The Key to a Fine Guitar

This key will open just about any ES 335 case. I'm betting you've lost yours or never had one to begin with. You can still get them..

Whyizzit nearly every guitar I ever buy is missing its case keys? It’s not like anybody actually locks their guitar case. I’ve always just left them in the case pocket and when I sell the guitar, they are still in the case pocket. And, just in case you’re the guy who actually does lock his guitar case, you should know that nearly all the keys for 335s are the same or so it seems. I’ve gotten a few guitars with keys and I’ve picked up some loose keys along the way and every last one of them is identical. They fit the Gibson badged cases, the Lifton cases, the Stone cases and even a Guild case I have lying around. I don’t have a Victoria or an Ess and Ess at the moment but I wouldn’t be surprised if it fit everything but the Ess and Ess (because it has a spring latch). The probable reason is that the case hardware was manufactured by the same company and they just didn’t bother with making multiple key types. I never really got the idea of a case key anyway. If someone is going to steal your guitar, I’m pretty sure they’re going to steal it whether the lid is locked or not. Unless you lock it to a large pice of furniture with a bike lock, I think the thief wins. ¬†When I buy a vintage guitar, one of the things I look for is the key. It tells me that the guitar was well cared for. Think about it. If someone has managed to go 50 years without losing both of those little keys, then they must either be very organized or they really loved that guitar. Or both. In 20 years of buying vintage guitars, I would say that maybe 10% have one key. About one if 50 has both keys. The gorgeous red 59 ES 345 I found had both its keys-in the envelope-in the case along with the PAF directions and the ABR-1 directions. This was a pro player, too so it’s not like the guitar sat at home in its case its whole life. In fact, the 61 dot neck that DID sit in its case for 47 years didn’t have its keys. I’ve learned that there are 2 ways to preserve a great vintage guitar. One way is to take very good care of it for 50 years or so. The other way is to totally neglect it for that same period of time. I generally prefer the ones that have been played and cared for. They still have their keys. Oh, and if you would like to get a key for your Lifton or Gibson case? There an almost 100% chance that the Excelsior H345 is your key. H345-how appropriate is that?

Look for the designation H345.

10 Responses to “The Key to a Fine Guitar”

  1. jim says:

    Is this the same key used on Harley sadle bags?
    Where can i get one?

  2. OK Guitars says:

    I did a little research and the Gibson case key is the same key as the Harley bags. It is Excelsior H345. There are a few on Ebay. I have a few of them but I’m not likely to sell any as I include them with the high end guitars and my supply is very limited. I think I paid around $15 each.

  3. Todd B. says:

    Thanks for sharing this info! I lost the key to my 1969 Les Paul case back in the mid-seventies, and just received a replacement. Please note, I ordered an Excelsior 6K11, which is the same as H345 except the Excelsior name is on the other side of the key head. I believe my case came with the 6K11 key, but either one should work. Thanks again!!!

  4. OK Guitars says:

    Did you buy a new one or a vintage one? I think they still make that key.

  5. Todd B. says:

    I purchased a shiny new 6K11 for $14.98 on eBay. You may be able to get them cheaper, but I bought from a seller who accepted returns, since I wasn’t positive that it would fit my case. The 6K11 I bought looks identical to the key that came with my case.

    I’ve also been in touch with someone on eBay who said his 1968 Les Paul and black case with orange lining came with a 6K11.

    In researching this, I’m pretty sure that Excelsior keys H345, 6K11, and and even 10K2 should all work. I believe the only difference between them is the length of the groove (called the blade) under the teeth of the key. However, this isn’t important since the key only goes about 1/2 inch into the lock. Therefore, you can shop around and buy whichever one is cheapest, if you wish.

    I’ve had a lot of fun looking into this seemingly esoteric topic, and am very happy to once again have a key for my case. Thanks again!

  6. Mytrad says:


    i have a ES-335 TD 1973 with ESS & ESS case, i dont have the key, I think buy a 6k11 key, I hope it works great, or has anyone another recommendation?

  7. cgelber says:

    I just tested a 6K11 on an Ess and Ess case from the 60’s and it doesn’t work.

  8. Mytrad says:

    My Ess & ess case have the presto locks, what key fits?

  9. cgelber says:

    Ess & Ess keys have no marking-at least not the one I have. I’ll take a photo of the one I have and put it up in this post

  10. John says:

    The Excelsior 6K11 also works for 1979-1982 Fender Cases. The First SKB style cases with four latches.

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