July 22, 2006

The Key Maker

I've passed by his place many times over, but never felt compelled to use his services. I may need a duplicate key made maybe 2 or 3 times a year, and would often opt to go to Home Depot or some grocery chain that had a tool section. House locks and modern cars are no problem for these places, but I knew when I lost the one and only key I had to my motorcycle, those places would be of no use. My bike, almost 30 years old I knew would be an issue. I stopped by just a little before 10 A.M., and the owner, an older hippy looking dude with a pot belly was just opening his shop. I thought this was going to be a good experience as he was in fact early to open. I told him my situation and asked if I could pull the ignition to my bike, would he be able to make a key? His answer in a gruff, resounding voice was, $20.

Feeling somewhat optimistic, I hurried home and started taking apart my bike. Pulling the ignition to these older bikes is a lot easier than I anticipated, I better make sure I keep a lock on it!

The Key Maker works out of a parked truck, with steps leading up to an entrance at the back. On the door were a few signs that read, Watch your Head, Low Entrance and such... In this tiny little space, He works at a table with a vise on it. On another table, a quarter turn to his left were his vintage key machines and the other tools of his trade. He does in fact use a computer, for looking up referance material, but we're talking mid 80's. He also had his referance books underneath. His magnifying glass looked like it was 30 years old. One wall is covered with keys, labeled Lambretta, Fiat, Opel, Volvo... Some of the most gorgeous looking key blanks were hanging off these little hangers of vehicles that no longer existed.

I stay quiet, sitting in the one seat for customers, right at the door entrance, being reminded not to stand up too quickly! Seeing the history in this tiny little place was comforting. I knew immedietely I was in the presence of a gentleman of the old school. He knows the ins and outs of getting things done, short way and long way around. I did become a bit nervous as he was going thru a 2nd key blank with no resolve. He had tried using his reference materials and using the coded numbers on the lock. No luck. So he went old school... sticking in a blank and turning the key until it left faint impressions on it from the tumblers. He pulled out a file and started hand filing away at the impressions. About 10 minutes later, the key turned easily opening and closing the lock from the ignition. He pulled out a can of WD-40 and spoke his first words of general conversation. "No more graphite", he says. Over time, the graphite turns solid, and since it was a metal, would cause havoc on the electrical system in the igntion.

Watching this old codger work was really a pleasure. It wasn't that he demanded quiet, but seeing him work, calloused hands and eagle eyes, years of "living" just put me in a place to be quiet.

As the world moves on, technology making the world move even faster, there is still much admiration and artistry in simplicity.

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