Locksmith Terminology: Pin Tumbler Cylinders


As I mentioned in last weeks Tyler’s Take, learning and utilizing proper locksmith terminology is very beneficial to locksmiths. This week we’re going to start our series of articles defining and illustrating locksmith terminology, in accordance with the LIST Council’s Professional LOCKSMITH Dictionary, with arguably one of the most popular items a locksmith will encounter: pin tumbler cylinders.
cylinder n. a complete operating unit which usually consists of the plug shell, tumblers, springs, plug retainer, a cam/tailpiece or other actuating device, and all other necessary operating parts

Examples of pin tumbler cylinders.

Cylinder Types

Pin tumbler cylinders come in multiple types. The most popular of these types are key-in-knob/key-in-lever, mortise, and rim.
key-in-knob cylinder n. a cylinder used in a key-in-knob lockset

A key-in-knob cylinder.

A key-in-knob cylinder.

Key-in-knob (KIK) cylinders are exactly what they sound like: the cylinders utilized by knobsets. Similar to the key-in-knob cylinder is the key-in-lever (KIL) cylinder. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, these are the cylinders utilized by leversets.  The largest difference between KIK and KIL cylinders is the orientation of the tailpiece at the back of the cylinder.
On KIK cylinders, when viewed from the face or rear of the cylinder, the tailpiece is generally positioned at 3 and 9 o’clock.
Tailpiece orientation on a key-in-knob cylinder.

Tailpiece orientation on a key-in-knob cylinder.

On KIL cylinders, the tailpiece is generally positioned at 6 and 12 o’clock.
Tailpiece orientation on a key-in-lever cylinder.

Tailpiece orientation on a key-in-lever cylinder.

The difference in tailpiece positions is due to how each cylinder is positioned within the lock. Knobsets allow the cylinder to be oriented parallel to the floor. Leversets, due to the shape/design of the levers, require the cylinder to be oriented perpendicular to the floor. As a result, a KIL cylinder’s tailpiece must change position by 90 degrees.
mortise cylinder n. a threaded cylinder typically used in mortise locks of American manufacture

A mortise cylinder. Note the threads on the cylinder.

Mortise cylinders are typically used for mortise locks but they can used for certain lock trim and other specialty hardware, such as key switches. Mortise cylinders are threaded, which makes them unique from other cylinder types. The threads allow the mortise cylinder to be physically screwed into the lock or whatever hardware is utilizing it.
There are different types of mortise cylinders, such as Mogul and peanut.

  1. Mogul cylinder n. a pin tumbler cylinder with a diameter of 2.0″, whose pins, springs, key, etc. may also be proportionally increased in size. It is frequently used in prison locks.
  2. peanut cylinder n. a mortise cylinder of 3/4″ diameter

The difference between the two, and standard mortise locks for that matter, is the diameter of the cylinder itself. Mogul cylinders have a 2″ diameter. As the Mogul definition states, Mogul cylinders are frequently used in prison and detention locks. Detention locks are very heavy duty and sized to match large cell doors, which largely explains their cylinder size. Peanut cylinders have a 3/4″ diameter and are typically used in special applications, such as mailbox locks. They aren’t as popular as they once were so you don’t see them much these days.
rim cylinder n. a cylinder typically used with surface applied locks and attached with a back plate and machine screws. It has a tailpiece to actuate the lock mechanism

A rim cylinder.

A rim cylinder.

Rim cylinders are typically used for rim mounted exit hardware, such as a panic devices. They are different from mortise cylinders for a few distinct reasons. First, they utilize a tailpiece to actuate the lock mechanism and not a cam. Second, they usually don’t contain threads (although some manufacturers are now threading them – presumably for production cost purposes). Third, they are secured into a door or lock mechanism through a back plate and two machine screws.
The back of a rim cylinder.

The back of a rim cylinder. Note the two screw holes.

Cylinder Components

As the cylinder definition implies, there are multiple components for a cylinder. These components are generally determined by the type of cylinder, such as a pin tumbler or even a wafer or high security. Since we are only concerned with a pin tumbler cylinder for this article, we will cover the cylinder components applicable to pin tumbler cylinders.
The first component listed in the cylinder definition is the shell, also commonly referred to as a cylinder shell.
shell n. the part of the cylinder which surrounds the plug and which usually contains tumbler chambers corresponding to those in the plug

Red arrow pointing to a mortise cylinder's shell.

Red arrow pointing to a mortise cylinder’s shell.

Within the shell is the plug.
plug n. the part of a cylinder which contains the keyway, with tumbler chambers usually corresponding to those in the cylinder shell

Cylinder plugs.

The plug of the cylinder is where the key is inserted; it contains the keyway, which determines what blanks are allowed to enter the plug. Plugs come in a variety of sizes (both length and diameter), finishes, and keyways to accommodate a wide range of needs. Despite these varieties, the function of the plug remains the same.
keyway n. 2. the exact cross sectional configuration of a keyway as viewed from the front. It is not necessarily the same as the key section.

Keyways in a plug.

Keyways are accomplished via wards within the plug.
ward n. a usually stationary obstruction in a lock or cylinder which prevents the entry and/or operation of an incorrect key
Distinct shapes and positions of wards within the plug create the keyway itself. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of keyways in existence.
Moving backwards a bit, portions of the plug/cylinder shell can also be defined:
bible n. that portion of the cylinder shell which normally houses the pin chambers, especially those of a key-in-knob cylinder or certain rim cylinders

Red arrow pointing to a KIK/KIL cylinder’s bible.

Bibles are generally considered to be the portion of a cylinder that is on top of the plug itself. As the definition states, this is the area which houses the pin chambers. The bible can be clearly seen on key-in-knob (KIK) and key-in-lever (KIL) cylinders but they also technically exist in mortise and rim cylinder types (more on those shortly).
chamber n. any cavity in a cylinder plug and/or shell which houses the tumblers
Chambers inside a shell.

Chambers inside a shell.

Chambers inside a plug.

Chambers inside a plug.

The chambers house the pin tumblers, and by extension the springs. In America, cylinders usually contain 5 or 6 chambers which correspond with 5 or 6 pin key blanks, respectively. Each chamber contains a pin tumblers (typically a bottom and top pin, although sometimes master pins) and a spring.
pin tumbler n. usually a cylindrical shaped tumbler. Three types are normally used: bottom pin, master pin and top pin.
Examples of pin tumblers.

Examples of pin tumblers.

While pin tumblers are often considered to only include bottom pins, they actually include master and top pins.

Cylinder Retainers

Cylinders must employ parts to secure the plug within the shell so that the plug does not come out when the key rotates it.  These parts are known as retainers.
retainer n. a component which is clipped, staked, or driven in place to maintain the working relationship of other components
The cylinder’s design and type ultimately determines the type of retainer used.
cap 2. n. a part which may serve as a plug retainer and/or a holder for the tailpiece

A cylinder cap.

Cylinder cap on a KIK/KIL cylinder.

Caps, as they relate to pin tumbler cylinders, generally screw on to either KIK/KIL and rim cylinders. They thread into the back of the plug and are held in place by a retainer pin.
retainer pin n. 1. a component seated on a spring, in the end of a plug, that interacts with a retainer cap to keep it in place. 2. Any non-threaded rod that maintains the relationship of two or more different parts.

Retainer pin on a KIK/KIL cylinder.

Cylinder clips, like caps, prevent the plug from being removed from the rest of the cylinder during normal operation. Unlike caps, however, cylinder clips snap into place rather than being screwed in.
cylinder clip n. a spring steel device used to secure some types of cylinders
Cylinder clip on a rim cylinder.

Cylinder clip on a rim cylinder.

Cylinder Actuators

In order to make use of a cylinder, we must find a way to transmit the motion of a turning plug so that a lock mechanism or door related hardware can utilize it. For cylinders, this is accomplished via actuators.
actuator n. a device, usually connected to a cylinder, which, when activated, may cause a lock mechanism to operate
On cylinders, the actuators come in two types: cam and tailpiece. The general rule of thumb, almost without exception, is that mortise cylinders utilize cams while KIK/KIL and rim cylinders utilize tailpieces.
cam n. 1. a lock or cylinder component which transfers the rotational motion of a key or cylinder plug to the bolt works of a lock

A mortise cylinder cam.

A mortise cylinder cam.

Mortise cylinders utilize cam actuators. These cams screw into the back of the plug. An added function of cams is that they also serve as cylinder retainers.
tailpiece n. an actuator attached to the rear of the cylinder, parallel to the plug, typically used on rim, key-in-knob or special application cylinders

Rim and KIK/KIL cylinder tailpieces.

There are a number of different tailpieces and the door hardware dictates the type used. For example, Schlage AL and ND series cylindrical leversets, while functionally very similar, utilize two different tailpieces.

Other Lock Reference Websites

We are not the only reference website available to help locksmiths. Here are a few others, in no particular order, that cover many of the same topics we do:


Lockwiki, as it names suggests, is a lock reference website structured in a format similar to Wikipedia. Currently, there are other 241 individual articles across 1,487 individual pages. Best of all, like Wikipedia, content is largely submitted via individuals. There are a number of great photographs and instructions related to many cylinder and core types. This is perhaps one of the greatest lock reference websites out there.
The creator and owner of Lockwiki, datagram, also maintains LockpickingForensics.com which contains a fair bit of valuable information on it’s own.


CataLocks.eu is a catalog of European profile cylinders (the form factor, not the manufacturer’s country of origin). There are hundreds, if not thousands, of high-resolution pictures of 883 individual profile cylinder platforms.  Available to be sorted alphabetically, type, system, brand, and country of origin there is a lot of quality information available to help locksmiths understand the different cylinder platforms out there.


iDigHardware is Lori Greene’s personal blog and I doubt a better life safety reference exists anywhere else in the world, no matter the medium. Lori regularly shares job site photos related to life safety, hosts discussions related to life safety questions and news, and even shares publications she’s written for various trade magazines. It’s a HUGE wealth of information. Even better, she hosts code reference guides and tools to help locksmiths with life safety codes.


Maintained by MMDeveloper (of r/lockpicking fame), Assahat-Labs is a web page dedicated to one man’s journey with sharing everything he’s learned about various lock platforms and lock-related concepts. Currently, one can find a great deal of information and pictures on topics such as Assa, Medeco, and Schlage locks and even security pins.


I’ve saved perhaps the best for last: YouTube. While not solely a “reference” website, there are numerous YouTube users that have Channels to dedicated to locks and/or locksmithing. Whether discussing individual locks or various door hardware items or even waxing philosophical on a number of lock/locksmithing topics, there is a vast amount of quality information on YouTube. Here are a few of our favorites:


This is by no means an exhaustive list, more so just reference websites we regularly consult and visit. If you have any suggestions, feel free to post them below in the comments below so that others may benefit from them. Next week, we’ll cover communities/forums available to locksmiths.

By |2018-06-26T09:00:04+00:00June 26th, 2018|All, Industry|0 Comments

Tyler's Take: Standardized Locksmith Terminology

Adoption of standardized terminology is vital for many industries, disciplines, and professions. Whether it be for medicine or computer science or electricians, it’s important that the terminology being used is standardized so that everyone involved in those industries, disciplines, and/or professions are on the same page, or speaking the “same language”. This too applies to the locksmith industry. It’s in our best interest and the industry’s best interest to start learning (if we already haven’t) and utilizing (if we already aren’t) standardized terminology as a whole. Fortunately, the locksmith industry does have standardized terminology: The Professional LOCKSMITH Dictionary.
First published in 1982 and routinely updated through the years, The Professional LOCKSMITH Dictionary is a peer reviewed, readily available document provided by the Lock Industry Standards and Training (LIST) Council. The LIST Council’s goal has been to standardize locksmith-related terminology and definitions that haven’t been defined elsewhere, such as in a general dictionary. Over the years, manufacturers, associations, and numerous publications have utilized terminology as defined by the The Professional LOCKSMITH Dictionary.
If you weren’t previously aware of The Professional LOCKSMITH Dictionary, or perhaps you haven’t been proactive in learning from it, take a moment to visit it’s web page and begin reading through it in your spare time. Learning and using standardized locksmith terminology will ultimately benefit your career. First, it allows you to properly communicate with your colleagues. If you’re all on the same page and speaking the same language then you know what’s being discussed, such as ordering a part or suggesting a solution to problem. Second, it reinforces professionalism not only between peers and colleagues but also your customers.  As I mentioned in my Customer Retention article, consumers value knowledge and expertise. Third, it adequately prepares you for things such as ALOA’s Proficiency Registration Program (PRP) certification tests as well as other association’s certification tests.
Over the next few weeks, I will be releasing a series of articles that cover the terminology and definitions related to specific locksmith-related hardware, such as cylinders/cores, cylindrical leversets, and door closers. If you are a visual learner these articles may be especially helpful as I plan to include many high-resolution pictures with clear labeling. Ultimately, the goal of these articles is to help those who are either new or unfamiliar to the terminology and definitions found in The Professional LOCKSMITH Dictionary. As they say: knowledge is power.

By |2018-06-21T12:00:01+00:00June 21st, 2018|All, Tyler's Take|0 Comments

Review: Locksmithing Video Courses

Besides the traditional correspondence school courses, there is video training available to aspiring locksmiths.  In a way, it makes sense. Correspondence courses date from when the postal service was the only way to do remote training, and that was limited to shipping paper and parts.  For a few decades now video has been available and probably more training will be moving to that format in the future.  
There are several outfits offering paid video training, and there are too many to go over here.  Besides the videos that one can buy, there are also a great number of videos for free on YouTube; an example of this would be Kokomo’s Intro to Locksmithing videos. Nevertheless, this article will focus on two outfits that seem to have been around for at least a little while.  
Locksmith Video School is an outfit that sells videos as a unit as part of a course for a diploma.  Like anything else, what you get out is mostly about what you put in, but, for what it is worth, some states that license locksmithing do recognize their diploma.  There are two main options: a course with tools and a course without tools.  There is also an option to buy individual courses.  The diploma course is a combination of videos (sent via a thumb drive) and a three-ring binder.  After reviewing the material the student can ask for a written exam. Upon passing, a diploma is sent. 
The main topics are lock picking (and drilling), rekeying common locksets, code cutting and duplication (using a 1200 Blitz and by using space and depth keys—which are also sold on the site), impressioning (disc tumblers only), the business of locksmithing (especially in regards to setting up a mobile operation), master keying, automotive opening, lock installation, safe combination changing, and commercial work (access control, panic bars, door closers, installing cam locks, etc.) 
The student needs to buy a Kwikset lock for the course and, if not buying the option with tools, will need to have basic lock tools (plug follower, “Kwikset rekey tool”, etc.) and a Kwikset pinning kit to do the exercises.  The course comes with some cut Kwikset keys for the master keying exercise and the student should practice pinning up the Kwikset lock to work with them.  A key machine is not needed to complete the course. 
The binder follows along the videos somewhat and does include some reference material, the most useful of which is the suggested inventory items for a new locksmith starting a mobile operation. 
There is only one instructor and you can listen to him and see his style on the website.  Overall, he is engaging and keeps things interesting.  
Some strengths include the marketing segment of the business video. He has good ideas of how to find accounts and some interesting ideas in regards to marketing. Also, the instructor is available via phone if someone has questions. 
Some weaknesses are in regards to car opening—it is a quick intro about what a person could find on YouTube.  Also, while he has some good ideas regarding marketing, it does not really get into internet advertising. 
Bottom line, this program is a course to take an absolute beginner and impart the basic skills.  It sticks to the basics, which is probably appropriate for this sort of course.  A person who watches the videos needs to be motivated to acquire locks and tools and do for themselves what they are seeing in the videos, be it rekeying door knobs or impressioning disc tumbler locks. 
LocksmithDVD.com does not give out diplomas but sells individual videos on DVD.  There are 21 videos for residential/commercial locksmithing and 5 videos for automotive. The residential/commercial videos are split into basic and advanced. 
This outfit has one instructor and you can listen to him on the website.  He is knowledgeable but a little dry at times. Part of that dryness might be that he is very thorough and it is video only.  There is no printed matter, so at times he is basically reading off data that would be better off as a handout (for example, listing off the various hardware finishes in the second commercial video).  
The videos tend to be long and the instructor goes into a lot of detail, certainly more detail than one would find on YouTube. 
I have not seen all the videos but a couple of standout courses include the two hour long “Locks you should know” which covers locks like the Kwikset Smartkey, Kwikset Titan, how to use the Weiser shim with Weiser locks, Ilco peanut cylinders, etc.  For someone who knows the basics of locksmithing but has not been exposed to a broad array of locks and would like to avoid surprises in the field, this is a good video.  The video on Schlage locks is good too, covering the high security options as well as the basic Schlage locks.  
The video on starting a mobile locksmith business is sort of mixed.  He does an in depth job of working up what prices should be to support the desired income—which might be a reality check for some people dreaming of self-employment.  He almost goes into too much detail; this is another area where a student might be better off checking out a book on how to run a small business from the library.  He is apparently operating in a densely populated and highly competitive area in Southern California and he goes over territory and planning the day within that territory, which could be of benefit to people in large urban areas.  On the marketing side, well, he seems to mainly depend on the Yellow Pages, which I suppose a few people still use, but most locksmiths do not put much stock in Yellow Page listings these days.  He does make the point, often missed by others, that to grow income you may have to take on a side line (like appliance repair) or do some of the more difficult locksmithing like automotive keying. 
Overall, I would not necessarily suggest that a person buys every video sold by the site but if a person needs to pick up knowledge in a given area the videos from this program are worth looking at. 

By |2018-06-14T09:00:58+00:00June 14th, 2018|All, Video Review|1 Comment

Library Update: Electromagnetic Locks

We’ve added more manufacturer’s literature and manuals to our Electromagnetic Locks page in the Library. New installation instructions and wiring diagrams have been added for the following manufacturers:

  • Alarm Controls Corps.
  • Alarm Lock Systems Inc.
  • DORMA Americas
  • DynaLock Corporation
  • Hager Companies
  • Rutherford Controls International (RCI)
  • Schlage
  • Security Door Controls (SDC)

In the Resources tab of that page are two white papers authored by Richard Geringer of Security Door Controls (SDC). One covers magnetic locks in general and the other delayed egress hardware. Both papers are exceptionally informative.

By |2018-06-12T09:00:55+00:00June 12th, 2018|Access Control, All, Electromagnetic Locks|0 Comments

Locksmith News Update

We have recently updated our “News” page. Previously, blog posts were automatically archived to that page. Going forward, blog posts will archive to the “Blog” page. We’ve also implemented a few other blog features to help deliver content to our readers:

  1. We’ve added a subscription form that allows you to receive email notifications for new posts.
  2. We’ve added links to our RSS feed to give readers the option to integrate our blog into their favorite RSS reader app(s).

The “News” page will now serve as an aggregator of locksmith news. Rather than weekly updates of 6-8 news items every Monday, our news aggregator will contain multiple daily updates from a wide range of sources, including:

  • Manufacturers
  • Locksmiths
  • Associations
  • News Outlets
  • Hobbyists

We think that this aggregator, which we aim to add to and refine over the coming weeks, will help deliver not only vital news related to the locksmith industry but also different perspectives from others actively involved in this industry. Additionally, each news story will contain social media links so that you may share them with your social media platform(s).

By |2018-06-11T09:00:26+00:00June 11th, 2018|All, Locksmith News|0 Comments

Tyler's Take: Distributing Competition

“The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”
This popular quote is often falsely attributed to a Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov; you may know him better as Lenin, the communist revolutionary of the Soviet Union. Catchy, I’ll admit, perhaps so much so that it’s also been attributed to one of Lenin’s associates, Joseph Stalin, and even Karl Marx. The phrase is still used today albeit in slightly different and less provocative manner. One version that I’ve often heard reads as follows:

“They’ll buy the rope that we will hang them with.”

This article isn’t about phrase origins, however, or political figures of the 19th and 20th century. It’s about how current business relationships in the locksmith industry could be accurately described using the above phrase.


The relationship manufacturers, distributors, locksmiths, and customers has historically been as follows: manufacturers sell to distributors who sell to locksmiths (or other security professionals) who sell to their customers. Now it seems that some distributors are forgoing, if not outright bypassing, locksmiths/security professionals and selling directly to the customer. They are, in effect, subsidizing a change in their business model, even if only a slight one, at the expense of locksmiths all while being our competition. The parent company of one distributor has even gone so far as to actually bid complete jobs (parts and labor) using a separate business entity.
I don’t think I need to argue that this shift is not favorable to locksmiths, that much should be self-evident. So what can be done?


I think the only realistic solution in this situation is for locksmiths to stop doing business with distributors that seek to usurp us. I’ve broached this topic on Clearstar but was told that, in no uncertain terms, locksmiths are “small potatoes” to distributors and they wouldn’t care. I find this hard to believe (we may not be a majority but we’re surely a sizable minority) but even if it were true, who cares? Why should we buy the rope, no matter it’s length, that they’ll eventually hang us with? Their endgame might not be storefronts where John and Jane Doe can stop by on Saturdays but anything that attempts to cut us out of the picture should be taken as no less than a personal affront. There are many distributors available to locksmiths and, near as I can tell, a good number do play by the rules. Why not give them your business?
Another possible solution would be to start buying direct. A growing number of manufacturers are offering direct buy programs with locksmith shops. There are certain requirements, such as annual or initial buy-ins, but get behind a brand you trust and try to make it work – you’d be surprised at how good their numbers can be.
If distributors want to abandon a decades old business relationship to squeeze out all of the revenue of your city or town then there’s not a lot you can do about it, but don’t be a party to it and don’t support it. Take your dollars elsewhere and urge your colleagues to do the same. Hit them where it hurts the most: their pockets.

By |2018-06-07T09:00:30+00:00June 7th, 2018|All, Business, Tyler's Take|0 Comments

The Simplex Combination Chamber

For nearly 50 years the Simplex line has represented the most popular combination locks in the North American market. Even if you aren’t actively involved in the lock/security industry, you’ve seen them. Simplex locks are everywhere. Per KABA’s website:
Simplex mechanical pushbutton locks offer a convenient way to control access between public and private areas. There are no keys or cards to manage, no computers to program, no batteries to replace, and combinations can be changed in seconds without removing the lock from the door.
The brain(s) of the Simplex line, to speak, is the combination chamber. It stores the code and validates or denies an entered code. Let’s explore the Kaba Simplex combination chamber.

KABA Simplex Combination Chamber(s) Part Numbers

Combination chamber is really a “catch-all” term as there are more than one type of combination chamber used in the Simplex line. Some combination chambers are specifically suited for a single Simplex model while others can be used for multiple Simplex models. Originally, combination chambers were assigned part numbers that began with “M”. For example, there were/are M56 and M54 and M71 combination chambers. Somewhere along the line the part numbers were changed. I suspect this was due to a design change but whatever the case may be, they are now:

Simplex Model Old Chamber Part No. New Chamber Part No.
900 M55 74080-000-01
1000/L1000 M56/M63 74366-000-01
2000 74459-000-01
2015 742412-000-01
3000 M56/M63 74366-000-01
5000 74832-000-01
6200 M64 74870-000-01
7100 M71 74660-000-01
8100 M56/M63 74366-000-01
9600 M54 74014-000-01


Nearly all models of the Simplex line utilize the same combination chamber, there are really only slight nuances between them. The outlier of the Simplex family is the Simplex 900 which features a design radically different from the rest. The Simplex 900 really deserves its own article and perhaps I will one day write one but, for now, the information in this article relates to every lock in the Simplex line except the Simplex 900.

Inside of the KABA Simplex Combination Chamber and How They Work

Let’s start with the key stems. The key stems are what interact with the buttons of the lock. Each key stem is connected two gears. The first set of gears is directly connected each key stem. Upon the pressing of a key stems, the first set of gear turns a second set of gears.

These second set of gears are what you see in the above picture and what interact with the unlocking slide. These second set of gears are equipped with gates, or recesses, inside of them. When the correct combination is entered, the gates all line up to allow the unlocking slide to move upwards and enter into them. The handle of the lock is turned which rotates the control shaft, via linkages inside of the lock body, and lifts the unlocking slide into the aligned gates. Because the unlocking slide is spring loaded, once the control shaft lifts it, it snaps back down into it’s normal resting position while simultaneously resetting all gears and buttons via cams attached to the control shaft.

Here we can see the correct combination already entered and all of the gates aligned, ready to receive the unlocking slide.

And finally the unlocking slide moves up, allowing the lock to be unlocked.

Going back a moment, we can see the aforementioned first set of gears above. These gears are of no real importance except to the function of the combination chamber itself. It should be noted that these are not the gears that interface with the unlocking slide and should not be confused with them. Also pictured is the unlocking slide’s spring; it is a tension spring so that the unlocking slide is pulled away from the gears at all times unless forced up via the control shaft.

Decoding the KABA Simplex Combination Chamber

Now that we’re familiar with the key parts of a KABA Simplex combination chamber and how it works, let’s go through the process of decoding one. Decoding of the KABA Simplex combination chamber is required when the code is lost or forgotten. There is no possible way of decoding a KABA Simplex combination chamber with the lock on the door; it requires disassembly of the lock and removal of the combination chamber. If you aren’t familiar with the disassembly process for a KABA Simplex lock, KABA has produced videos and published them on their YouTube channel. We also have the instructions for this process for every current Simplex model in our Mechanical Combination page in the Library (under the Manufacturer’s Literature and Manuals tab).
The process for decoding KABA Simplex combination chambers used to be very tedious and frustrating. It wasn’t difficult, it just required many steps and the removal of a few tiny parts that could easily become lost. I’ve decoded dozens and dozens of Simplex combination chambers in the field. Not once have I ever used the method that KABA once taught. Yes, I do have to remove the lock from the door and remove the chamber links and the combination chamber but once the combination chamber is in hand, I’m either done or one more step from being done. Confused? Ok, let me explain.

  • Combination chambers manufactured prior to 12/15/2010 had solid combination covers. You can’t see anything on the inside of these combination chambers; you must remove the combination cover itself to view the gears and thus decode the combination. When KABA redesigned their combination chambers, they decided to utilize covers with viewing holes that allowed your to see the second set of gears.
  • Combination chambers manufactured after 12/15/2010 will have these holes in the cover.

A combination chamber manufactured after 12/15/2010.

The decoding process that I and many others have always used for combination chambers with solid combination covers doesn’t involve disassembly of the combination chamber beyond the combination cover’s removal – we simply take note of the positions of the gears and derive the existing code from it. KABA must have agreed with this method because now all combination chambers are designed and built to facilitate this through the use of the aforementioned viewing holes.

With that said, let’s start the process of decoding a combination chamber. Regardless of when the combination chamber was manufactured, the process is virtually the same. If your combination chamber doesn’t have viewing holes, you simply have to remove the cover by gently prying it away from the rest of the chamber. It’s not hard, don’t force it.
The goal of the decoding process is to align all gates with the unlocking slide. When the gates are aligned with the unlocking slide the shearline is established. This is KABA’s terminology, not mine, but I guess it’s accurate enough to work. When a gear is at the shearline it means that the gear is set, so to speak. This is an important piece of information when decoding a combination chamber: gates already set at the shearline are not used in the combination.
Let’s decode a combination using a brand new, factory default combination chamber. The default code is 2 and 4 pressed together, and then 3. For the purpose of this article, let’s pretend we didn’t know that.
What do you notice?

We can immediately see that gears 1 and 5 are at the shear line. This tells us that they are not used in the combination. Our combination will utilize gears 2, 3, and 4. Furthermore, we can see that gear 3 is very close to being at the shearline. This is our next clue. Each gear utilized in a combination will rotate towards the shearline whenever a button in the combination is pressed. This means that gears closest to the shearline are the last utilized in the combination. After decoding a few combination chambers, you will learn their relationship to the shearline and immediately be able to tell if they are the last or next to last button used in the combination. With this piece of information, therefore, we know that 3 is not the first button utilized in the combination.
By process of elimination, we know that either 2 or 4 or 2 + 4 are the first digit(s) of the combination. But which is it? Here is the next tip: each key stem has enough play in it that you can almost move it’s corresponding gear to it’s next position. In other words, we can see what’s going to happen with out committing to pressing a button and having to start all over if we messed up (more on that shortly). By pressing both 2 and 4 key stems, we see that their behavior is nearly identical. Each gear is in the same position. When two or more gears are in the same position, they are used simultaneously in the combination as long as their original position is not already at the shearline. We can therefore use this information to make an informed decision: the first part of the combination is 2 and 4 pressed together.

Now we’re getting somewhere. We’ve almost got the combination. We can see that the 2nd and 4th gear are almost at the shearline. The 3rd gear has moved slightly but is still the furthest from the shearline. We now know that it is the next part of the combination.

And there we have it. All gears are aligned at the shearline. We have decoded the chamber. Before we start the resetting/code changing process, let’s address a few final points:

  • If you mess up during the decoding process at any point, simply rotate the control shaft counter-clockwise (when viewing from the key stem side). This will reset the combination chamber, so to speak, and allow you to start over. Rotating the control shaft will take some force so you’ll more than likely need to do it with a pair of needle-nose pliers or similar tool.
  • 4 or 5 single digit combinations can be very difficult to decode. That is because certain gears will be so far from the shearline that even slight depression of the key stem won’t allow you to see the gate. A flashlight aimed inside of the combination chamber greatly assists if this is the case.

Changing the Code on the KABA Simplex Combination Chamber

Now that we know the existing combination, we can change the code. This can be done in one of two ways:

  1. Reassemble the entire lock and change the combination on the door.
  2. Change the combination by directly interfacing with the combination chamber.

There is no right or wrong answer. It’s a matter of preference. If you chose to reassemble the lock first and then change the combination, the instructions for your specific Simplex model are available online. Here are the instructions and here is a video showing the process of changing the combination of a Simplex 1000/L1000, for example.
If you choose to change the combination with the combination chamber in hand, that’s no problem either. Let’s walk through that process:
1. Using the key stems, enter the existing code to align the gears at the shearline.
2. Depress the lockout slide.
Yeah, yeah I hear you, “what’s the lockout slide?” The lockout slide is located at the top of the combination chamber. It looks like, in the words of KABA, a spark plug.

Once you depress the lockout slide, you’ll notice that the gears shift down towards the control shaft (or should if you’re doing it right!).
3. When viewing the combination chamber from the side with key stems, rotate the control shaft counterclockwise.
This will “clear the chamber” and prepare the gears to accept their new sequence. After rotating the control shaft, the lockout slide should move back up. The button below, known as the code change button, should stay depressed.
4. Enter the new code.
Each key stem should click once depressed.
5. When viewing the combination chamber from the side with key stems, rotate the control shaft clockwise.
The code change button should pop back up.
6. If correctly done, the gears should be scrambled according to their sequence. Enter the new combination to ensure that all gears line up at the shearline. If not, something was done wrong and you’ll need to either attempt to change the combination again or you’ll need to decode the new, unknown code and try again.

By |2018-06-05T09:00:40+00:00June 5th, 2018|All, Locks, Mechanical Combination|1 Comment

Locksmith News – 6/4/2018

Access Control

New Atlas: System locks down schools in response to gunshots It’s a sad fact that school shootings are becoming a semi-regular occurrence in the US. While there are varying opinions on what to do about the problem, Intrusion Technologies’ Active Intruder Mitigation System (AIMS) is designed to minimize casualties when a shooter does enter a school. [READ MORE]


Cision: ASSA ABLOY Recognized by Forbes as One of the World’s Most Innovative Companies ASSA ABLOY is once again included in Forbes’ World’s Most Innovative Companies list. The 2018 rankings see the company among the 100 leading businesses in the world.”I’m very proud that we have achieved such success with our innovation,” says Nico Delvaux, President and CEO of ASSA ABLOY. “Inclusion in Forbes’ list is clear evidence that our innovation- and technology-driven culture pays off.” [READ MORE]
CNet: China’s AI-powered CCTV camera makers just got $1.6 billion in funding The maker of China’s 170 million AI-powered CCTV cameras is a hot property among investors the past few months.SenseTime has secured $620 million in fresh funds from investors Thursday, adding to its previous $600 million raised in April. The company is now valued at $4.5 billion. [READ MORE]
Digital Journal: Embedded Security for Mechanical Locks Market to Grow at CAGR of 4.5% Through 2022 A recent study published by Future Market Insights assesses the future prospects of global market for mechanical locks. Key findings from this report reveal that by the end of 2022, around US$ 7,160 million worth of mechanical locks are anticipated to be sold across the globe. The report also forecasts that for the assessment period, 2017-2022, the global mechanical locks market is likely to attain growth at a moderate CAGR of 4.5%. [READ MORE]

Case Study

Denver 7 ABC: Thieves cutting through locks, stealing bikes in downtown Denver The Mile High City is seeing a lot of growth in the cycling community, which also means more bikes being stolen.“It feels horrible,” said Mike Stejskal, a buyer for Turin Bicycles in Denver. “You walk up to it assuming that your possession is going to be where you left it and it isn’t.”Stejskal said choosing the right lock is important to keep your bike safe. [READ MORE]

Wireless Electronic Locks

Digital Trends: Schlage locks and Google Home team up to make your smart home safer If you have a Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt, your front door just unlocked a new capability.Schlage announced that its smart locks will now work with Google Home, Google Assistant on Android devices and the Google Assistant app on Apple devices. The company first announced in January it was working on the integration at CES 2018, and the feature went live on Tuesday, May 29. [READ MORE]
Gear Brain: Gate Smart Lock Review, a 2-in-1 Connected Device The Gate Smart Lock combines an HD security camera and intercom functionality into an all-in-one connected device that operates much like a Ring or Skybell smart video doorbell. Real time video streaming lets you see who is at your doo, while the lock also supports remote access in case you want to open the door for visitors. The Gate Smart Lock also comes with a backup plan in case the device fails or loses power, with a standard key hole to open and lock the door. Gate sent GearBrain a lock to test and we were surprised how this new multi-functional smart lock performed. [READ MORE]

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