Locksmiths have to put several thousands of dollars into their tools and equipment investment. They may start in the hundreds, but the cost will grow as the business grows. If a locksmith is interested in specializing in several areas, there are different tools for each area.
Aside from the normal tools of the trade, such as key blanks and a key making machine, a locksmith must break down the types of key blanks into different categories and buy other items to go along with these. Key blanks come as at least six different types of residential blanks (from $5 to over $50), ten brands of commercial key blanks, and automotive key blanks for domestic and foreign vehicles.
How is the locksmith to keep up with all the different keys? He/she must buy key tags, drawers, and key towers (tower only with no blanks, $500). These keys require key cutters. There are at least six different kinds of cutters. A manual duplicator costs $400-$600. A semi-automatic duplicator costs $655-$1600. An automatic duplicator costs $800-$1300. A tubular key duplicator costs $400-$1200. Code cutters cost $1900-$3100. Then there are your cutter wheels, which cost in the range of $33-$340.
A locksmith must buy pins, pinning kits, picks, pick sets, tension wrenches, and many different locks. There are hospital locks, government locks, gate locks, electronic hardware, furniture locks, biometric fingerprint locks, and electromagnetic locks ($200-$700).
Every locksmith who has trained with a distance school will know about Kwikset locks and IICO key making machines. These are standard equipment for locksmiths-in-training. There are academies that teach courses on a course-by-course basis to further educate the craftsmen.
There are also transponder keys that require a code machine to code the key for the vehicles to work in the ignition. Newer model vehicles with added security methods use electromagnetic fields of energy sent to a computer in the car. (This is an example of technology and computers sneaking into yet another area of our lives.) Coding keys in this manner is a way to increase security for the automobile owner and reduce costs for the insurance companies.
There are older vehicles still in operation that require the simple use of the Slim Jim tool, so a locksmith must keep older tools around. Besides accommodating people who can’t afford the newer, more sophisticated vehicles, there are collectors of antiques who won’t want their cars damaged. So, the locksmith must know how to open the vehicles in a way that causes the least amount of forced entry. Even people who don’t own expensive cars are proud of their own and won’t appreciate damage.
As is evident, there is much for a professional locksmith to learn. Much of it can be retained by repetition. There are many locks that use the same tools and methods to unlock. But for the loads of information that can’t be retained, the locksmith must rely on paper tools. These exist in the manuals and written information that must be kept for reference purposes.