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Old 07-25-2014, 08:23 PM
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 114
Key copying accuracy - Home Depot vs. Ace Hardware

I recently had to make a number of copies of house and car keys and depending where I was at the time I either chose Home Depot or Ace Hardware. Until this point in my life I don't think I've ever had a copied key that didn't work but thanks to Home Depot that streak has ended.

The results:
  • Home Depot = 2 of 5 keys copied successfully
  • Ace Hardware = 4 of 4 keys copied successfully
I even noticed the Home Depot guy eye balled the completed copies and I complimented him on that because I hadn't seen anyone else do that. Apparently he needs glasses.

There were two different Home Depots involved here and both created duds. I'm not sure why they are so inaccurate with copying but Ace is clearly the winner here.
Old 07-25-2014, 08:57 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Dayton Ohio USA
Posts: 26,942
Not a big fan of the automated machines. Not sure if this is what you experienced. When I get a key that doesn't work it's from one of these.
Old 07-25-2014, 09:15 PM
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 114
Originally Posted by Magiver View Post
Not a big fan of the automated machines. Not sure if this is what you experienced. When I get a key that doesn't work it's from one of these.
Yes it was an automated machine but operated by a person. I hadn't made a copy of a key in years but unfortunately the new machines are not as accurate as the simple copiers from the olden days.
Old 07-25-2014, 09:19 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 24,884
In my experience, you can go back to the store if the key doesn't work. They'll either work further on the same key or will cut you another at no charge.
Old 07-25-2014, 09:27 PM
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 114
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
In my experience, you can go back to the store if the key doesn't work. They'll either work further on the same key or will cut you another at no charge.
I just threw the duds away. They were less than $2 each but had I known this was going to be a regular occurrence I would have returned them.
Old 07-25-2014, 10:37 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 4,169
When we all have 3D Printers, making a copy of one's key will be a snap.

And other people's keys.
The efficiency and success of the Italian aviators in Tripoli are noteworthy, but must not be overvalued. There were no opponents in the air.

v. Bernhardi ---- Germany and the Next War
Old 07-25-2014, 10:51 PM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Posts: 928
I had to make several copies of the keys to my late in-laws' house, as I had various relatives helping me with the cleanout (and they kept losing keys). The Ace Hardware by my office did a perfect job, and the price was very low as they were going out of business, everything was on clearance. I should have gotten more copies there, but I didn't anticipate the key losses.

The independent hardware store by their house produced nothing but duds, and charged much more. Now that the house is sold, I have an envelope labeled "useless keys." I think they can be recycled but it's not high on my priority list.
Old 07-26-2014, 03:16 AM
Join Date: May 2014
Location: City of Destiny
Posts: 579
At my last place of residence, all the units in our building had to have the locks changed after the master key was stolen from our landlady. We each got a single new key and it was up to us to get copies made, if we so desired. I went three times to Ace with no luck. The folks there were always courteous and eager to help but to no avail. The keys always looked right but just wouldn't work in the lock. Then I went to a professional locksmith with the same results.

Out of desperation, I cut two small pieces of duct tape and stuck them together, cut a slit big enough to slip over the shaft of the key, slid it on and stuck it to the head. Just that little bit of thickness made the key line up with tumblers just right and I had no trouble thereafter.

When I made a copy of the key that went to the original lock of that door, I went to Fred Meyer. The teenaged girl who made it slipped the copy into a tiny envelope and I didn't think to look at it until I got home. Turned out she did such a bad job on it that the top half of the shaft went untouched by the cutter! But I found that it worked just fine if you took the time to get it aligned properly in the lock. Odd, but it worked. That key became my hidden-outside-just-in-case key and served me well several times.
Old 07-26-2014, 07:23 AM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 3,318
I cut keys as a kid, and never had any problems. So I wonder if it has become more difficult now? Possible reasons:

1) More variation in the shape of the key head, causing allignement problems?

2) Different key materials, causing the pins to not glide/stick the same way?

3) Different pin shapes in the locks, requiring closer shaping to get the pin to the correct possition?
Old 07-26-2014, 08:10 AM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Western Pennsylvania
Posts: 27,126
The local hardware store I go to has never had a problem copying keys, even the ones with the DO NOT COPY imprint.
Old 07-26-2014, 08:21 AM
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 17,685
Many years ago I was getting a copy of my front door key cut for a guest that was going to be staying for a while. The guy cutting it asked me, "You use this key, don't you?"

I told him that I did and he said that as the key gets worn it becomes harder to cut an exact copy. "What you should do is get copies cut and put all the originals away for when you need any further copies."

I have followed that advice since and have never had a dud key cut. Makes life easier when you lose your keys too.
Old 07-26-2014, 08:47 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: The Sunflower State
Posts: 5,507
I quit having keys duplicated at Ace after the fourth time I had to take keys back that didn't work. (I guess I'm a slow learner.)

The first time was when I had copies of the mailbox key made. The blanks the guy used were the right shape, but had the mirror image cross-section of the blanks he was actually supposed to use. So I took those back and a different guy cut me a new set with the correct blanks, but they wouldn't work either. So I took those back and finally got a set that worked. The next time was getting copies of the house key. Those wouldn't work either. The last time was when I was getting a couple of copies of my car key after my wife lost her spare. This time the guy cutting keys brought the new guy over to show him how to cut keys and - surprise! The keys didn't work. At least I only had to go as far as the parking lot this time to figure out the keys were bad. After that I started going to a local locksmith to get keys copied. It may cost a little more but at least I only have to make one trip.
Old 07-26-2014, 09:54 AM
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 1,422
Don't give up on them just yet.

A few months ago I got some keys cut at home depot. They seemed to work and I gave one to my babysitter and asked her to drop in on my dogs last week. She called me and said it wouldn't open the deadbolt, just the knob. Front door and back door.

I was at a different home depot for something else on Monday and I saw an employee by the key machine and he asked of he could help me find anything. I told him about the other copies I had made and he said "did they make them on a big orange machine like this one, or a crappy looking old machine like that black one?" Apparently the crappy looking old machine lives up to its title, but the Orange machine uses a laser to make a perfect copy. The cut key was smooth and didn't require the wire brush cleanup like the crappy looking old machine does, it works perfectly, AND the employee said "sorry you got some bad copies, we'll just consider these an exchange for those free of charge" even though I didn't have the bad keys with me.

I know it sounds like BS - a home depot employee offering to help?! - but I swear it happened. I was sure impressed by it.
Old 07-26-2014, 10:23 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 1,178
Several of the Ace hardwares here in Denver have locksmiths. I frequent them whenever I need keys and have not had problems. The other Aces can be problematic.

Old 07-26-2014, 10:36 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Riding my handcycle
Posts: 32,422
Originally Posted by Emtar KronJonDerSohn View Post

I know it sounds like BS - a home depot employee offering to help?! - but I swear it happened. I was sure impressed by it.
Everyone is entitled to a mistake now and then.
Old 07-26-2014, 10:54 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: State of Hockey
Posts: 4,385
You can go back to get the key redone. But it's usually easier to find someone to redo it at Ace. I have had about the same luck as the OP with keys at Ace and HD. I just go to Ace now.
Old 07-27-2014, 12:53 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Tottering-on-the-Brink
Posts: 18,706
The key place I go to is an independent store, and all it does is locks, keys, safes, etc.

They make great keys, never a dud.
Old 07-27-2014, 03:29 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 24,884
Around here, we call those "locksmiths."
Old 07-27-2014, 08:52 AM
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Arizona, USA
Posts: 2,826
If you can find a local walk-in locksmith, that's who should do the work. It's not any more expensive and the guy knows what he is doing.
Old 07-27-2014, 09:47 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Woodhaven,Queens, NY
Posts: 5,351
Just want to point out that ACE hardware stores are independent- ACE is a coop, not a franchise or a chain.

Last edited by doreen; 07-27-2014 at 09:47 AM.
Old 07-27-2014, 10:10 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Somewhere near Boston
Posts: 9,905
Originally Posted by Emtar KronJonDerSohn View Post

I know it sounds like BS - a home depot employee offering to help?! - but I swear it happened. I was sure impressed by it.
Eh? I've found HD personnel to be nothing but helpful, and I've been there a lot.

I find that even a bad key (at least one that eyeballs pretty close to the original) will usually work with enough jiggling and repositioning -- sometimes it just needs to be broken in a bit.

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