Product brochures, specifications, and manuals have been added to the “Manufacturer’s Literature and Manual” tab for the following manufacturers:
Advance Metalworking Co., Inc.
Innovative Moving Systems, Inc.
Rock Line Products, Inc. (Air-Tow Trailers)
Ultra Lift Corporation
In the “Resources” tab, you will find product demonstration videos from Advance Metalworking Co., Inc., Innovative Moving Systems, Inc., Rock Line Products, Inc., and Ultra Lift Corporation. These product demonstrations can help technicians/business owners explore the capabilities of safe moving equipment available to them.
I spent nearly 4 years assisting with safe moves. While I have moved plenty of smaller B-rate safes, most of these moves were for larger TL-15, 30, and 60 rated safes for commercial clients. I’ve certainly done by fair share of “plating” and “bolt downs”. Throughout all of those moves, never once did a personal injury or damage to a safe or a customer’s property occur. That was not by chance but via safety, an understanding of moving large objects, and by following the manufacturer’s instructions for the use of their equipment. I say all that to say this: I made sure to include resources covering all 3 of those areas. In the Resources table you will also find a PowerPoint presentation on pallet jack/hand truck safety as well as a primer on basic timber cribbing.
Finally, we’ve included a link to a Dean Safe how-to-videos. These videos cover topics such as moving a safe, uncrating a safe, and bolting down a safe.
Update 8/30/2018: Add Hudson Lock LLC (Husdon, ESP, HPC) to this list. Their price increase goes into effect on September 1st as well.
Two manufacturers will change their prices in September.
On September 1st, Kaba Ilco Corp. will update their MSRP price list. To see the new prices, please click on the links below (organized by product brand/category):
On September 15th, access control powerhouse Nortek Security & Control will update their prices. Nortek has not released these price updates at the time of this post. Stay tuned to Nortek’s Pricelist Page for updates as they are made available.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest column by Gordon, a locksport enthusiast from Arizona. Hobbyists and locksport enthusiasts like Gordon are keeping some of the “lost arts” of locksmithing alive. His tutorial, which originally appeared on a popular locksport site, is reproduced here with his gracious permission. This might not be an economical way make a key for a padlock but it is a great glimpse into the skill that is still out there and makes the case that when you really need to make something, you can.
Making Keys for an Older Wilson Bohannan Padlock
Won a padlock on eBay without a key. Blanks for this model are a little hard to come by, so decided to make a key from scratch. It is an older Wilson Bohannan padlock:
Started with some 5/16″ x 1″ (8mm x 25.4mm) rectangular brass stock:
Filed it to a nice flat surface on the end:
Now, we need to trace the keyway. Easiest way is to place some paper over the keyway, and press it down with your thumb to get an impression:
Now cut it out and place it on the flat end of the brass stock:
Next, trace the keyway onto the brass. I decided to angle it so the key bow would still be straight up and down when the key is put into the lock:
Now before cutting, we need to drill a hole in the key shaft. Measure the diameter of the post in the keyway:
Find a drill bit that is slightly larger in diameter:
Use a drill bit and tape to determine how deep to drill:
Now drill the hole. Start with a small drill bit and gradually increase diameter until the right drill bit size is reached. Make sure the hole is absolutely straight. And if you look at the keyway above, the post is slightly off center, so it is no accident the hole is drilled off center as well.
Now mark the estimated key shaft length. You can use the lock body to help.
Now draw lines straight down to show where the key needs to be cut (and not cut).
And rough cut the key blade and shaft. Do not cut too close! It is much easier to file it to the correct size and shape than to restart the whole process all over again.
Start filing it smooth and to shape:
OK, so you think your blank is ready. Let’s see if the lock agrees. First, out comes my famous Sharpie marker. (When not doing a pictorial, do not use a marker nearly as much. When you take pictures, marks show up much better if you mark the key first).
Move aside the dust shutter and try to put the key into the lock:
Well, did not really expect it to fit perfectly the first time. Now what? Remove the key and look at the ink marks, of course.
File where you see marks (just like impressioning) and further up the key blade if you see a widening trend.
Repeat the above steps until the key goes smoothly into the lock.
But the key does not fit even close to the depth it should be according to the lock body! Look at the key tip. You did mark it, didn’t you?
Yup. There is a tip cut. Cut where you see marks, and continue the cuts all the way across the width of the key blade. I used a Dremel with a fine diamond bit so I could make the cut curve, as the keys would.
Re-mark the tip and repeat until the key fits fully into the lock without marking the tip cut area.
Now you can look and see how much you will need to cut the key blade (from the key bow side) for the key to turn:
File the blade until you can see that it would clear the lock body (the throat cut):
… if it were not for that ward near the middle of the key blade in the above picture. It does leave a mark showing where to file.
You guessed it! File where you see the mark(s) across the full width of the key blade:
Repeat until the key can turn smoothly in both directions in the lock (until it hits the lever):
Great! We are ready to impression the lock!
Clean off the marker and admire your handiwork!
Congratulations! You now have a working key! Next, draw the rough shape of your key bow onto your brass:
Center punch several small holes a small distance from the inner edge of your key bow. These will help keep the drill bit from wandering. This is my first attempt at a ring-shaped key bow made from scratch, so bear with me a we learn this together.
Now drill small holes:
And progressively larger holes until they meet, dropping out the center of the hole:
If you have no power tools, you are in for a lot of filing. If you do have them, put a carbide burr bit into your drill:
And cut to the inside edge of the key bow:
Now grab your Dremel tool and put in a cutting bit and bevel the inner edges of the key bow. Trust me, don’t do the outside part yet; I will explain that later.
Now cut some long, thin strips of sandpaper or emery cloth and feed one end through the hole in the key bow:
Holding one end in each hand, sand the inner edges of the key bow until the filing marks are gone. Use progressively finer sandpaper until you get your desired finish. This has an advantage of being pretty easy to do, and gives you the round shape on the key bow.
Here you can see one side of the inner key bow sanded:
Turn the key around and repeat:
The reason for only beveling and sanding the inner edge of the key bow first was so your vice can solidly hold the key while you comfortably worked on the inside of the bow.
Now bevel the outside edge, being extra careful around the key shaft – you don’t want to mess it up!
Now use a flat needle file to round the outer edge. Don’t need perfection here as we still have to sand.
TIP: Use a strip of thick plastic cut from a jug to protect the key shaft while filing!
Do the above steps for both the top and bottom of the key bow. When done, both sides should look like this:
Repeat on the back half of the key bow using thick cloth in the vice to protect the part of the key bow already worked on. Then sand in the same manner as for the inside edges if the key bow. It should end up looking something like this:
The Time Locks page is now live in the Safe and Vault section of the Library. This page covers mechanical and digital time locks for safe and vault use. Like the Safe Deposit page, we’ve included a list of current manufacturers as well as manufacturers that have either been acquired, discontinued, or went defunct. These manufacturers include:
Bankers Dustproof Time Lock Co.
Consolidated Time Lock Co.
Kumahira Co., Ltd.
Mosler Safe Company
Ohio Time Lock Co.
Sargent and Greenleaf
Yale Lock Manufacturing Co./Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company
The Resources tab includes a winding chart put together by MBA USA. It also includes a TMi Guide to Time Locks, hosted by SOPL, and link to My Time Machines. My Time Machines is a website dedicated to a collection of time locks. The information and pictures contained on My Time Machines makes it one of the best resources online.
Finally, we’ve included Manufacturer’s Literature and Manuals from Sargent & Greenleaf as well as TMi Corp.
Examples abound of instances where you must decode a key in the field or in your shop. At its most basic level you may simply want the bitting from a key. You may need to decode a key to determine which key bitting specificationit uses so that you know how to pin cylinders or cut additional keys to match the manufacturer’s requirements. Whatever the case we all must decode keys at some point.
decode v. to determine a key combination by physical measurement of a key and/or cylinder parts bitting n. 1. the number(s) which represent(s) the dimensions of the key 2. the actual cut(s) or combination of a key key bitting specifications n. pl. the technical data required to bit a given (family of) key blank(s) to the lock manufacturer’s dimensions
An example of a key bitting specification, Schlage’s Classic.
Decoding keys may seem straight forward to any of you that regularly interface with a specific manufacturer’s key bitting specification. Schlage’s Classic key bitting specification, found commonly in commercial and residential settings, comes to mind. There are times, however, where we must service keys and/or cylinders belonging to a key bitting specification that we are unfamiliar with. Unless you regularly service Corbin Russwin’s various key bitting classes and depth systems, for example, they might cause great confusion without the ability to decode depths from a working key.
With all this in mind, the goal of this article is to show you various methods of decoding a key and how to utilize the information gathered.
Methods of Decoding Keys
Direct and Blind Codes
The simplest method of decoding a key is when a code is stamped on the key bow. This code can be a direct code or a blind code.
code n. 1. a designation assigned to a particular key combination for reference when additional keys or cylinders may be needed. direct code n. a designation assigned to a particular key which includes the actual combination of the key blind code n. a designation, unrelated to the bitting, assigned to a particular key combination for future reference when additional keys or cylinders may be needed
A direct code is essentially what you input into code cutting equipment to produce a key to manufacturer’s specifications. Direct codes correspond to bottom pin lengths belonging to the key bitting specification. The benefits of decoding a key using a direct code is that it is quick and straight forward. A direct code will not clue you into the key bitting specifications, however. You must either know that information, know how to derive it, or know where to find it to make use of a direct code.
An example of a direct code.
Blind codes are very popular for wafer locks but there are instances of their use in other platforms. To derive a key’s combination from a blind code you must have access to code books/software. You reference blind codes against one of these sources which in turn provides you with the direct code. Nearly all code books and code software contain either full or partial key bitting specification information; some even provide the information to produce a key with the combination(s) using various code cutting equipment. This greatly assists decoding as well as the ability to service additional, related keys and/or cylinders.
An example of a blind code.
Blind codes are often alphanumeric although there are times where the blind codes can be numbers only. These numbers cannot be confused with direct codes, however, because they will nearly always be less than the actual number of cuts found in the key. It’s also important to note that you should not confuse markings from a master key system with blind codes. The standard key coding system, SKCS, must be learned, understood, and practiced so that information stamped on the key isn’t confused with a blind code.
standard key coding system n. an industry standard and uniform method of designating all keys and/or cylinders in a master key system. The designation automatically indicates the exact function and keying level of each key and/or cylinder in the system, usually without further explanation.
You can also decode a key using a key gauge.
key gauge n. a usually flat device with a cutaway portion indexed with a given set of depth or spacing specifications.
Examples of key gauges.
A key gauge allows you to insert a key into cutaway portion and move the key within it until the key comes to a stop at or near an index marker. At its most basic level this index marker will be a whole number that corresponds with a depth/cut within that system. There are key gauges capable of decoding more than cuts in a key, such as angles or Aft and Fore cuts with Medeco keys, depending on the system, but that is a story for another article. There are also key gauges with measurements on them that function much like a caliper. While not as precise as a caliper they can be very effective and quick.
Keep in mind that you must know the appropriate key gauge for the key; there isn’t one key gauge that works for all key bitting specifications. Utilizing the wrong key gauge on a key will accomplish nothing more than wasted time.
Calipers allow you to take actual measurements of the key, usually with accuracy of ± .001″. These measurements can then be used to determine the key bitting specifications out right. The process to decode using a caliper is rather straight forward. In fact, there is a formula for this process that you should commit to memory.
effective plug diameter n. the dimension obtained by adding the root depth of a key cut to the length of its corresponding bottom pin which establishes a perfect shear line. This will not necessarily be the same as the actual plug diameter. root depth n. the dimension from the bottom of a cut on a key to the bottom of the blade
The effective plug diameter varies by manufacturer but this information is readily available. You can find the effective plug diameter of multiple manufacturer’s on our Key Bitting Specifications page. On LAB universal pin kits, LAB lists this measurement on each pinning chart and labels it E.D., or effective diameter. Keep in mind that effective plug diameter is not the same as the actual plug diameter itself. The effective plug diameter accounts for tolerances, plug diameter does not. Avoid confusion by also committing this to memory.
The root depth is amount of material between the bottom of the key blade and the bottom of the key cut. You measure the root depth with your calipers.
Measuring root depth with calipers.
By taking this measurement and subtracting it from the effective plug diameter, or what is needed to create the shearline, we are determining the correct length of the bottom pin. All measurements are taken within a thousand of an inch so you will need to compare the results of this formula against the manufacturer’s key bitting specification to determine the bottom pin/cut assigned to it. Bottom pins correspond to the cut, which simplifies things for everyone involved. For example, if your formula produces a difference of .270” and it is the Schlage classic key bitting specification then you can safely assume you have a 7 cut which utilizes a 7 bottom pin.
Measuring with a caliper and comparing/deriving is usually slower than other decoding methods but it is the most accurate method. An added benefit of a caliper is that they are multipurpose. You can use calipers to measure other things, such as pins. They are also very helpful when calibrating key machines as they can provide precise measurements throughout the process.
Once you become very proficient with a key bitting specification or specifications, you can begin to visually decode keys. This process allows you to determine key cuts by using visual clues of the key. It takes some skill to be proficient with visual decoding. Once you are proficient with visual decoding you decode keys almost as fast as if it were a direct code (as long as the keys are accurate!).
I utilize all options and I would advise you to as well. Keep key gauges and a caliper on the truck and in the shop. Make sure you have access to code books or software. The situations at hand will determine the best, or perhaps only, method of decoding. You best bet is to become proficient at all of them.
Note: This is article is not a primer for key control policies and procedures.
I don’t proclaim to be an expert on key control policies or procedures but I have created a few from scratch. Maybe that has taught me just enough to be dangerous. Be that as it may, I’m not going to teach you how to draft a key control policy. I’m going to show you how to reference other key control policies to help you craft your own key control policy. If you already have a key control policy you can still utilize this information to evaluate your key control program by comparing it to what your peers are doing.
Key Control Policy Resources
The first resource is ASSA ABLOY’s Key Control Guide: Developing & Managing Key Control Policies and Procedures. According to it’s introduction it “represents hundreds of years of best practices developed and observed by providing the world’s finest key systems.” The Key Control Guide contains a sample key control policy and a sample key request form. It also contains specific application guidelines for areas such as educational K-12, healthcare, colleges and universities, and general office buildings. Whether drafting or updating a key control policy, you can learn a lot from ASSA ABLOY’s Key Control Guide.
The second resource is actually multiple. One of the most important characteristics of an effective key control policy is that it is readily available to those who are required to adhere to it. This is usually accomplished by making key control policies available online, such as on a college/universities’ website. There are dozens of these key control policies available online. Simply search “key control policy” or “key control procedures” followed by either a pdf or .doc file type extension. For example, use the search phrase “key control policy pdf”. Here are a few results of that search string:
I utilized other key control policies when I wrote my first for an institution; it was invaluable. Whether writing your first, or 3rd, or just seeing how it compares to your peers, publicly available key control policies are great resources.
Locksmiths are usually lucky enough to have the current, soon to be old, keys available when rekeying locks. That’s not always the case, however, and there are times when you are expected to rekey pin tumbler cylinders, known hereafter as cylinders, that don’t have keys. Keys or no keys,you must first remove the cylinder(s) the lock(s) to continue the rekeying process. Once the cylinder is removed from the lock and in hand, we must next find a way to rotate the plug so that it may be removed from the rest of the cylinder. Picking is one option. Another option, that can be faster than picking depending on the circumstances, is known as shimming. Shimming is the process of using a very thin strip of metal, known as a shim, to separate a cylinder’s pins at the shearline.
shim 1. n. a thin piece of material used to unlock the cylinder plug from the shell by separating the pin tumblers at the shear line, one at a time
The shim moves along cylinder’s plug, intersecting each pin stack, and prevents the springs and top pins, and sometimes master pins in master keyed cylinders, from entering the plug. Once all pin stacks have been shimmed the plug can then be rotated and the rekeying process can continue.
Shim moving along a cylinder’s plug.
In addition to a shim, you will also need either a key blank that corresponds to the plug’s keyway or a lock pick. Whether you are using a key blank or lock pick their purpose in the shimming process is the same: to move the pin stack closest to the shim up and down to allow the shim to pass between pins at the shearline. Shimming is relatively straight forward and with enough practice you will become very proficient at it. Like lock picking, shimming requires an acquired feel, a light touch, and practice.
Picks and/or key blanks are required for shimming.
The Shimming Process
Before we cover the shimming process it is important to note that, depending on how it was keyed, a cylinder typically uses either 5 or 6 pin stacks. If you are using a lock pick this isn’t an issue but if you’re using a key blank it can be. You can’t use an SC1 key blank, for example, to shim a cylinder with 6 pin stacks; the tip of the key blank won’t be able to reach the stack furthest from the key blank’s shoulder. Avoid this hassle by using the longest key blank available in the key bitting specification utilized by the cylinder’s manufacturer. For this article, we’re going to use a key blank to describe the process. 1) Start by removing the cylinder’s cam or tail piece.
We need to access the back of the cylinder’s plug in order to insert the shim 2) Insert the shim into the rear of the cylinder, in line with each pin stack and chamber.
Remember, we’re trying to slide the shim between the pins. Align the shim so that it’s center splits the pin stack’s center. You don’t want a shim to barely grab a pin stack or drift away from the pin stacks as it moves further into cylinder. You want to insert the shim until it contacts the first pin stack. 3) While applying light pressure to the back of the shim, begin moving the key blank in and out slightly.
The key blank doesn’t have to be inserted/removed very much. You can only shim one pin stack at a time so we only need to focus on moving that pin stack. By using the tip of the key blank, you are able to raise any bottom pin, no matter the depth, to the shearline. 4) Once you shim a pin stack, withdraw the key blank slightly and begin shimming the next pin stack.
You will be able to tell when a pin stack is shimmed in two ways. Visually, the shim will move further into the cylinder. You will also feel a shimmed pin stack in the key as well. There won’t be feedback from the spring and you won’t be able to insert the key as much as you once were. This is because the bottom pin is making contact with the shim. It’s important to learn this feeling so that you know when you have your key blank in contact with the right pin stack. 5) Continue this process for each pin stack until you shim all pin stacks.
Always lubricate cylinders before shimming them. A cylinder without keys more than likely hasn’t been recently utilized. Lubricating the cylinder will help free things up and allow for better movement of the pins and shim.
Over time a shim will lose its “edge”. You can regain that edge by cleaning the shim up on a bench grinder. Hold the shim at about a 45-degree angle with the apex of the shim’s curve to the wheel. Lightly press the shim against wheel while rotating the shim along it’s bevel; left to right, one pass. This will clean up the shim nicely and prolong it’s use. Shims can also bend if you apply too much pressure. You can fix the bent shims by applying light pressure along it’s bevel to regain its original shape.
“Re-forming” a shim.
Shimming locks with mushroom and spool top pins can be a bit tricky. A good indication that these security top pins are present in the cylinder is that the shim will move slightly but not enough. The pin stack with the security top pins will feel “set” but won’t actually be. Additionally, you won’t be able to feel the next pin stack on the shim as it moves. Try setting the bottom pin as high as possible with your key blank or pick and lowering it very slowly. You should be able to catch the end of the security pin before the narrow portion.
If you’re having a hard time on a cylinder, put it in the vise. That means you and your hands will have one less responsibility: holding the cylinder. Don’t overtighten the vise; a snug fit is sufficient. Protect the threads of a mortise cylinder by wrapping the cylinder with rubber or similar material.
There is one time where you might wish to overtighten a cylinder in a vise while shimming, however. If you are shimming a key-in-knob(KIK)/key-in-lever(KIL) cylinder and the space between the cylinder’s plug and bible is extremely tight you can slightly overtighten the cylinder in a vise to create more space between the cylinder’s bible and plug. How does that work? Think about what happens when you press a tennis ball between your hands. The sides that you’re not pressing against will bulge outward. Same principle here. We’re causing the upper portion of the cylinder, the portion at the shearline, to move up and away from the plug. I cannot stress that you must be extremely careful when doing this. You don’t want to permanently deform and damage a cylinder. A bit beyond snug is usually all you’ll need.
Just over a week ago, July 31st to be exact, Google released the stable version of the latest Chrome browser: 68.0.3440.83 through 68.0.3440.85, depending on the operating system. “Chrome 68” will begin to differentiate between websites that have SSL certificates and those that don’t by labeling them as secure and not secure, respectively. This didn’t come as a shock to many because in February of this year Google said they would start doing this exact thing.
If you’re unfamiliar with SSL certificates, I won’t waste your time trying to put my own spin on it. Instead, I’ll refer you to GlobalSign’s explanation.
Mozilla (Firefox) and others are joining Google on their push to encrypt communication between websites and users. Depending on how you’re viewing this website and on what browser, you’ll more than likely see either a locked padlock (how appropriate) or the word “Secure” to the left of our URL in the address bar up top. That’s exactly how they’re going to tell visitors whether or not a website utilizes an SSL certificate.
So, what does this mean for you and your businesses’ website? Will it impact it’s SEO?
If you sell items on your website, you might want to get an SSL certificate if you already don’t have one. A recent study found that 84% of users would abandon a purchase if data was sent over an insecure connection.
If you’re not selling items on your website, you still might want to get an SSL certificate. Why? While I am unaware of Google, or others, penalizing the search results between websites that have SSL certificates and those who don’t, browsers may soon do just that. Some studies have found that secured websites have slightly higher rankings than unsecured websites but I’m not so sure if it’s the sole reason behind that. No matter the case, not having an SSL certificate will eventually impact your ranking. When and how remains to be seen.
SSL certificates cost between $50-70, depending on your host, annually. If you’re lucky, you might already have an SSL certificate. There are multiple websites available online to check for you; I’ve become fond of SSL’s Shopper’s SSL Checker. Simply type in your URL and check it’s SSL status.
If you would like to learn more about the new push for SSL compliance across the web and it’s impact on websites, here are some additional articles:
Keeping with the theme of last Thursday’s launch of the Safe Deposit page of the Library, here are some of the earliest safe deposit box and lock patents. You can see a lot of the progression of both safe deposit boxes and locks by clicking through these patents chronologically. These patents were pulled directly from Lock & Lockmakers of America by Thomas F. Hennessy. If you don’t already have a copy of Lock & Lockmakers of America, grab a copy; it will be one of the most referenced books in your library.
We’ve added the Safe Deposit page to our newly launched Safe and Vault section of the Library. The Safe Deposit page is dedicated to safe deposit boxes, locks, and parts. In addition to our usual list of current manufacturers, we’ve included a list of safe deposit manufacturers that have either been acquired, discontinued, or went defunct. These manufacturers include: Corbin Cabinet Lock, Eagle Lock Company, Herring-Hall-Marvin (H.H.M.) Safe Company, Ilco, L.L. Bates Company, LeFebure Corp., Miles-Osbourne, Mosler Safe Company, Precision Products Inc., Victor Safe, Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company, and the York Safe & Lock Company.
There’s also plenty of supplemental material in the Resources tab, including: