You can’t do anything without tools. That’s where your locksmith kit comes in handy. No matter what you choose for your niche, you are going to need to pick up the necessary tools. Each tool in a locksmith’s toolkit is there to perform a specific task. Below, I’ve detailed out exactly what tools you should get for your locksmith kit. These aren’t the only tools available, nor are they the only tools I think a professional locksmith should have on hand. But they are the bare minimum that you should have when starting out.
General Locksmith Kit
No matter what you decide to do as a locksmith, you should have a standard set of tools in your locksmith kit.
You need a bag for your tools. It seems like the most obvious thing in the world. It is the kit in your locksmith kit. I almost didn’t add it to the list, but I wanted to make sure you get the right bag. You need something that is big, but that you can carry easily. I like something about 18 inches. That’s generally large enough to carry all your tools, and a few spare parts, including an extra battery for your drill. You’ll want to make sure you know exactly what the job is going to be before you head out to it, but that’s a given anyway. Then just pack up your bag, and head on out the door. You can go cheap with your bag, but at that point you risk tearing, and having to replace it. Or worse, having a hole open and losing a tool. Protect your tools, don’t cheap out on your bag.
I suggest picking up a decent vice, but absolutely recommend any type of rubber pads for the vice. You can either buy a vice with rubber pads already built into it, or you can purchase a set of rubber pads to add onto it when working with delicate equipment. If you’d like, you can go all the way and pick up an illuminated pin station for holding your cylinders, but I find a standard vice with rubber pads does the job well enough.
Hammers are going to be used in lots of situations, and I suggest you pick up a few. You’ll want a standard hammer to use when chiseling and doing standard work. This will be your go-to hammer. You will also want rubber and wooden mallets, for those times when you need to hammer without leaving damage. And for the times when you need something to move that decides it doesn’t want to, a small single-hand sledge will do well enough for most things.
When installing door handles, and face plates, you will want a finely sharpened chisel to make your job easier. Nothing says professional like a clean job, and using a knife to chip away at the face plate hole to let it sit flush just won’t do. Personally, I love to maintain my tools by myself, so I would highly suggest picking up a whetstone so you can maintain the sharp edge of your chisels. But if that’s not something you’re into, you can always call on your local blacksmith or woodworker to see if they will sharpen your tools for you.
I mentioned chisels before screwdrivers for a reason. Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not use a flat head screwdriver as a chisel. With the dull edge of the flat head, you aren’t shaving the wood like you would with a chisel. You are pushing it. Squishing it. Essentially tearing it, which is going to leave gouge marks in the wood not only beneath, but around. This can cause weaknesses to form in the door frame, along with gaps that will allow air to come through the frame.
Pick yourself up a good quality set of your favorite brand of flat head and Philips head screwdrivers. If you want to go with hex head as well, be my guest. They aren’t as common, but when they do show up, you want to be the guy with the tool for the job. Why? Because you can bet nobody else will.
Depending on what niche you decide to get into, you might be able to get away with a corded drill. I still wouldn’t suggest it, though. A cordless drill allows you to be versatile. It travels to job sites with you, it doesn’t trip you up in the shop, and they just look better. They do have the obvious down side of running out of energy, which is why I suggest picking up at least one backup battery, if not multiple. It is wise to have a battery in the drill, a battery in your traveling locksmith kit (fully charged), and a battery on the charger.
Along with your drill, you’re going to want drill bits. You can pickup a decent cheap set of hole saw bits in various sizes, which will allow you to install door knobs with ease.
Now, despite what you may have been lead to believe, locksmithing is not all about lockpicking. But that doesn’t mean you won’t do any of it. Or a lot of it, in fact. What it does mean is that you won’t only pick locks. With that said, you still want to pickup a decent set of picks. Sets vary, and there are always conflicting suggestions, but I have found that you start with a few cheap picks, and then expand into a more complete, more professional set, down the road. Alternatively, you could check Amazon to see what they have to offer.
It comes down to where you are in your learning. It’s a lot like playing guitar. When you start out playing you may not want to invest in a brand new high end instrument, since you don’t have any clue how to make it sound good to begin with. But just like with guitar playing, when learning lock picking, you want to get rid of as much doubt as you can. If you’re using a professional set, and you’re not making it work, you are able to at least know that it isn’t your picks that are the problem.
Sometimes you are called on to install a door, and you will need to shim it before it lines up properly. This is an issue especially in older homes, and those in colder climates. I’m looking at you, New England. You meet both those criteria, don’t you? Yea, you do. Cold weather makes wood move, and age makes everything sag. Keep some shims around for those occasions when they’re needed. They don’t go bad, and they don’t take up much room. Plus, they’re cheap, and even free if you keep scrap wood around from job sites.
Let’s face it. Sometimes, you can’t get in. No matter what you do, you just can’t get the damn door open. It is for those times that we invented the pry bar. This should be your last resort, because there is always the risk that you will damage the door while using it, but when it’s needed, it’s handy to have around. Just stick the bar next to the latch, and pry until the frame separates from the latch, opening the door. Job done.
Residential & Commercial Locksmith Kit
Now that we’ve gone over the general tools that every locksmith should have, let’s go over the specialized tools. This is not a comprehensive list, by any means, but it will be enough for you to get started.
This is pretty much a required item when doing any sort of re-pinning. If you have to tear apart a lock, you want a plug follower, to make your life easier. You should pick them up in different sizes, as well, but at least picking up the standard size for the standard locks that you will deal with every day is important.
The hinge doctor will save your life on old homes. Instead of having to tear apart the door, replacing perfectly decent but bent hinges, you can pull out the hinge doctor and be the savior of the day. You may not be able to imagine how useful this tool is, but spend a year in the field, and you will get it.
Kwikset is going to be a staple in your business if you work on residential properties. You can find Kwikset locks in most Wal-Mart’s, which makes it an extremely popular lock to put on rental properties. They’re inexpensive, and prevalent. A landlord’s two favorite things. You don’t need a kwikset cylinder removal tool. You can get by with a screwdriver. But you risk damaging the door handle that way, and frankly, if a tool has been made for a specific purpose, and if that tool is cheap, why would you use anything else?
Locksmithing, like plumbing, is a trade people seem to think they can do for themselves. And, like plumbing, bad things happen when inexperienced people try to do things. Some of these include yanking mortise locks out without loosening the retaining screw, or forcing a mortise cylinder into a lock crooked, cross-threading it, and stripping the threads. That’s where the Mortise Cylinder Tap & Die Set come in. You can use this set to repair this type of amateurish damage. Or to cover up when you cross-thread the mortise while putting it back in. I mean, the threads are tiny! It could happen to anyone.
Screws suck when they get stripped. Let’s just be honest here. And they strip so dang easily. That’s why you need to get a set of damaged screw removal bits. They get into the screw and grab it like no other drill bit can. Sure, you won’t be able to use the screw again afterwards, but it’s a heck of a lot easier than drilling the screw out. Do a job in 2 minutes that would take an hour with a drill bit.
Schlage is another extremely popular brand of locks and knobs. For this reason, you’re going to also want to pick up a LAB Cylinder Cap Removal tool for your locksmith kit. It is specifically designed to help you remove the cap of a Schlage lock so you can re-pin it. Again, you can remove it with a screwdriver, but again, you risk damaging the lock, and looking unprofessional. Just use the right tool.
Do I even need to explain why you need one of these in your locksmith kit? It’s right in the name. Keys get broken, they break in locks. Unless you want to constantly tear doors apart to replace door handles and latches because of broken keys, you should pick one of these up. Mix it with a key cutting machine, and you can sometimes pull the broken key out of the lock, and cut a brand new key right there on the spot. Makes for happy customers, and a bigger pay day. Everybody wins.
How to Afford Your Locksmith Kit
To be blunt, the locksmith kit above isn’t cheap. But it is necessary. Without the right tool for the job, you will look amateurish, you will struggle. And worst of all, you won’t be doing the best thing by your customer.
Building out your locksmith toolkit can be done a few ways. You can start collecting tools now, piece by piece, and sticking them aside. Saving up for the more expensive tools. But that’s going to take a while, and you’re looking at a lot of investment before you’re even able to consider taking on customers.
Your next best option is to get a business loan. Business loans can be scary, especially where some of you may be out of work, and not sure you are going to be able to pay the bills you already have. But they also give you the option to move into the field quickly, by providing you the funds to pick up all the tools you need, and get you out the door.
Think something is missing from these kits? Know of a better tool? Post it in the comments, or contact us and let us know! These kits are always growing and changing. If you’ve been in the business a while, we are happy to hear your opinions!
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