Gauging Kwikset Keys: A Guide
Rekeying is an excellent service that many customers are happy to take advantage of, given the opportunity. Owning one key that can open every lock in the house is highly attractive to most consumers, meaning that rekeying can be a lucrative service for locksmiths to offer. At CLK Supplies, we know that important skill needed to rekey is key gauging. Measurements and techniques can vary depending on the brand of lock; here’s a quick and easy guide to gauging Kwikset keys.
Keying and Rekeying
At its most simple, a lock is a series of pins that must be correctly aligned in order to allow it to turn. When a key is inserted, the correct arrangement of bumps guides the pins into an unlocked position. Rekeying a lock is simply the process of realigning the pins, so that they can accept a new key. However, before you can realign the pins, you have to know which configuration you’re going to arrange them into—otherwise, the correct key won’t open the lock. That’s why gauging the key is so important.
Before you begin rekeying a lock, there are a few materials you’ll need. The most important is a Kwikset rekeying kit, which will usually contain key gauges—flat pieces of plastic with large holes through the middle. These gaps will have stepped edges that narrow towards one end, along with a number for each step (ranging from 0 to 7). These numbers correspond to the pin configurations inside the lock.
Gauging the Key
Generally, Kwikset pin combinations are not printed on the packaging of either the locks or keys—for obvious security reasons. The key gauge is used to measure the key cut and determine the correct configuration. In order to use the key gauge, slide the key you’re measuring into the gap. Starting from the end closest to your hand, position the first cut of the key against the widest part of the gauge, and slide it to the side until it reaches the step that fits the key perfectly. On a Kwikset gauge, this spot will be in between two numbers; the correct cut number will be the one that appears to the right of the key.
Record the number, and then reposition the key at the wide end of the gauge—moving on to the second cut. Repeat the process again to determine what the correct number is for the second cut, then do it again for the third cut, and so on. If you prefer, you can hold the key still and move the gauge; the result will be the same either way.
Remember to start from the bow end (the part that is grasped in the hand) and move outwards to the tip to ensure that you record the combination in the right order. Also, ignore the number to the left of the key when you’re recording the cuts; only the measurement on the right matters. It’s often a good idea to double-check your work in order to ensure that you’re gotten the correct combination, as well as to write down the numbers are you go.
In the end, you will have a combination of five or six numbers. (This will depend on the type of Kwikset lock you’re working with, since some have five pins and others have six.) Use this combination to locate the correct control key—a special rekeying tool that has the same cut as the desired key, but with an additional notch in the bottom of the blade. If you do not have access to a set of Kwikset control keys, then you can use the combination that you’ve derived to cut a new control key yourself.
Gauging keys is just the first step in rekeying a lock, but it’s an important one. Getting the right key cut combination is essential to reconfiguring the lock as a whole.