How to Unlock a Lane Cedar Chest

If you've picked up a Lane cedar chest secondhand, inherited one or no longer have the key to the chest, do not worry. You can open the chest without the key by removing the lock. Lane cedar chests have a safety problem on chests built before 1987. The locks on these chests automatically engage when the lid shuts, which can trap small children inside. This safety issue generated a recall on the locks of 12 million chests built from the company's inception in 1912 through 1987.

Antique ceder chest
credit: Iktron/iStock/GettyImages
How to Unlock a Lane Cedar Chest

Safety Issues

If you own a Lane cedar chest built prior to 1987 and it has its original lock, contact Lane Furniture with your serial number to get a replacement lock even if it's working properly. The company has indicated that while six million locks have been replaced to date, six million more chests require the new lock to keep children from getting locked inside the chest and suffocating.

Bump the Lock

Use a bump key to open the chest. A bump keep will more than likely break the lock in the process, but the chest will be open and you can replace the lock with a new one. Start by inserting a similar key into the lock as far as possible, and then pull back on it by one click or notch. Apply a slight rotation to the key head and then tap on the key lightly using a hammer, but with enough force to break or force open the lock without damaging the wood around it. Twist and work the key, tapping on it until the lock opens. If that doesn't work, remove the hinges.

Hinge Removal

Remove the hinge screws from the top side on the back of the chest. Older piano-style hinges usually have many small Phillips screws. Add a Phillips bit to a power drill for quick and efficient screw removal. After removing the screws, lift the lid up from the back just far enough to reach in. You might need a flashlight to see, but the back of the lock should only have three screws you can remove with a screwdriver, or the body of the lock may be mortised into the chest. If a morticed lock won't release its hold on the lid, use a screwdriver to pry it from side to side until the lock lifts off with the lid.

Key Matching

Some antique stores have boxes full of old keys that were sometimes generically manufactured with serial numbers that might match your chest. One of them might fit the lock or fit close enough to open it. Even if it breaks the lock, the chest will be open. Sometimes the serial number was imprinted on the back or bottom of Lane chests or accompanying paper work, if you still have it.

Locksmith Option

Nobody can open your chest faster than a professional locksmith. The cost should average between $75 to $150, but it's one way to get the chest open. If you don't want to spend that amount of money, visit the locksmith's shop. The locksmith should know what type of key you need and can equip you with a similar key blank. Color the key with black marker, insert it into the lock and wiggle it around to produce marks or scratches on the blank. Use a hacksaw or file to shape the new key as needed or return the blank to the locksmith where he can cut it for you.