Library Update: Safes

We’ve added the Safes page to our newly launched Safe and Vault section of the Library. The Safes page is dedicated to gun safes, fire safes, and GSA containers. Given the subject matter, this page doesn’t feature as much technical information as other pages in the Library but there is still quite a bit of useful information, such as safe models, ratings, and measurements. This information can be found in the product catalogs found in the Manfacturer’s Literature and Manuals.
At launch, we have product catalogs for the following manufacturers:

  • Browning Arms
  • Burg Wachter USA
  • FireKing
  • Fort Knox
  • Gardall
  • GunVault
  • Liberty Safe
  • MESA Safe Company
  • Vault Pro

We’ve also included a few quick reference manuals for Tidel’s TACC line as well as links to AMSEC web pages dedicated to explaining burglar and fire ratings for safes. We’ve also included a link to a video created by Dakota Safe Company that shows a fire rating test on a gun safe.

By |2018-07-31T09:00:39+00:00July 31st, 2018|All, Library Update, Safe and Vault, Safes|0 Comments

Tyler's Take: Make ALOA Great Again

I have decided that I will run for the position of ALOA’s Southeast Director in 2019. My goals are to increase membership numbers, increase revenue for the Association, attract “young blood” to the trade and Association, expand education opportunities, revitalize the PRP, and increase convention attendance while lowering vendor/attendee costs. Here’s how I plan to do it:

The Organization

  • Offer live streaming and recorded video of Board meetings. Members are currently free to sit at any Board meeting, with the exception of instances of Executive Session, but that’s not always possible because of travel and/or previous obligations. In the essence of transparency, members should have other means available to them to view Board meetings.
  • Revise Article VII and create permanent committees to supplement the work of ALOA staff and the Board. Various committees have come and gone through the years but I think it is time to codify their permanent place in the Association. These committees would include Membership, Convention, Education, Proficiency Registration Program (PRP), Scammer, and Legislation and Licensing and would be compromised of Board members and members at large.


  • Solve ALOA’s “age dilemma”. Utilizing my idea of “tiered membership”, we should be proactive towards recruiting members of the “Millenial” generation as well as “Generation Z”.
  • Health insurance. Multiple associations of comparable size to ALOA currently offer association health plans for their members. It’s time ALOA explores the option of doing the same.
  • Create an apprenticeship program. Similar to the ALOA Career Center, the apprenticeship program would help business owners connect with individuals seeking to join the trade. Business owners and former apprentices would also work together to develop a curriculum to assist other business owners with “fast tracking” their apprentice’s development and success.


  • Bring back live webinars led by ACE Instructors and manufacturers. Not everyone can attend classes out of town or at a convention. It’s time to bring back live webinars so that members can learn on weeknights and/or weekends from their home, business, or shop. This generates revenue for the Association and provides additional education opportunities for the members.
  • Offer remote training classes from the ALOA Training Center. Live, ACE Instructor-lead classes specifically geared towards remote training, e.g. online, should be given throughout the year. Again, this generates revenue for the Association and provides additional education opportunities for the members.
  • Digitize the existing ALOA video library and make it available to members via the ALOA website. At one time, the ALOA video library allowed members to rent instructional videos to learn in the comfort of their home, business, or shop. It’s time to bring it back for members to utilize but rather than awaiting the availability of a particular video, all members should have access to the digitized videos on their ALOA website member page.


  • Re-form the Proficiency Registration Program (PRP) committee. This committee would be tasked with evaluating and updating the Mandatory and Elective tests. Furthermore, this committee would be tasked with working as a liaison between ALOA and employers, job listing agencies/websites/companies, and government agencies to promote the program and it’s value.
  • Freeze all future certification additions to the PRP program. The amount of certifications now offered by ALOA within the PRP has devalued existing certifications and caused undue confusion with members and employers. This must be stopped for the foreseeable future.

The Convention

  • Establish three geographic regions within the continental US (East, Central, and West) and rotate the convention’s location between those regions. This would ensure that members would be within a reasonable proximity of a convention once every 3 years.
  • Seek host hotel/convention sites that are financially viable to both members and vendors. Members want affordable lodging and amenities at conventions to reduce the financial impact of attending, vendors want high-population areas to showcase their products to as many members as possible. Seeking solutions that works for both parties will ensure high attendance from both members and vendors. The Convention committee would be tasked with analyzing potential host cities/hotels for the ALOA staff and the Board with this fundamental idea in mind.


  • Evaluate, coordinate, and deploy a concentrated response, or responses, to the growing scammer problem in this industry. An operational goal, budget, and timeline should be created by ALOA and it’s members to “fight back” on a unified front against the ongoing scammer problem. In the past, efforts have been fragmented, aimless, and/or without oversight. No more.
By |2018-07-26T09:00:07+00:00July 26th, 2018|All, Industry|0 Comments

Library Update: Safe and Vault Section, Safe Locks Added

We’ve just launched our Safe and Vault section of the Library with the addition of the Safe Locks page. Safe Locks covers mechanical and electronic safe locks and contains multiple links to other reference websites, manufacturer and instructional YouTube channels, as well as dozens of installation, operating, and programming instructions for the following manufacturers:

  • American Security (AMSEC) Products Company
  • Big Red Safe Locks
  • Kaba
  • LaGard (Kaba Mas LLC)
  • LP Locks
  • Sargent & Greenleaf
  • SecuRam Systems, Inc.

This is the first of many additions to the Safe and Vault section of the Library that will be launched throughout August.

By |2018-07-23T09:00:37+00:00July 23rd, 2018|All, Library Update, Safe and Vault|0 Comments

Tyler's Take: The Solution to ALOA's Age Dilemma

I have never posted a “Tyler’s Take” on any other day than Thursday but I felt that this was a special exception given the recent ALOA convention. At the Membership Meeting the subject of the average age of ALOA members was broached. It’s no secret that ALOA membership is skewed heavily in favor of, and I say this with all due respect, the older crowd. A few ideas were presented by other members. Rather than speak, I decided to chew on and digest what I heard before crafting/suggesting my own solution. Well, I think I have it.


As a percentage of the U.S. population, the “Baby Boomer” generation is the largest demographic in American history. Millenials (my generation) are the second largest. Generation Z is the third largest. Generation Z’s oldest members, depending on who is defining the birth years, range anywhere from the mid-to-late teens to early twenties; they’re either about to enter the work force or just started out in it. Suffice to say, if ALOA has missed the boat for a large majority of Millenial members, there’s another big boat, though not as quite as big, just behind us. It’s very important that we don’t mess this one up.
If you ask a locksmith who isn’t a member of ALOA why they aren’t a member of ALOA you’re likely to hear two responses:

  1. It costs too much and I don’t see the value.
  2. I don’t think they do a good job/I don’t agree with what they do.

Addressing point 1, that’s very much a Catch-22 situation. How can you demonstrate value while at the same time asking for money to prove it? That would be like Netflix or Sling TV asking you to pay before you experience their content. But neither Netflix nor SlingTv require money up front; in fact, they offer trial memberships. Trial memberships are in place to address point 1 across just about every industry out that utilizes memberships. Keep that thought in mind.
Addressing point 2, well, again, it’s very much a Catch-22. Much like democracy in America, if someone doesn’t agree with a politician or a party, they’re told “Well, if you don’t like it, vote differently.” or “Find and get behind another candidate.” At the end of the day, it doesn’t cost a dollar to vote. But to ask for dues for the right to impart change or affect the outcome of the future of an association? That’s a tall order and has largely fallen on deaf ears.
With both of these points in mind, along with the coming demographic shift, I think there is one solution available to solve ALOA’s age dilemma.

The Solution

The solution is very simple.

  1. Have ALOA calculate the total costs to the association for new members. In other words, how much does the background check cost the association, what are the administration costs for the association to process new memberships, and what is the total cost of the material and postage for the new membership packet.
  2. Set the membership dues of all first year members AND all annual membership dues for persons under the age of 30 to the aforementioned cost.
  3. Create an ambassador committee to spearhead the implementation and promotion of this program.

Sounds simple enough right? That’s because it is, but allow me to expand a bit more on each point:
Have ALOA calculate total costs to the association for new members. In other words, how much does the background check cost the association, what are the administration costs for the association to process new memberships, and what is the total cost of the material and postage for the new membership packet. 
The premise behind this is to protect ALOA from losing money on the idea. By setting membership dues to a price point where the ALOA breaks even, they’d essentially be giving out a trial membership.
Set the membership dues of all first year members AND all annual membership dues for persons under the age of 30 to the aforementioned cost.
Here’s how ALOA can entice new members, both old and young.
First, first year memberships, no matter the age of the applicant, would essentially put ALOA and the new members on a “prove it” deal. It would be up to ALOA to demonstrate first hand value to the new member and up to the new member to take advantage of the benefits of an ALOA membership. If at the end of the first year the new member saw no value or it didn’t translate into a value for them then I’m not sure what else could be done differently within that year. But if they did? If they saw value that they might have otherwise never experienced because of current membership costs? That’d be a win for both parties.
Second, every member under the age of 30 should pay this cost annually until they reach 31 years of age. I’ve been a locksmith since I was 19 – those first few years are tight on a budget. $270 annually is a tall order for a younger guy/girl if the employer doesn’t cover costs. By keeping this price point the same through their 20’s, ALOA is essentially saving their place in the Association while still allowing them to reap it’s benefits, for when their income and budget allows for full dues. Think of this as very much “paying it forward”.
Finally, membership classes would remain the same and still apply using existing bylaws. These new membership dues would entitle all new members to “Go Green” membership benefits.
Create an ambassador committee to spearhead the implementation and promotion of this program.
It’s easy enough to set aforementioned policy but that doesn’t mean it will work. In order to work, locksmiths must hear about it and understand it along with all ALOA membership benefits. That means discussing it on Facebook groups and locksmith forums, at the local distributor’s counter, at local associations and chapters, etc. The purpose of the ambassador committee would be to find these avenues and remain active on them to recruit and communicate with prospective members.
This would very much be a a selfless and thankless job but I can think of many ALOA members, myself included, that would be up to the task.


A large, vibrant, and active association benefits everyone. This solution won’t fix ALOA’s age dilemma overnight but, going forward, I have no doubt it will. If ALOA breaks even on every single new member that joins under this program and the new members do absolutely nothing during their “trial membership” tenure, ALOA will lose nothing. But that won’t happen. Some of these new members will attend the convention, some of these new members will attend classes, some of these new members will take PRP tests, some of these new members will buy educational materials at the ALOA store. Most importantly, the ranks of the association will swell. Can you imagine the impact of 500 or 1,000 new members on advertising prices in Keynotes? That’s a potential increase (a conservative one in my opinion) of 10-20% of the current circulation number. Or how about the financial impacts of an extra 200 or 300 members at a convention?
It’s up to us to craft and implement new measures to get us to that point; right or wrong, the existing measures either aren’t working or aren’t translating. The popular saying reminds us that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” We got here collectively and the laying out the situation isn’t a knock on anyone involved. We have to own up to how we got here and either allow it to keep happening OR be proactive in finding it’s solution and carrying it through.

By |2018-07-17T09:00:09+00:00July 17th, 2018|All, Industry|1 Comment

ALOA 2018: Day 3, 4

The Meat and Potatoes

Apologies for the delay between the day 2 and 3,4 posts, Thursday and Friday were the meat and potatoes of the convention and I’ve stayed busy. Thursday I was in a class all day learning more about Large Format Interchangeable Cores. The instructor, Bill Lynk, did a phenomenal job of covering a large variety of LFIC types in the span of 8 hours. ASSA, Corbin Russwin, Medeco, Yale, Sargent, and Schlage LFIC’s were covered in great detail and some attention was given to BiLock, Mul-T-Lock, and Ilco LFIC variants. If you ever get a chance to take one of Bill’s classes on LFIC or SFIC, do so. If you are unable to make a trip to attend one of his classes, he has 3 books available at the ALOA online store. I’ve had all 3 for the last 8-9 years and they are a wealth of information.

Thursday was capped off with the “Kickoff Party”. I had a great time there. I arrived at 7 and stayed until 10:30 or so. I got to meet a lot of new people as well as some I had known from places like ClearStar and LinkedIn. This was, by far, the highlight of my trip.
Friday morning started with the ClearStar breakfast, an informal meeting of ClearStar members shortly before the membership meeting. From there, everyone migrated to the Membership Meeting which was decently attended. This was my third membership meeting and just about every seat was filled. It definitely was reassuring to see.
At 10 AM the Expo opened up. I made three separate trips walking around and was surprised by the attendance. I am not sure if the layout had anything to do with it but it seems like you constantly had to be aware of your surroundings because there were so many people navigating the aisles and you didn’t want to get in someone’s way. I didn’t get a chance to visit all booths, truth be told automotive and safe vendors don’t much apply to my company’s business model, but it was nice to see that all “sects” of locksmithing were well represented.

I only took 1 picture inside the convention because I was so busy and pre-occupied with visiting various vendors on a mental checklist I had made. The ASSA ABLOY booth, which featured areas for Medeco, Mul-T-Lock, ASSA, and Abloy, was by far the shining star of the show, in my opinion. Most impressive were the various hybrid cylinder options as well as battery powered, wireless locks. As someone that started in this industry by doing access control jobs, I cannot deny the benefits of these locks. No pulling wire, no additional hardware in most cases (beyond perhaps a new lock itself), and wireless capabilities – all at a price point either lower or comparable to a traditional access control solution.
One product/vendor impressed me the most above all overs, though. I don’t do access control anymore, which I don’t have a problem with, but AirAllow had one of the most intriguing products demonstrated at their booth that I have ever seen. If you think of a traditional access control system, what components come to mind? Wiring, panels, power supplies, electronic hardware, etc. AirAllow has a platform that eliminates most of the wiring in favor of a lithium-battery powered door controller. The rep told me that, depending on the circumstances, this battery can last upwards of 2 years. I do not know the legalities as far as the licensing required to install such a system (low voltage license or not) or even placing lithium batteries behind walls or above doors but it’s intriguing for the simple fact that you could essentially install an access control system in an opening in, realistically, less than an hour and at a price that can beat perhaps even hybrid-cylinders. If I were still involved in access control, I would be all over this system. But, since I am not, I can only say the following: if you are involved in access control, it would be in your best interest to check this manufacturer out. They may be onto something here.
After the show, I relaxed for a bit before attending my final meeting: the State of the States. This meeting was a presentation/discussion with ALOA attorneys regarding state licensing as well as locksmith scammers. While sparsely attended, there was very good discussion between those who attended. Was the solution to the problem discussed or presented? Time will tell but this much is true: there were very good points addressed and I hope this forum continues at future conventions. Furthermore, I hope ALOA does a better job of promoting it. This is something that everyone in the industry needs to be involved in.
Tomorrow we head back for home. I had a great time here but it’s time to get back home and get back to work. Next year will be in Las Vegas. I heard many rumblings about the heat in Vegas but as someone who has attended an ALOA convention in Vegas I will say that dry, desert heat has NOTHING on humid heat; it’s not even a contest. I look forward to the convention, the meetings, the kick off party, but most of all, a reprieve from the hot and humid Southern climate. T minus 13 months and counting. Till then, ALOA, well done!

By |2018-07-14T12:00:30+00:00July 14th, 2018|All, Industry|2 Comments

ALOA 2018: Day 2

Settling In and Looking Around

Today started with the only piece of locksmith business I had on tap for the day: picking up my ID badge, registration paperwork, and welcome bag. I can’t remember the process from the last time I was at the ALOA convention (2009) but this time was flawless. Showed up, showed my ID, and was handed everything in seconds. Kudos ALOA.

Inside of the welcome bag was a lot of great, valuable information. Some of it applied to the company I work for, some of it did not, but it was reassuring to see the level of commitment and enthusiasm that manufacturers are still showing to the ALOA convention. Kudos convention vendors.
Also in the bag was a very nice, high quality ALOA lapel pin, a pen/level from Akron Hardware, and what I can best assume is a bookmark featuring a Schlage 35-101-C blank embossed with Judging from the information in the packet, along with emails I’ve gotten from vendors with booths convention, companies will be handing out convention goodies en masse this year. Can’t wait!

Once I got that order of business out of the way, we set out to enjoy the National Harbor area. We enjoyed a nice breakfast at one of the restaurants in the hotel, walked around the boardwalk for a bit, and even spent some time at the pool.

We found a nice oyster bar in the area for a late lunch/early dinner. I was a bit apprehensive at paying $30 for a dozen oysters but, hey, I love oysters and I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten an oyster that wasn’t farmed in the Gulf. At least, that’s how I’m rationalizing what I paid.

To cap off the (early) evening, we got tickets to the carousel right on the river. Great views and a great time. And with that, the vacation portion of the trip is at an end for me. The wife and son get to continue their fun for the next 3 days. Tomorrow, I start the business portion of the trip.

By |2018-07-12T09:00:21+00:00July 12th, 2018|All, Industry|0 Comments

ALOA 2018: Day 1

Departure and Arrival

I live in a northern suburb of Atlanta. It’s about a 10 hour drive to Washington D.C. Since we have an 18 month old who’s entered the “terrible twos” early, according to his doctor, we decided it might be best to drive to the ALOA convention rather than draw the ire of 100-150 airplane passengers. I wouldn’t want to be around a screaming toddler for an hour and a half flight, as a parent or just as a passenger, so I decided we wouldn’t risk it.
Our game plan was to leave at roughly 8 PM EST and drive through the night, arriving to the convention hotel somewhere between 6-7 AM EST the following day. That’s our son’s usual sleeping window at night and since he sleeps like a rock in his car seat we figured it was a safe bet. Well, it was a safe bet until we hit South Carolina.

63 miles of I-85 involved in heavy construction. 2 lanes to 1 lane to 2 lanes to 1 lane and repeat as necessary. As soon as you got momentum, it was back to stop and go traffic. By the time we hit Charlotte, what I surmised was the “half way point”, we were already 2 hours behind schedule. We decided to cut bait at that point and just find a nearby hotel to rest and go at it in the morning. No sense in risking adding further delay at the expense of being completely tired and drained once we got there.
We hit the road at 5:30 AM and quickly made good time. North Carolina and southern Virginia roads were surprisingly clear of both traffic and construction. Despite hitting the Raleigh-Durham area at typical rush-hour times, it was smooth sailing.

We reached Richmond around 10ish AM and encountered a few slow downs but nothing big.

By 11:45 AM we had crossed the Maryland border and were already seeing the exits for National Harbor. The National Harbor area reminds me a lot of Atlantic Station in Atlanta – almost a city within a city. The convention center and hotel is absolutely gorgeous. I love the view of the Potomac and the rest of the harbor from the atrium.

We got in enough time for a small bit of sight seeing on the National Mall. Humidity wasn’t as bad as in Atlanta so it wasn’t too hard of a trek, even at 3 PM.

We got back to our hotel around 7 PM and decided to call it a night; it had been a busy day. Registration tomorrow!

By |2018-07-11T09:00:48+00:00July 11th, 2018|All, Industry|0 Comments

Locksmith Terminology: Cores


core n. a complete unit, often with a “figure eight” shape, which usually consists of the plug, shell, tumblers, springs, plug retainer and spring cover(s). It is primarily used in removable and interchangeable core cylinders and locks.

Examples of cores.

Examples of cores.

Cores are very much like cylinders in that they are both complete operating units, containing a plug, shell, tumblers, springs, a plug retainer, and spring covers. Unlike cylinders, however, cores generally do not have a cam or tailpiece directly attached to them, although there are rare exceptions. Also unlike cylinders, cores are inserted either directly inserted into the lock, such as in the handle of a leverset, or into housings rather than screwed in or via use of a spring loaded, retaining pin.
housing n. that part of a locking device which is designed to hold a core
Examples of housings.

Examples of housings.

Housings are frequently described as either rim or mortise. Rim housings utilize tailpieces and interface with surface mounted hardware. Mortise housings utilize cams and interface with mortise locks.
The primary benefit of cores, as opposed to cylinders, is that they allow the user to remove the core from the lock or it’s housing by using a control key.
control key n. 1. a key whose only purpose is to remove and/or install an interchangeable or removable core 2. a bypass key used to operate and/or reset some combination type locks 3. a key which allows disassembly of some removable cylinder locks
A control key works by retracting the control lug, which then allows the core to be removed from either the lock or it’s housing.
control lug n. that part of an interchangeable or removable core-retaining device which locks the core into its housing
Control lugs on interchangeable cores.

Control lugs on interchangeable cores.

Control lugs are generally found above the core’s plug although different designs can place them elsewhere. A manufacturer’s design ultimately dictates the position and function of the control lug. Control keys either directly manipulate the control lug, such as lifting a special pin to engage it, or form a separate shearline to retract the control lug.

Core Types

There are two types of cores: removable cores and interchangeable cores.
removable core n. a key removable core which can only be installed in one type of cylinder housing; e.g., rim cylinder or mortise cylinder or key-in-knob lock

Sargent "Old Style" removable cores.

Sargent “Old Style” removable cores.

Sargent "Old Style" removable cores. Note the differences at the back of each core.

Sargent “Old Style” removable cores. Note the differences at the back of each core.

Perhaps the best examples of removable cores are the Sargent’s “Old Style” cores as well as their Keso/Keso F1 cores.
interchangeable core n. a key removable core which can be used in all or most of the core manufacturer’s product line. No tools (other than the control key) are required for removal of the core.
Examples of interchangeable cores.

Examples of interchangeable cores.

Popular examples of interchangeable cores include small format interchangeable cores, such as those manufactured by Best and Falcon.
A majority of the cores you are likely to encounter will be interchangeable cores. Whereas removable cores require specific housings for specific cores, interchangeable cores can be utilized in virtually all housings across a manufacturer’s product line. For example, if I wanted to move an interchangeable core from a rim housing into a mortise housing I could do so without changing any of the the hardware.

Interchangeable Core Types

There are two types of interchangeable cores: small format interchangeable cores and large format interchangeable cores.
Small Format Interchangeable Core n. an IC that replicates the functionality and design popularized by Best

Examples of small format interchangeable cores.

Examples of small format interchangeable cores.

You’ll often hear this type of core described as a “Best Core” or “I-Core” or , worst yet, “IC Core”. The latter term, “IC Core”, perhaps grind my gears more than anything in this industry because literally translated it means “Interchangeable Core Core”. Small format interchangeable core is a bit lengthy I’ll admit but in our shop, and many others across the nation, we simply use the abbreviation for it: SFIC.
SFIC abb. Small Format Interchangeable Core
Every other interchangeable core form factor is referred to as a large format interchangeable core.
Large Format Interchangeable Core n. an interchangeable core which is too large to fit into a small format interchangeable core housing
Examples of large format interchangeable cores.

Examples of large format interchangeable cores.

A number of manufacturers have produced their own version of interchangeable cores. These manufacturers include Corbin Russwin, Medeco, Sargent, Schlage, Yale. Like small format interchangeable cores, large format interchangeable cores can be abbreviated.
LFIC abb. Large Format Interchangeable Core
When describing a type of LFIC, the manufacturer’s name usually precedes the LFIC abbreviation. For example, if describing a core type for a job, most locksmiths will typically say “Corbin Russwin LFIC” or “Yale LFIC”.
One important note is that Schlage doesn’t refer to their large format interchangeable cores as LFICs. To Schlage, their large format interchangeable cores are known as FSIC, or full size interchangeable core. Since the LIST Council hasn’t recognized this term/definition yet, I will refrain from officially recognizing it. That said, for many years Schlage’s large format interchangeable core was simply referred to as Schlage LFIC and many still refer to it as that, present company included.

Library Update: Safes (Coming Soon!)

Next month, we will be launching a new addition to our Library: Safes. Within the “Safes” category will be the following sub-categories/pages:

  • Moving Equipment
  • Safe Deposit Keys and Locks
  • Safe Locks, Dials, and Rings
  • Safe Parts and Accessories

At the time of launch, a large majority of content will be instantly available on each page. This content includes installation and service manuals, manufacturer’s specifications, data sheets, plus much more.
We plan on launching our “Automotive” category in the next few months as well.

By |2018-07-05T09:00:07+00:00July 5th, 2018|All, Library Update, Safe and Vault|0 Comments

Creating Master Key Hierarchy Charts…For Free

Here’s an excellent write-up from our very own David Lewis on how to use free software to create master key hierarchy charts.


Master key hierarchy charts are valuable for both you and your customers:

  1. They are excellent tools for keying schedules/meetings because they help customers visualize how their system is laid out.
  2. They also help locksmiths (you) keep track of systems they service. I’ve yet to meet someone who can memorize how each and every system they’ve ever designed and/or serviced is laid out. And, short of spending (e.g. wasting) time analyzing the bitting list(s) each time to remember a system whenever you called to service it, a master key hierarchy chart instantly reminds you of what’s what. If I see that, for example, the AB master goes to the 11th floor, I’ll know instantly know where to go for the next available bitting. That sure beats going through past invoices/tickets and other notes to ascertain the same information!

Of course master keying software exists and some even produce master key hierarchy charts but we’re not here to promote this method at the expense of others – it’s simply another method and another trick/tool to add to your bag. With that said, I am not aware of any master key software that allows you to create a master key hierarchy chart without already tying it to a fully developed system. In other words, you must create the system first and the software then generates the hierarchy chart based on that data. When laying out and designing a system with a customer this can create additional, unnecessary work as you could potentially have to go back and make a revision or revisions. This method doesn’t require a bitting list or fully developed system, it’s only focused on the hierarchy chart itself.
Best of all, as we’ve already mentioned, it’s free!

Tools Required

You will need a spreadsheet program.  That could be Microsoft Excel or something free like OpenOffice.  You also need to download and install a free program named yEd Graph Editor.  The download page for yEd Graph Editor can be found here. 
If you haven’t used Excel in a while or aren’t too familiar with it, it might be a good time to go to YouTube and look up a video on Excel short cuts (copy down and fill down) – that can really speed up making the file/hierarchy chart.  The first one minute of this video goes over those short cuts.


1. Make a list of keys in a spreadsheet.  It can look something like the table above.  The grand master and master keys are listed on the left and the keys they are above (including non-top level master keys) are on the right.  The example here just lists the keys but you could be more descriptive about the change keys (BC1 – First Floor Purchasing Office, etc.).
2. Save the file.  If you are using OpenOffice or something other than Excel then save it in a XLSX format.
3. Next, open yEd.  Click on File in the upper left hand corner, then click on Open. Navigate to the folder the spreadsheet file is in and click on it. 
Note: The next two steps are the important ones.  The software will ask you how to graph the data and it uses some mathematical (graph theory) terminology but we can keep it simple. 
4. Follow along with the following screen shot. Highlight the first two columns of data with the mouse (click on the letter A, then drag over to B), then click Adopt next to the Data Range in the Edge List.  Next highlight the left column of data (click on the letter A) and click on Adopt next to the Column of Source IDs in the Edge List section.  Then highlight the right column of data (click on the letter B) and click on Adopt next to the Column of Target IDs in the Edge List section. Uncheck the box Property Names in First Row under the Edge List section.  Ignore the Node List section.

5. Click on the Presentation tab near the top of the MS Excel Import and change the Label Text to Node Label.  Click the option to Fit Size to Label.  Ignore the Edges section.  Change the Layout to Hierarchical.  Click the OK button.

6. You should see something like this:

Zooming in to see more detail:

Everything is laid out perfectly spaced.  To change the default yellow backgrounds, press Ctrl-A, then in the properties window to the right select whatever fill color you want (or no color at all).  Again, this example just uses the key names, but the change keys could be as descriptive as you want.  Note that if you add descriptive text to master keys, the master key needs to be listed the same in both columns.
The file can be saved, and then exported as a graphic image, or as a PDF file.

By |2018-07-02T09:00:13+00:00July 2nd, 2018|All, Cores and Cylinders, Master Keying|2 Comments
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