Skeleton Keys 101 From Your Favorite North Shore Locksmiths

As premier North Shore locksmiths, the team at Hayden is often asked about skeleton keys. Whether you purchased an old home with missing keys or stumbled upon an antique piece of furniture at the market, skeleton keys come in handy. Technically speaking, a skeleton key is a type of master key that open numerous locks. However, contrary to popular belief, these keys aren’t created equally.


Why are they called skeleton keys?

Often associated with creepy old movies, skeletons keys have two rumors behind where they inherited their name. The first, some people believe the key resembles that of an actual skeleton. If we look hard enough, we can see it, but we’re not convinced.

However, the second rumor has proven to be more accurate. This other idea behind the term “skeleton key” comes from the design of the key. Striped to its essential parts, skeleton keys are narrow and contain no frills – thus, they portray the image of a skeleton. Nothing but the bones.


Are all skeleton keys made the same?

Although skeleton keys can be used seamlessly in a variety of different lock applications, no, they’re not all made the same. Each key contains three similar parts:

  • Bow

The bow is the “handle” of the key. Often, antique keys will have a circular shape or design to them.

  • Barrel

The barrel is the longest part of the key; it’s the component that connects the bow to the bit. The diameter of the barrel is one of the essential elements to matching a skeleton key to a lock.

  • Bit

This one is easy to remember if you think of teeth. Bit and teeth go hand and hand. The bit of a key is the teeth at the end, which are inserted into the lock.



Even though these keys contain similar parts, the differences lie within the size and the cut of the bit, as well ,as the diameter of the barrel. These differences will determine whether or not the key will be a match to your lock.


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As expert North Shore locksmiths, our team is here to help you with all of your antique lock needs. Whether you’re missing a skeleton key or not sure where to begin, we can help! Give us a call today at (978) 744-0988 and let us help you unlock the mystery!

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