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How to Remove Lock Core Without Key? – Guide for DIYers

Fact checked by Teddy B.Miller

how to remove lock core without key

Things would certainly go smoothly when you have the current keys to rekey a door lock. However, in some cases, you may have to remove door lock cylinder without key. This article can help you know how to remove lock core without key.

Picking can be the first thing that comes up in your mind to remove a lock core without its original key. But you can consider another method in this article, which is less time-consuming than picking in some cases, called shimming.

The Differences Between Standard and Interchangeable Cores


It is crucial to identify the type of core of your key system before removing it without the original key. It comes down to 2 popular options: a standard core and an interchangeable core.

Standard Cores


You can easily see a standard core at home. It is small in a round shape, which is inserted into the cylinder with a direct lock attachment. Although it costs you less than an interchangeable core, there are a few noticeable disadvantages.

Many people are concerned with choosing a certain key system so they can manage the rekey process effectively. In fact, a standard core has a major con of being costly and time-consuming when it comes to rekeying.

You will not be able to rekey this core without disassembling your door lock. As a result, you have to call a professional locksmith service to handle an on-site rekey process.

Interchangeable Cores


An interchangeable core looks similar to a figure eight. Manufacturers insert it into a lock cylinder with a special item — a control key. When you have an interchangeable core, removing a lock core without an operating key means you will not need a technician.

Although you may find the upfront cost to deal with an interchangeable core not so economical, we can guarantee that the expenses for removal or rekeying will not be that high in the long run, simply because you can do it on your own.

What You Will Need to Follow this Tutorial


First of all, we will explain the shimming process and what you need to prepare to remove file cabinet lock core without key through this procedure.

You will use a thin metal strip, called a shim, used to separate the pins inside a cylinder at its shearline. This shim will move along the top of your cylinder’s plug to intersect each of the pin stacks, preventing the top pins and springs from entering this plug again.

After you have successfully shimmed all the pin stacks, rotate your plug and continue rekeying. Aside from getting a shim, remember to get a compatible key blank for your plug’s keyway, or simply a lock pick.

It does not matter if you choose to use a lock pick or a key blank, they play the same role in your shimming process: help push the pin stack close to the shim in an up-and-down motion, so at the shearline, the shim can pass between the pins.

As far as we are concerned, shimming is quite a straightforward task. You will soon become proficient at the project with practice and patience. Similar to lock picking, it needs a light touch and an acquired feel besides practice.

In short, you will need the lock core removal tool list below to get the job done right and quickly at home:

And this is an overview of the steps you have to take later on:

  • Access The Cylinder Plug’s Back
  • Insert Your Shim
  • Shim The Pin Stack
  • Continue Shimming Other Pin Stacks

Step By Step Instructions

Before heading to the detailed DIY shimming process, it is important for you to know this: a typical cylinder uses 5 to 6 pin stacks, depending on the original keying. This is not a problem for lock picker users but may get difficult for a key blank.

In particular, an SC1 key blank is inapplicable in shimming a lock cylinder having 6 pin stacks. This is because the key blank’s tip cannot reach the furthest stack from the shoulder of this blank.

Here is our tip to avoid this problem. Find the key bitting specification that the lock cylinder’s manufacturer has utilized, and use the longest key blank available. We will describe the core removal process with the key blank in this article.

Step 1: Access The Cylinder Plug’s Back


You need to gain access to the back of the cylinder plug to insert the shim. Do this by removing your cylinder’s cam or tail piece.

Next, insert the key blank as far as possible into the plug, or try to push the lock pick as far as you can to reach the last or farthest pin stack.

Step 2: Insert Your Shim

As you push the shim in the cylinder’s rear, make sure it aligns with each chamber and pin stack. Do not forget that you are attempting to slide your shim between the lock pins.

Once the shim’s center can split the center of the pin stack, it means you have successfully aligned it.

Of course, you would not want your shim to grab a pin stack loosely, or slowly drift away from those pin stacks when it gets closer into the cylinder. Insert your shim until it makes contact with the 1st pin stack.

Step 3: Shim The Pin Stack

Identify the shim’s rear, which is the exposed end. While you apply light pressure to it, start moving your key blank slightly in an in-and-out movement.

It is perfectly alright if you do not insert or remove the key blank much. Because you could only shim a single stack at once, all we need to concentrate on is to move that particular pin stack.

The tip of your key blank will be efficient in helping you lift any pin to the shearline, regardless of the depth.

Step 4: Continue Shimming Other Pin Stacks


After shimming a pin stack, now you can slightly withdraw the lock pick or key blank to begin working on the next one.

Often, there are 2 ways for you to tell if a pin stack is fully shimmed. Visually, you will find your shim moving deeper inside the cylinder. Also, you can feel the pin stack that has been shimmed in the key.

Keep in mind that the spring will not give any feedback; plus, you will not be able to push the key in as far as you used to. The reason is the bottom pin is making contact with your shim.

You should definitely learn to get used to this feeling, so you will know when your key blank or lock pick is in contact with the targeted pin stack. Continue the task until you have shimmed all available pin stacks.


That is how you can achieve the best lock core removal, simply with a shim & a lock pick or a key blank. Remember to identify the type of lock core in advance, and it would be ideal if you choose to use an interchangeable core for rekeying.

So what do you think about this article on how to remove lock core without key? Are you confident that you can do it effortlessly after reading our instructions?

Leave some comments below to discuss this topic with us! And do not hesitate to share this article with friends and family on social media if you find it helpful. Thank you for reading.

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