I received a couple of emails this week asking about the process of getting replacement keys for toolboxes. I’ve had a little experience with this on my own, but to offer a real answer, I headed to Google, then called around a bit among our TM contacts. Short answer: You’re pretty damn screwed. Read on for the longer version.
So the first time I lost a key to a toolbox, I figured the process would be pretty much like replacing a lawnmower key: there are probably only three or four of ’em, so you can either get one from the local shop, or worst case, you could call the manufacturer and order one.
That’s partially true. Contacting your local dealer and then the manufacturer directly via numbers you find on their website or products should be the first stop in your journey. Larger manufacturers generally stock replacement keys, though generally not at the truck/dealer level, which means you’ll probably have to special order them. They’re not cheap, either, ranging from a few bucks to around $50 or more. To identify your specific key, most manufacturers will request a number from the outside of the toolbox. Since these numbers vary — and there are usually more than one on the box — you’ll need to ask the manufacturer which one specifically you need, then get it and call back.
You should probably know, though, that it’s been our experience that most manufacturers place this low on their priority list. Toolbox locks are generally considered ineffective as theft deterrents, especially in shops full of dozens to thousands of tools which can disable said locks in seconds. So we get the feeling that most manufacturers think you really shouldn’t lock your toolbox anyway. Indeed, a lot of advice we’ve seen in online forums (and among Toolmongers in email) seems to suggest the same: disable the lock early on to avoid having to damage your toolbox to get at the tools inside.
And that brings us to the final answer. If your manufacturer doesn’t sell (or doesn’t stock) your key (or can’t get it to you in a timely fashion), you’re going to have to disable and remove the lock. If you’re serious about not doing any damage, give your local locksmith a call. You might have to call around a bit — especially if you’re in a larger city — to weed out the I-just-open-locked-cars-for-cash chaff from the seriously-knows-their-stuff wheat. You’ll definitely need the latter, who’re generally the guys who’ve done lots of oddball (but more common than you’d think) jobs like opening file cabinets, desks, and so on. Generally speaking, most toolbox locks are remarkably similar to office supply locks, so these guys can likely do the job quickly and painlessly — though probably not inexpensively.
Finally, you can remove the lock yourself. You can drill it, or if you’re in a super big hurry and don’t care about the box (like if there’s a client standing there ready to pay you more than a toolbox worth of cash for an immediate job), you can punch the lock through. Be creative. You’re a tool guy, right? (Or at least a tools-not-in-the-locked-box guy.)
Did I miss some ideas? Let me (and all the other Toolmongers who’ve made this mistake, too) know in comments.