Mysterious ‘key’ ….

We have another mystery….

what is it?

A couple of weeks ago a locksmith mailed us some images and asked us if we could identify the special ‘key’ you see above.

Little is known, and little information is given to us. So it might be another police investigation that is stuck …

The key seems to be made of two parts that can slide. At first it looks like a change key to a safe lock, however I do not think it is.

I honestly have no idea what it is, but do want to know the answer by now … does any of my readers know?

High resolution images can be found here: image1 image2 image3 and image4

The first one with the correct answer in the comments will receive a Toool pickset!

39 Responses to “Mysterious ‘key’ ….”

  1. Jean-Claude says:


    I do not think the two parts slide, but rather rotate around the pin near the round part at top. Pictures 2 and 3 should illustrate this.

  2. Jean-Claude says:

    Also, it appears that the smooth arm is designed to be fully extended during use, as having that extra 90 degree turn at the end of the smooth arm in the closed position would prevent insertion into the lock. Personally, this makes no sense to me, as unless there is some sort of stop on the key end, using the key in this manner would add no leverage to the turning action, as it would pivot at the top pin. Even if there was a stop (unless it’s a spring loaded ball bearing and cavity, which I did not see,) this would mean that you could only use the key in one direction, as applying opposite force would again pivot at the top pin.

  3. Jason says:

    It looks like a set of allen wrenches. that would stay on a keychain or something.

  4. Jason says:

    On second thought, is this an elevator key? They were hung outside an elevator’s entrance and you had to break glass to get to them. They opened the doors in an emergency.

  5. Parker says:

    Barry, I think this is two different ‘keys’ connected by the pin and the loop.
    They look more like a set of Standard and Phillips head screw drivers to me. If true, they would be bent at the 90 degree angle to reach a screw situated at an odd location – unreachable by straight screw drivers. They also remind me of Allen Wrenches.

  6. Jean-Claude says:

    Could this thing be inserted and operated on the Y-plane? If so, what I just said wouldn’t apply, but it’s still a weird way to operate a lock.

  7. Parker says:

    From which country did the locksmith send you this item? Could you tell us its length and width? Could its use be to wind/repair clocks?

  8. Romstar says:

    Well, that looks for all the world to be a “clock” key.

    The other possibility is an old “phone box” key. Many phone boxes weren’t secured with locks per-se, but rather with a cam. You needed an angled wrench to twist the cam, and open the box.

    Other than that, I would have to go looking through the books here.

  9. Jean-Claude says:

    I think Romstar has the right idea. I was actually looking at payphone locks when I saw the post. Anyways, working the key with the smooth arm at 90 degrees to the bitted end would give the leverage I was talking about earlier.

  10. Jean-Claude says:

    I think the ramp at the front seals the deal.
    Who knows, I’ve been wrong before.

  11. renzo says:

    i don’t know what it can be so im gonna go for a shot in the dark…. is it a key for a parkingticket thingy (a parkeerautomaat i don’t know the english word)

  12. renzo says:

    oooo i think that its a leverlock pick

  13. renzo says:

    eureka (i think) is it a lockpick for handcuffs?

  14. Jean-Claude says:

    It seems to be that somebody took great pains to channel a blank on all four sides, bend the tip to HVAC standards, cut it with a ramp, drill and pin a hole, and introduce a convenient key holder. And that doesn’t include the extra arm. Also, the ring holder itself has some interesting notches on it.

    Angle positions perhaps? Maybe locking, who knows.

    I think Romstar has it right, the extra arm is for leverage in a payphone application, which always gets full of detritus (you just replace the lock, throw it away)

  15. Kevin says:

    It looks like the cross shaped part would fit into a cross shaped hole, which when this part is turned the two sets of cuts on the end, would be like wards on a key, holding this peice in place. I am thinking, could the L shaped peice then be slotted into a second hole, to give a triangular shape. This would then give a sort of lever to turn a screw on cover.

    Either that or they are just two separate tools, used on a peice on equipment.

  16. Safety0ff says:

    I feel like I’ve seen something like this before, thinking an adjustement tool for something. I don’t think the two parts are to be used at the same time. I’m thinking the one with the rectangular profile is used the remove a cover of some sort and the X profiled to move someting.

    The X profile looks so much like a k’nex piece.

  17. Bart Adema says:

    To me it looks like a key for an Indian padlock. The part with the X-keyway is hooked in the lock and as you insert the key more, the two notches will unlock two springs and push out the locking-bar.
    These come in many varieties, so I think this is a plausible explanation.

    Bart Adema

  18. Barry says:

    Mail from Arthur Meister from Hamburg:

    diese Bilder hat Barry jetzt auf seinem Block. Ich denke wirklich, daß es sich
    hierbei um einen Schlüssel für ein SPEITZFEDERRIEGELSCHLOSS handelt.
    Ich selbst habe auch so ein Schloss.

    Vgl. aus dem Buch alte Schlosserkunst und vgl. Historische Schlösser und
    Schlüssel von Michael Göring Seite 167 und 172.Weiter gibt es im Buch
    The Padlock Collector Sixth Edition Seite 118 weitere Abbildungen.

    Viele Grüße aus Hamburg


    Anyone has these books? (and cares to scan or photograph the pages?)

  19. mh says:

    Spreizfedern are leaf springs that are spread and need to be compressed, or need to be spread, to open the lock.

    This would be an example with a similar ‘key’.


  20. Romstar says:


    I was just looking around here, and I found a similar key.

    It’s to a paper towel dispenser for a restroom.

    Same idea, the “key” spreads two springs, and opens the door.

    The key I have is even similar in that it has notches so that it can pass the hole in the door and turn the cam that spreads the springs.

  21. Bryan says:

    This looks suspiciously like a bottom-bracket pin tool for a bicycle. It may not be – it would be a much older form if it were – but it would perform the same type of role very well.

    A bottom bracket pin tool works in conjunction with a standard wrench by engaging slots in a bearing cap to keep it from moving. The wrench engages the nut and force is applied to the two tools in opposing directions to loosen the nut.

    This may not be exactly what this tool is for but I would bet that it is used for something very similar. I’ll keep looking. Meanwhile, here are a couple of a pin tools in action:

  22. Jean-Claude says:


    Thank you so much for the link!

  23. I don’t have these books, but two photos of a “Spreizfederschloss”.
    The first:
    Lock in the middle, shackle left, key on the bottom of the picture.
    The second:
    The keys look significantly different and don’t have two seperate parts but only one.
    “Spreizfederschlösser” were still manufactured by local blacksmiths in China an other eastern countries.


  24. Bart Adema says:

    André Matuschek: Yep, That’s the kind of padlock I was referring to.


  25. Dave says:

    My only guess is that of some sort of safe change key?

    That, or judging by the brass, its some sort of trick padlock key.

  26. Richard Hopkins says:

    I think Barry Adema is correct. The key is for an Indian or Chinese padlock. The keyhole will be cross shaped. The short end of the cross shaped piece goes into the keyhole and the key is then turned through 90 degrees. As it slides into the lock the extra grooves compress the leaf springs allowing the mechanism to open.
    The plain L shaped bar is just to protect the shaped section from being bent put of shape when not in use.
    I have to make one of these soon for a 100 year old Chinese padlock that also requires repair to the rivet holding the leaf spring, but it it H section not cruciform.

  27. Romstar says:

    I keep coming back to this because I am sure that I have seen something similar before.

    So, after staring at it for quite some time, I began to think that it may be a gas flow regulator key.

    The brass would be consistent with that use, as it is typically non-sparking. In many cases, a flow regulator would be used on flammable gases.

    Maybe I’m taking a shot in the dark because I have been staring at it for so long.

  28. Victor says:

    It’s a blog comment generator.

  29. Lockpicker says:

    One important question: What is the size of this thing? Would be much easier to guess or give an answer if the size is known.

  30. Klaus Drumm says:

    it appears to be a key what we call in Germany “Spreizfedernverschluss”. We found this lock in the book “Schlüssel und Schloß” written by “Heinrich Pankofer”. On you can find a scan of the page. If the information is correct it is a Chinese lock.
    I hope that I could help you.
    Best regards.
    Klaus Drumm

  31. Jean-Claude says:


  32. Jean-Claude says:

    Romstar: Your non-sparking idea has merit

  33. Romstar says:


    I wish that merit would bring me to a solution.

    So far as I can tell, either none of us have it correct, or Barry is waiting for some sort of confirmation.

    In any case, I was really hoping to make a serious run at that pick set. Oh well.

  34. Barry says:

    Romstar: I think Arthur Meister might be closest to the solution as far as I can see now. I am waiting for his scans of the book.

  35. Bart Adema says:

    As far as I can tell I was the first? Your reply with Arthur Meisters mail came right behind my reply.

    Bart Adema

  36. Barry says:

    Bart: Hmz … Bart you are right. Arthur did mail the answer and did not post it in the comments like I requested for this challenge….

    I will make it up with the both of you 😉

  37. Don says:

    It looks like some elevator door keys I have examined in the past. The type to open the door in an emergency or for inspection, i.e., the type that goes right into the door itself and not the control panel. – Don