service industry, and interaction with customers is the heart of the business. Locksmiths must be personable, honest, and work with integrity in order to provide the kind of customer service that will make people recommend them to their friends and family.
3. Do I Have the Necessary Skills?
The skills of the trade will be learned through locksmith training, apprenticeship, and experience in the field, but there are other skills locksmiths should possess that are a great benefit when working in the industry.
Manual dexterity and strong hand-eye coordination are a must, as most almost every service a locksmith offers requires intricate handiwork and utilizes a wide variety of different hand tools. The ability to problem solve and good spatial reasoning are necessary for locksmiths because much of their job involves taking the basic techniques learned in training and applying them to unique situations.
It is important to remember that locksmithing is a customer service industry, so good people skills are mandatory. You could be the world’s best locksmith, but you will not be successful if you don’t know how to relate to and interact with your customers. Many people underestimate the amount of effort it takes to procure a strong client base, so an understanding of sales is also beneficial, especially for those who aim to eventually work for themselves.
4. How Long Is Locksmith Training?
The amount of training for locksmiths can vary from as little as a few weeks to as much as a few years, depending on where you live and what type of locksmithing you intend on pursuing. Most locksmiths undergo some form of formal training, which can be obtained through a community college, vocational school, state locksmith association, or even a locksmith company that offers internal training for its employees.
In place of training, some aspiring locksmiths decide to become an apprentice under an experienced locksmith. An apprenticeship is generally unpaid work, but it gives the new locksmith the opportunity to gain practical knowledge of and experience with the technical, business, and legal aspects of locksmithing from a professional already established in the industry.
5. How Do I Gain Experience?
Photo copyright Melbourne Polytechnic, used with permission 2017
The best way to improve your skills as a locksmith is by gaining experience in the field. The more you work and practice, the more you’ll understand about the craft and proficient you’ll become. If you eventually want to go into business for yourself, it is highly recommended that you spend time working with an established company first as an opportunity to learn and grow in your ability before venturing out on your own. This will also give you access to a wider range of resources and allow you to create a stronger business network that will benefit you once you start your own company.
6. How Much Can I Expect to Make?
The average annual locksmith salary in the United States is around $48,000, but that rate varies widely depending on experience level and the types of services offered. For example, a self-employed auto locksmith that focuses on emergency lockouts is not going to earn the same amount of money as a commercial locksmith who works on high-security locks and safes for major corporations, and a locksmith who is new to the field will not be able to charge the same fees as someone who has been in the industry for several decades and has a trusted client base.
7. What’s the Workplace Environment Like?
Locksmiths have the option of either working for a company or going into business for themselves and working independently. There are benefits and drawbacks to both, and what works best for you will largely depend on your personality and level of dedication.
Regardless of who you work for, the work environment for locksmiths varies depending on what you specialize in. Some locksmiths operate directly out of their van, while others have an office or workshop out of which they are based.
If you work as an emergency locksmith and focus primarily on lock-outs, you are likely to spend a lot of time driving and being outdoors. Due to the nature of the job, most locksmiths need to be relatively mobile because they are often required to travel to their customers instead of the other way around.
How to Find a Reputable Locksmith
As the person to whom you are entrusting the security of your home, car, or other personal belongings, it is critical that you make sure to hire a reputable and reliable locksmith. As many as 95% of online locksmith ads are actually scams, so simply clicking the first cheap locksmith that pops up in Google’s ads won’t cut it. With locksmith scams being so commonplace, it is important to do your due diligence before hiring anyone to work on your locks.
1. Ask Around for a Referral
One of the best ways to find a locksmith you can trust is to ask people you know. If a friend, family member, or coworker has used a locksmith and had a good experience, chances are you will too. And when asking for recommendations, be sure to ask for anyone you might want to avoid as well. This is a good way to forgo falling for a locksmith scam or using someone that doesn’t provide quality work.
2. Readily Research & Read Online Reviews
Research is key when hiring a locksmith, and taking as little as 15 extra minutes could save you a great deal of time, money and hassle in the long run. We live in an age where technology makes information abundant and easy to access, so there is little excuse for being uninformed when hiring a locksmith.
If you are thinking of using a company, hop online and Google them. See if they have an updated website and any social media channels. Regular activity and recent posts on Facebook or Twitter are good indicators that it is a legitimate business.
Do they have a Yelp or Facebook page? Read reviews and see what experiences other people have had using their services. They don’t have to have all five-star reviews (no company is perfect), but look for overall positive feedback from a wide variety of clients. If most people were pleased with their service, you are likely to feel the same way.
3. Compare Cost & Watch Out For Super Low Prices!
Proceed with extreme caution when comparing different locksmiths’ prices and keep in mind that lower is not always better. It is not uncommon to see ads advertising $10 or $20 services, but they are scams.
No licensed, certified, and insured locksmith can afford to charge prices that low and remain in business, so know that you are likely to get what you pay for if you find a locksmith willing to work for so little. In most cases, you will end up paying a significant amount more even if you do go with one of the “cheap” locksmiths because they will raise their rates upon arrival after having hooked you by advertising low prices.
If any company has prices that are noticeably higher or lower than what seems to be the going rate in your area, that is a sign to move on. The key is to make sure you know about how much a locksmith should cost for whichever services you require and try to find a provider nearby whose price is comparable.
4. Ask Questions Like a Pro
As a paying customer, you have the right to know as much information as you feel is necessary about the locksmith you plan on hiring. Give the company a call and ask them about their business to make sure you feel comfortable allowing one of their technicians to work on your locks. Some questions you might consider asking include:
- What type of locksmith work do you do?
- Are you licensed, bonded, and insured?
- How much do you charge for a service call and what other fees can I expect to pay?
- Where are you located? Will there be any additional travel fees?
- Do your technicians have a company labeled uniform and vehicle?
- What type of warranty do you offer?
Remember that if any of their answers don’t sound right or don’t meet your expectations, move on to the next company. You can’t be too cautious when it comes to personal security.
5. Go With Your Gut
You know yourself and what you are comfortable with, so always go with your gut instinct. If your locksmith arrives and something about the situation just doesn’t seem quite right, don’t push those feelings aside. There is nothing wrong with declining their service and continuing to search for someone with whom you feel comfortable entrusting your security. Whether seeking service for the locks on your car, home, business, or other device, you should be confident in knowing that the locksmith you choose is trustworthy and reliable.
The Mr. Rekey Difference
Mr. Rekey is America’s Largest Residential LocksmithⓇ, servicing more than 30 major cities across the country. After 20+ years in the industry, we have the experience and expertise necessary to provide you with reliable service for all your residential locksmith needs.
Our 5-star customer service and upfront pricing set us apart from the rest, and we go above and beyond by offering a 100% Lifetime Workmanship Guarantee with every service we provide. So the next time you need a reputable locksmith, whether you are locked out of your house, need to change your locks, or just have a question about home security, give us a call at (888) 677-3539.