Thursday, December 27, 2007

Corbin Mortise Locks

Most people I know make the assumption that people who lived a while ago, whether that be 100 or 5000 years ago, are somehow inferior to us. We take a patronizing view of them and their world. "They didn't have the Internet. How DID they stay informed of world events." "They must have worked so hard cooking without a microwave." "Without a refrigerator, they must have been close to eating spoiled food all the time." And so on.

I try not to fall into this trap. I try and remember that they were people, just like us, with the same basic needs and desires. In some ways they were more creative than we are, because they had to come up with solutions using a more limited set of tools or ideas. And yet, every once in a while, I fall victim to the "They were a simple people living in a simple time" syndrome.

The House of 42 Doors came with approximately 42 locks as well, but unfortunately, it did not come with 42 keys. I have about a dozen keys. Like so many other things in the house, the locks in all the doors are the original, 1921 mortise locks.

Previously I had noticed that a majority of the doors in the house have a small hook screwed into the frame towards the top, presumably to hang up the key for that door. I thought it would be nice to do just that, but the problem remains, that I have 42 doors and insufficient keys.

One afternoon several weeks ago, I took all the keys and ran around the attic, the upstairs and the ground floor trying each key in each lock to see if it would work. The keys have Corbin stamped on the top of the key (the manufacturer of the lock) and a letter/number code stamped as well - P2, P6, P8, P9, P11, etc. I carefully wrote down which key fit which lock - Office, P11; Office Closet, P2; Guest Room, P8; etc. Based on this, I was going to decide which door to hang which key on. I still have a few orphaned keys with no locks and a few orphaned locks with no keys.

Last night, we had to take the door to the basement off of its hinges. The new washer and dryer are being delivered today, and they won't fit downstairs unless the door is removed. This is one of the few doors remaining that I did not test the lock, so I trundled upstairs, grabbed the keys, took them back downstairs and tried the lock. The first key did not fit. But the second...well the second went in, turned and promptly got jammed.

The next hour and a half was spent taking apart the handles, the key plates and the mortise lock to get that stupid key out. I took the time to polish one of the brass plates and to oil the lock. While polishing, I found myself thinking how horribly inconvenient and time consuming it must have been to try so many different keys to open a lock. After all, who was going to remember that the office door took a P11 key, or the kitchen door took a P10? And if it was dark, it would be impossible to read the stamp on the key - P2, P4, P5, etc. What if you lost a key? How would the locksmith know what key to replace it with? Would he have to take the lock out of the door and take it apart? What if there was a fire and someone needed to get out? I had visions of some poor maid burning to death while trying to go through every key on the key ring in hopes of finding P12.

Then, when I was putting the mortise lock back into the door I noticed that stamped onto the lock itself, in small, inconspicuous letters was P8. In other words, not only are the keys stamped, but so are the locks. I wasted all that time running around trying keys, and on top of it all, I almost broke off a P9 key in a P8 lock. I guess that those "simple" folks were pretty clever about matching locks to keys.

If anyone has any Corbin skeleton keys, P series, please let me know. I'll be happy to buy them from you.

48 comments:

Syl said...

Oh dear, I wish I could help you. I do remember that the very old house we lived in once had a skeleton key for the front door. We actually went up to the hardware store in town and got a new key for the door - they had 8-10 to choose from, and we picked the closest one to our current key.

So, have you determined from the orphaned locks which keys are still missing?

Mr. Kluges said...

Since the Great Key Debacle of 2007 (bit of hyperbole there), I haven't had time to go back through all the doors and right down the correct lock numbers. Evidently, the keys are a bit loose and often the wrong key will open the wrong lock, so for a lot of the locks I can get by, but it'd be cool to have the right key and the right lock. Once I get a list, I'll post it on the off chance that somebody finds the blog.

Anonymous said...

could you put a picture up of one of the keys

Anonymous said...

Hi House of 42 Doors,
The Corbin "P" series was very common, I have a few on my old house.You will regularly find the keys for sale on "eBay", both singly and in sets(P1-P12).Search "Corbin" in Collectable Tools, Hardware, and Locks. Also, where I am there are at least 2 locksmith shops that have been in business for 80+ years, and they have that series in stock. Find an old shop near you and ask...
It is also quite simple for a locksmith to make a master key for you that will fit the entire series.....Oil 'em up and they will last another 80 years plus. Corbin was(and is)a high end lock!

Amateur Lock Guy

Mr. Kluges said...

Amateur Lock Guy - many, many thanks. It never occurred to me to look on E-bay. It's been a great source. I've got all the varieties of the keys I need now, just not one for each door yet (but I'm getting close). Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I have the 10th key, i think? It says Corbin on the finger piece of the key and on the lower half it has P10. You can email me if you want i can send you a picture of the key i have. My email is Xeldrom@yahoo.com. I hope to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

A problem with ebay is most of the people buying are collectors and you are going to be in a bidding war with them (ehhhem...me). I found this website that sells antique/vintage keys for fairly cheap. You can tell them what you are looking for and if they have it...viola! No bidding wars and no searching endlessly on ebay. Hope all your locks will have keys soon.
http://www.antiquekeys.net/

Anonymous said...

Where can i find the key code stamped on the lock?

Mr. Kluges said...

I continue to be amazed how this thread keeps getting hits...but to answer a previous question, for the Corbin P series, the numbers are stamped at the top of the face of the lock, above the plunger. There's no need to disassemble the lock. It's often hidden under a layer of paint. I can't speak to other manufacturers of locks though, just the Corbin P series.

Mr. Kluges said...

Oh, and for anyone else who finds this thread, I'll be looking to complete my set over the winter of '08 and '09. I was too busy with outdoor projects over the summer.

keyfreak1114 said...

We have a simmalar situation. The house we just moved into has 28 locks and we have only 1 key that works with only 3 of those locks. The key we have is a Corbin P2 skeleton key, but none of the locks have any brand name inscibed on them. If anyone has a website that sells these typy of keys, please let us know!

Keyfreak

P.S.
You can reach us at grootvr@yahoo.com.

Anonymous said...

I have a Corbin P6 key that I got at an antique store recently. Any interest? you can reach me at guitarrocker32@hotmail.com

thanks! and good luck

Anonymous said...

I went to an Antique shop a couple years and bought an old key for a necklace. I am sitting in my car and I decided to examine the necklace I'm wearing. It says Corbin P9 so I looked it up to see how old it is, and I stumbled upon this post. If you are still interested email me at emma.durocher@hotmail.com
It is still in pretty good shape.
-Emma

Anonymous said...

hi
hello my name is chris i am 21 years old and i happened to find a corbin p8 skeleton key ten years ago under a baseball plate if intristed please call 614-327-6871

Timmy J said...

Dear Sir, I am a locksmith but its no longer my profession. If you will e mail me a picture of a few of your keys I can tell you where to cut the bit of the key to make a master or tell you how to smoke a blank to cut a exact key for only that lock. My e mail address is tljohnson6518@yahoo.com Thanks, Tim

Rachel said...

Hi there, I just Googled Corbin keys after finding a very sizable collection of latch and skeleton keys in my Grandfather's house. I have Corbin P1, P3 and what looks like another P3 maybe, or 8. If interested feel free to email me!

Rachel

lrpjak said...

Are you still looking? I have a P12. Let me know. lrpjak @ gmail

Laurie

Anonymous said...

Hi if you are still interested my daughter came across one that has
P1 and P10 on them. I can be reached at wctja@yahoo.com. Oh by the way were is this house located?

Anonymous said...

Hello,
My son found a key in the yard that is stamped with P11. Let me know if you are still interested in the keys.
anna2584@yahoo.com

Mr. Kluges said...

OK, I need to close this out. I have all the keys for all the identifiable doors in the house. I don't need any more keys - although thanks to all for offering! It boggles my mind that this posting has generated so much response.

Paminski said...

Interesting! I have always been intrigued by skeleton keys. I only exactly one, which happens to be a Corbin P3. Where it came from is lost in time somewhere, but that is part of the allure. I'm thinking of starting a collection.

Anonymous said...

Hi I have a Corbin p6 skeleton key that i have had since I was little. Have been searching a long time to find out what it belonged to. Would like to know what it opens if you dont mind. Paulina

Mr. Kluges said...

Corbin was a very popular lock company "back in the day" and had many different makes and models of locks. One of their series of locks was the P series. They were mortise locks for doors. As far as I know, the P series had 12 different kinds of locks, each with it's own key, p1 through p12. If you found your way to the House of 42 Doors, you'd find that your P6 key would open some of the doors in our house. Finding the keys is relatively easy. Finding working locks is much more difficult. The locks are not always easily identifiable and after almost 100 years, most of them don't work.

Peter H. said...

Thank you for the information. It has helped quite a bit in my search for the correct keys. You have provided some good information.

-Pete

oldplumblogger said...

Hello, My husband and I are restoring a 1910 Tudor and we have Corbin "Q" series mortise locks and only a couple of keys. Does anyone have any Q's that you would like to sell? Also, I am interested in finding out how to get a master key made. We live in Worcester MA and the local locksmiths are not interested in helping. They just want to sell me new dead bolts! Many thanks! lmbrei@gmail.com

Mr. Kluges said...

When it comes to old skeleton keys, I found E-bay to a be a huge help. I was able to find about 30 keys that I needed for various doors. If you know the make and model of your locks (Corbin P12, for example), you just need to be patient and keep looking on E-bay. Eventually you can find what you are looking for.

If you don't know your locks though, your only real option is to try and find a locksmith and they tend to charge a fair amount to custom cut a key. I seem to recall that I was quoted about $20 a key, plus the hassle of bringing in the lock so that they could work on it in the shop. Considering that I could pick up a key on E-bay for about $3.00 + s/h, it seemed like a lot better deal to just be patient and work through E-bay.

Anonymous said...

I am looking for a P3.
From looking at the photo's of the many postings on e-Bay I can see that there are quite a few Corbin keyes out there of the style that looks like they are the type for my Corbin locks. Getting to the sellers and having them look for a specific one is not often something that gets a response.Do you have a P3, and are you willing topart with it ?
Cgris
lg757@hotmail.comchallyo

Annette said...

I am looking for a Corbin Cabinet Lock Key. Lock No. C465 (Barrel)for an old trunk of my father's. I would greatly appreciate any help locating this key or how to cut a key to fit the lock. I have tried all of the major key sites online.

L.M.Tea said...

Doing a search on the number/name of a skeleton key I just bought on ebay, one is a Corbin p7! How much is the actual key worth if you don't mind me asking?

Mr. Kluges said...

L.M. Tea - on E-bay single keys go from $3 to $7, but people often sell bunches of keys for $5 to $10. Depending on what you are looking for, you can sometimes get a deal.

L.M.Tea said...

I bought a lot of 10 that included the key and was just wondering!! Thanks and love the house, thanks for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

I have 8 or 9 Corbin keys, including 2 P5s, a P3, & a couple that you can't read or don't have a number. If anyone needs any R41s,I have 4. I was going to put them on Ebay,but I'd be happy to sell 1 at a time if it would help people.
Tami

Anonymous said...

Forgot to leave my e-mail addy. Its Luvmybts@yahoo.com Put Corbin keys in the subject line. I also have some small skeleton type keys, I think some are called barrel keys.
Tami

Anonymous said...

Many of the old mortise locks, Corbin included, will operate with the reproduction skeleton keys you will find a Lowe's or Home Depot. Look in the area where they cut standard keys. Only a couple of bucks for 2 so definitely worth a try.

Anonymous said...

I have this really old vanity that belonged to my great garndmother. its falling apart and needs to be repaired. I love the vanity but my great grandmother had thought it was a good idea to paint it blue. so im currently working on making the vanity more secure and stripping the paint off to its natural wood. My mom and i flipped the vanity over so we could glue the vanity where it was coming off, and there just between the two pieces of wood where the drawer was a corbin p2 skeleton key. i decided to go online and see if i could find out about it and see as to what it might go to when i came across your story.

Caria Costin said...

hi, i have a P3 skeleton key...

Caria Costin said...

hi! i have a P3 skeleton key, if you need or want one..

Andrew VanderLeest said...

I have a Corbin P2

Anonymous said...

I have about 30 different corbin keys, did you find your replacement, yet? If you didn't - you can email me at arough@yahoo.com and I will look through my keys (I have over 120 vintage keys.)
Best, April

Anonymous said...

Hi my name is Alex, I have a corbin p1 key, its been around me since I was alittle kid, its really old, as I can remember, many times I tried to lose it or throw it away, and I can't believe I still have it cause kids lose things lol and its crazy but some how it got stuck with me, now I'm 21 and I wear it as a necklace, I was just thinking about how long I've had this key, I feel like I'm connected to it, and it came to my head to search for corbin p1 and all of this info came up, I was surprised, I thought I wasn't gonna find anything cause its just a key but it got me happy for some reason, its my lucky key. I would like to know more about the place and what my key unlocks lol, my email is, devil_agb_92@yahoo.com

Ray Elliott said...

My name is Chris and I have a Corbin P1 series skeleton key. My number is 586-707-1629. I you are interested let me know.

ryan jones said...

I have a R14 corbin skeliton key

ryan jones said...

Ryan jones email is fuzzy872012@hotmail.com

April Harper said...

I have 7 corbin keys on a matching keyring p4, p6, p10, p11 & three number p8

April Harper said...

my email is aprilgeorgia1985@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

i have a 1902 greek colonial revival with 49 doors. all are corbin mortise locks " d series" and i had only a d8. i was able to file away a corner square on the key and am now able to operate about 12 or 15 doors. i been watching e-bay for a long time, and not a single d series key. p series are very common btw. d series are 2 3/4 " long. if anyone has any, please e-mail me at LJKcues@aol.com thanks in advance

larry

Jak Manson said...

I was wondering if you sold skeleton keys. I am looking for a place that does skeleton key replacements. That would be great if I could find one quickly. Mine recently broke and I would like to be able to get it replaced or fix if possible. Please help me if you can.

Anonymous said...

p12 corbin key in possession kinglykingworm@gmail.com