Lock Smith and Key Cutting, a lost art

This is part of the on my way to Shanghai Hong Kong series: 


While in Hong Kong, a friend offered his spare office for me to work in. I need to make a copy of the keys and return the origin to him. Walking around familiar Tsim Sha Tsui area I know there are quiet a few small hardware store around. I asked one of them and they directed me to a "shop" under a stairway. These little store spaces at the entrance of old buildings are typical old Hong Kong. At this place at the end of the street, at 73 Granville Rd I found Alan.

I like locks. I even took a lock picking workshop from Schuyler Towne (yes I learn from the best) not too long ago. I also like these old craftsmen that I know are slowly going extinct. I asked the shop owner about it. He confirmed my observation. He said that the new trend is to either work with a lock service center, or even just call away with the key's code, which with the key type define exactly how the key should be, and have a new key mailed to you in a few days. We both lamented about this trend.  When I asked him if I can take some pictures of him and his shop he was glad to pose for action.


Alan said that, for other countries, the variation of lock types are small. So a centralized, code based key reproduction system will work. However for Hong Kong, there are way too many types of keys. The centralized system will not work well.

I had similar conversation with two other locksmiths in the Boston area. They all said that it is hard to get an apprentice now. Typically these are family businesses, and young adults these days are just not interested in this kind of repetitive, seemingly boring work. However, if you know locks, it is a very interesting world. I can imagine the vast amount of lock knowledge safely kept in Alan's head. I hope that does not get lost.