We created a Hardware Finish Codes page in the Tools section. The page includes a primer on the history and function of both US and ANSI/BHMA finish codes. It also includes a cross reference chart for US and ANSI/BHMA finish codes (direct link here) . This chart can be used to cross-reference popular US and ANSI/BHMA finish codes. ANSI/BHMA finish codes are sorted by nearest US equivalent and common names. This chart includes all ANSI/BHMA base materials related to the finishes covered.
There are many metrics a business owner can use to assist in the development of his or her business. Business owners regularly track things like sales revenue, profit margins, gross margins, and maybe even retention rates and the cost of customer acquisition. One business metric that is highly undervalued in locksmithing is lead tracking. Lead tracking is nothing more than determining the source of your leads; it’s finding out how customer’s found out about you. There are many methods and tools available to locksmiths, or any business owner for that matter, to help track leads but I don’t think any are as simple or cheap as ending each call, email, or interaction with “How did you hear about us?”
Now that may seem obvious and overly ambiguous but let me explain. If you actively chart the source of service requests, you can plan and track other things, such as promotional campaigns, which can help grow your business. Let’s say you start tracking leads today by asking customers how they heard about your company and 3 or 4 months down the road you find out that 65% of your businesses’ leads come from repeat customers, another 15% from referrals, 5% is from Google, 4% is from Kudzu, 3% from seeing your truck(s) out on the road, etc. Whatever the source of your calls, you’ll begin to see patterns emerge and learn areas you’re doing well in, such as repeat or referral service requests, and areas that maybe you could use improvement on. This initial research can identify what avenues of lead generation you may need to focus on.
I don’t know the ideal makeup of leads. I don’t know what percentage need to be repeat, referral, Google, etc. I think that’s largely subjective to your area, your services, and far more criteria than I am capable of thinking of. The point is, by tracking leads you can at least see what areas can be improved on. If after your initial batch of lead tracking you decide to improve the amount of leads from Google, for example, you at least have a baseline for where your calls are currently at. After your determine a budget and timeline that will work on a promotional campaign for Google, you can begin to see if it’s working. If leads from Google increase, you’ll know because you’re tracking. From there you can determine, either by a percentage or whole number, how much those additional leads cost your business by comparing what you spent to obtain them. This information can then be used with the aforementioned cost of customer acquisition to truly see if it’s worth your investment. If leads from Google decrease, well, you’ll at least know so that you can either discontinue the campaign or re-evaluate it.
The previous example only skims the surface of what you can do with this information. There are far more ideas and metrics that can pull from it but that’s not the point of this post. Lead tracking is something you should be doing if you already aren’t. Keep a notepad next to your office phone or in the truck. Mark your leads and throw them into Excel at the end of the day or week. For virtually no added time or expense on your part, tracking leads can drastically help you grow your business.
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Patent Number: 3,499,302 (Google Patents)
Filing Date: March 1, 1967
Issue Date: March 10, 1970
Inventor(s): Roy C. Spain, Roy N. Oliver, Elvis C. Flora, Paul A. Powell
Linus Yale Jr. formed the Yale Lock Manufacturing Company with Henry R. Towne in 1868. Yale flourished and by 1953 the company decided it was necessary to decentralize the manufacturing facilities of the Yale Lock and Hardware division. New plants were built in Gallatin, Tennessee, Lenoir City, Tennessee, Monroe, North Carolina, and Salem, Virginia. One employee of the Salem plant, which focused on automotive and industrial locks, was Roy C. Spain. By all accounts, Spain was a gifted inventor. Spain had many patents issued between the 1940s and 1960s. These patents included:
- 3,094,039 (Key Bitting Machine)
- 3,080,744 (Side Bar Cylinder Lock)
- 3,002,268 (Side Bar Cylinder Lock Assembly)
- 2,720,102 (Portable Lock)
- 2,702,468 (Dust Cover For Locks)
- 2,690,070 (Rotary Tumble Cylinder Lock)
- 2,660,876 (Side Bar Cylinder Lock)
During his time at Yale, Spain partnered with Paul A. Powell to form a tool and die company known as the Mechanical Development Company. Originally started in Spain’s basement, the company would eventually relocate to a standalone building not far from the Yale plant in Salem. Sometime during this period, Elvis C. Flora and Roy N. Oliver joined the Mechanical Development Company. According to a Medeco company presentation, Flora and Oliver, upon learning that Spain had created a prototype of key that used angular cuts, urged Spain to fully develop the his lock concept. Spain would eventually leave Yale and devote himself full time to his company and idea. Not long after this, the Mechanical Development Company produced what would become the “Medeco Original”, or Medeco’s original high security platform.
Prototypes of the design were manufactured and then sent to various manufacturers throughout the U.S., presumably to gauge interest as well as find out if any manufacturer was interested in mass production of them. No manufacturers were, however, believing that it couldn’t be manufactured in an economical and consistent manner. Since the group had already created a number of prototypes and proven to themselves that it could be, they decided to begin selling them under a new business with a new name: Medeco, taking the first two letters from the original companies name.
Medeco became wildly successful marketing and selling their “original” product and would eventually become the largest manufacturer of high security locks in the United States. At some point in the early 1970’s, Spain, then President of Medeco, issued the infamous $10,000 challenge to anyone who could pick open their cylinder. NYC detective Bob McDermott successfully picked one cylinder but since he could not do it twice, which the challenge supposedly stipulated, he was not able to cash in. McDermott was hired as a sales rep for Medeco shortly thereafter.
In 1974, Oliver became the president of Medeco, which soon opened a 58,000 square foot facility in Salem. This facility is a few thousand feet from the banks of the Roanoke River. Roanoke is an Algonquian word that, according to English explorer John Lawson and most in academia, translates to… money. Medeco’s success continued and they soon became the preferred choice of many U.S. government facilities, including embassies abroad. In 1984, Medeco was sold to Hillenbrand Industries Inc. In 1998, Hillenbrand Industries sold Medeco to ASSA ABLOY. Today, Medeco still operates successfully as an ASSA ABLOY group company.
Medeco’s innovation didn’t end with their original design. In 1988, they were granted a patent (4,732,022) for the original design’s successor: Biaxial. The successor to the Biaxial, the Medeco3 or M3, was granted a patent in 2005 (6,945,082). Other patented platforms included KeyMark (Re. 35,518 E) and KeyMark/Medeco X4 (8,186,194 B2).
And as for the Mechanical Development Company? Their existence didn’t end with the creation of Medeco. Powell’s family now owns the company and they’re still in business in Salem, not far from Medeco’s current headquarters and the original Yale plant, less than a thousand feet from the Roanoke.
Special thanks to Billy B. Edwards for his insight on some items discussed in this article.
We’ve added a comprehensive list of patented lock and keys to our High Security Resources page (direct link here). This list contains patented keys and locks starting in 1987 with the expiration of the Medeco “Original” patent all the way through 2031, when the Abloy Protec2 utility patent will expire.
We’ve recently added a cross-reference PDF to the Cylindrical and Tubular Resources page (direct link here) that provides a list currently produced of Grade 1, 2, and 3 cylindrical leversets offered by 10 popular manufacturers. These manufacturers include: Arrow, BEST, Cal-Royal, Corbin Russwin, DORMA, Falcon, General Lock, Hager, LSDA, Marshall Best, Sargent, Schlage, Tell, and Yale.
This cross-reference can be sourced to easily identify comparable cylindrical leversets series or to source and compare series unfamiliar to you.
A recent Twitter exchange I was involved with provided a great example of why effective key control policies must now contain provisions related to social media. Let me explain.
Back in December, @dontlook retweeted a tweet by a member of the U.S. Air Force. The original tweet contained a photograph of the service member’s ID badge as well as his key. Using the information on the badge, it wasn’t hard to narrow down where he was currently stationed: a public health building at a Royal Air Force installation. Further work by @nite0wl determined the key blank and pinning system of the key pictured, one that is readily available from multiple aftermarket vendors. He was also able to decode the key to two possibilities without the aid of apps or programs, which are available, or further analysis by comparing pixels or using actual measurements. He provided me with the bittings he decoded and I cut the keys for comparison.
Let me stress this: this was nothing more than proof of concept. We could have produced an accurate duplicate key with complete certainty but that wasn’t the point of this exercise. It was to show that individuals, locksmiths or not, can use photographs and/or information shared on social media platforms to compromise key systems.
Social Media and Key Control Policies
Your institution’s or employer’s key control policy should contain provisions which prohibit the sharing of information related to it on social media as well as provide corrective actions in the event such information is distributed on social media platforms. An effective key control policy in 2018 would prohibit photographs of keys as well as the locks or cylinders, which can assist in revealing keyways, governed by it. If the key control policy also governs access control systems then it should also prohibit photographs of credentials, such as cards or fobs, card readers, and other hardware related to the access control system. Furthermore, information unique to your physical security systems, such as the key bittings or badge types, should not be readily available to anyone with an Internet connection. This is even true for keys and cylinders with patent protection and restricted distribution channels. That adds an additional layer of security, yes, but it does not make you invulnerable. In the event that such a compromise is discovered, the corrective action should be all reasonable efforts to restore security to the areas left vulnerable. This may include loss of privilege, fines and fees, the rekeying of locks and issuance of new keys, etc.
This entire premise may seem far fetched but it’s not. I know first hand of a loss of security that occurred because of a key control policy that was lacking. Unfortunately, a sexual assault occurred because of it. Legal and civil ramifications aside, I wouldn’t want that on my conscience and I wouldn’t want my lack of foresight to result in a tragic experience for others. Make sure that your key control policy is up to date to protect your institution, your employer, the individuals that use it, and yourself.
Special thanks to @nite0wl and @dontlook for their participation in this case study.
In late spring of last year, we started work on a project that we hoped would revolutionize both locksmith education and the locksmith industry. We noticed that, on a whole, locksmith education was outdated and the locksmith community was woefully undeserved with educational resources. That’s not a slight to educators, associations, and groups that do host classes; they’re doing a tremendous job. But compared to other trades, such as electricians or even pipe fitters, locksmith education doesn’t stack up well with our peers. We felt we could help.
Our initial project morphed into many others, including this website. Considering the changes in the locksmith industry in the last six months (the demise of The National Locksmith and the hiatus of Foley Belsaw), we decided to shift our plans and projects to begin serving the industry as soon as possible. Locksmith Reference (LockReference.com) is the first of many soon-to-be deployed efforts to assist locksmiths in their day-to-day activities, businesses, and/or shops. Here is a quick run-down of our website:
The home page will feature multiple blog posts each week covering news, information, and editorials related to all aspects of the industry. This information will be archived in our News section.
We have constructed a Library that is dedicated to the various niches of locksmithing. Information related to access control, locks, cylinders and dozens of other topics and items can be found in this section. At launch, we included a list of multiple manufacturers for a given item. If, for example, you wanted to know who offers modules for access control systems or door pulls, you simply navigate to the appropriate section and that information is there. Also included are links the manufacturer’s website as well as links to manufacturer’s literature, such as installation instructions and manuals. There is a resources tab that includes content we have created related to the specific topic as well as offsite links to other’s work. In the coming weeks we will be adding more content to each page as well as automotive, safe and vault, and life safety sections to the library.
The Tools page features tools that locksmiths can use to help with jobs or tasks. Among the tools included at launch is a collection of the most popular key bitting specifications in use today. There is also a pinning worksheets tool that contains pinning and decoding worksheets for various pinning systems, such as SFIC, Corbin Russwin LFIC, and Sargent 6300 LFIC. We will soon be launching an “Exit Device Identification Tool” which will allow locksmiths to determine the model of an exit device with a flow chart of photographs. We will also soon have various “Field Guides” for various lock types to help identify the manufacturer and specific model of door hardware.
We have an Events page that contains a frequently updated list of upcoming classes, conventions, and meet-ups related to the locksmith trade. Rather than navigating multiple websites searching for events in your area or around the country, we’ve included a central list that can be sorted by date and searched by keywords. Each event contains basic information along with a link to the host’s web page dedicated to the event.
More To Come!
What you see now is just the beginning; we’re in the process of adding content daily. We’ve created over 5 GB of content over the last year and what you see represents less than 1% of what we’ve done. We can’t reveal too much but, suffice to say, we think you’re going to find it incredibly useful to you and your business/shop once we launch it. Our goal is to become the source for locksmith information and education.
But we are just one part. We made this a free and open website for all locksmiths to benefit. This is a service to the industry and each other, not to our wallet. We want your help. If you have any content that you created, such as tutorials or instructions or even pictures, we’d love to put it up for the entire industry to benefit from. We are easy to get in touch with, simply reach out to us via our Contact page.
Thank you for taking the time to visit our website and learning about what we’re doing. We have a lot in store for locksmiths and the locksmith industry in 2018. Stay tuned!
Update 3/8/2018: Reviews and information regarding self-study materials, such as books or used correspondence literature, has been added to the “Classes and Continuing Education” section.
Update 3/20/2018: Added a link to the “Finding Locksmith Job Opportunities” article at the beginning of the “How to Become a Locksmith” section.
Update 6/21/2018: Added “Review: Locksmithing Video Courses” to the “Classes and Continuing Education” section.
Update 10/7/2018: Added “Review: The National Locksmith Guide to: Advanced Wafer Lock Reading by Robert G. Sieveking” to the “Classes and Continuing Education” section.
I’ve been contacted via Twitter and a few forums I frequent over the years about how someone would go about becoming a locksmith or, at the very least, get their foot in the door. I figured I would dedicate an article to this subject to help those with similar ambitions, questions, etc.
The State of Locksmithing
Before I start getting into the meat and potatoes, let me first talk about the trade. There are a lot of misconceptions about this trade (any locksmith can testify to this).
First, no two locksmith businesses are alike. In other words, I cannot tell you what you would or wouldn’t be doing daily. Each locksmith business, whether it’s one man and his truck or one with dozens of service vehicles, has their own unique business model. Some may specialize in areas such as automotive, commercial, safes, residential, access control, all, some, or one. Company A might not touch automotive work, Company B might do automotive work exclusively, Company C might only do residential and commercial, Company D might do it all, Company E might specialize in safes, etc. Successful locksmith companies have identified their niche(s) and become proficient at it.
Second, we usually do far more than just “keys and locks”. Yes, keys and locks are a big part of most locksmith shops but we do much more. Some of us install and service access control, or card swipe, systems. Some of us install new doors and frames. Some of us open safes or move safes. Some of us do video surveillance, or CCTV. In other words, if you are interested in becoming a locksmith, there is much more to do than key and locks. I like to tell people that a well-rounded locksmith is part carpenter, part electrician, and part mechanic.
Third, the locksmithing trade, like most trades, is experiencing an “age dilemma”. According to Emsi, 53% of skilled-trade workers in the U.S. are 45 years and older. That’s nearly 10% more than the overall labor force. In some states the actual numbers are especially higher than the national average. In Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New Hampshire over 60% of the skilled-trade workers are 45 years and older. In other words, we need new faces, new blood to replace an aging sector of the trade. Jobs are plentiful. A quick search of Indeed.com as of 1/24/2017 shows over 1,000 jobs across the U.S. with either locksmith in their job title or job description. These jobs range from locksmiths to general maintenance jobs with minor locksmithing duties. Of these jobs, 445 specify entry-level with 43 explicitly stating apprentices and the like. In other words, the work is there.
Fourth, it’s a decent living and I can’t imagine you will ever be without work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median annual wage of $42,180. This is a national average, of course, and your mileage will vary, so to speak, depending on where you work and who you work for. I have found, from my own personal experience and anecdotal conversations, that the numbers reported by the BLS are on the conservative side. In other words, I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual median annual wage was more. To quote one of my mentors in this industry, “I’ve never been rich but I’ve never had to worry about putting food on the table.” Additionally, the BLS charted an expected a 12% growth in the locksmith trade between 2008-2018; this is nearly 2% more than the average growth rate of all occupations for the same period (10.1%).
How to Become a Locksmith
Article: Finding Locksmith Job Opportunities
With any new endeavor in life it’s hard to know if “it” is truly for you. But, if you are convinced that locksmithing may be for you, or at least interested in giving it an honest shot, here are some helpful ways to get into the industry:
This is how I started; this is the best way. You can apply online to various job postings but I have found that the best way to secure an apprenticeship is to make face-to-face contact with locksmith companies. Call around and ask nearby locksmith companies if they are currently hiring apprentices. Stop by and meet with them. Express that you’re interested in learning the trade and making a career out of it. Explain why you chose the trade and what interests you about it. These sort of impressions are bit more effective than simply sending an email or resume. If you know nothing about locksmithing, that’s fine, most actually prefer that – you have no bad habits they have to correct. Most locksmith companies that take on apprentices desire individuals who are punctual, have a good attitude, are honest, have a clean DMV and criminal history, and possess a bit of mechanical aptitude. If you have prior skilled trade or military experience this bodes especially well for your chances.
Apprenticeships pay, but not well. After all, you won’t be able to offer much to an employer initially. Don’t let this dissuade you. The pay will come and you will be in full control of how fast you learn and become profitable for the company. I will touch on this shortly.
There is no blueprint or agreement for apprenticeships that locksmith companies follow (although states like New Jersey have guidelines for apprenticeships that tie into their licensing). Some companies have experience with apprentices and know the methodology to progress the apprentice in a timely and fitting manner. Some have never had an apprentice. In other words, your experience will be different from mine and nearly all others. Your knowledge and experience will be sculpted by the type of work they do (see above). The company may do A LOT of residential work and you may learn rekeying and residential hardware servicing and installation like the back of your hand. Or you may be utilized to assist a particular department within the company like access control. The first year I apprenticed I rarely touched a lock; I pulled wire and tied in access control panels to assist the access control technician at the company I worked at. Everyone is different.
If an apprenticeship opportunity is not available to you then there are other options available. First, you can seek employment for a general maintenance or similar position that has locksmithing duties, such as rekeying or lock installation. This can be used to build and develop quantifiable job skills related to locksmithing, which can then be used when applying for a locksmith position. Second, and this can be used on top of a general maintenance or similar position, is to improve your value to potential employers. This can be done in a number of ways (and this applies to apprentices as well):
The ALOA Security Professionals Association, Inc., commonly referred to as simply ALOA, is our industries largest and most well known association. By joining ALOA you will be able to greatly increase your success and network avenues in this trade.
ALOA has a membership type known as “Probationary”. Probationary members are those who are “undergoing training to qualify as an Active member, who have not received one of ALOA’s recognized program designations.” In other words, people new to the industry that don’t yet qualify for any other membership types. Probationary membership is meant for apprentices. The current cost is $235 for U.S. members, $215 if you elect to “Go Green” and receive all correspondence electronically, along with a $70 application fee. This may seem steep for someone just starting in the field but it is well worth it. It’s a small investment towards securing the median annual wage we discussed earlier.
So, why join ALOA? There are a number of reasons for someone interested in starting in this trade.
First, networking. By being an ALOA member, you will be able to actively network with other ALOA members. Hopefully, your area will have an active ALOA Chapter or locksmith association. By being a member of ALOA, you will be able to meet and, with their approval, join their Chapter or association. Chapters and associations vary but generally you can expect a few dozen members meeting multiple times a year and hosting everything from classes to banquets to manufacturer presentations and then some. This is an EXCELLENT networking tool. You will be meeting locksmiths, locksmith business owners, and those actively involved in the locksmith industry.
Second, education. I don’t know a locksmith business owner that doesn’t recognize the value of ALOA education. Classes can cost money, yes, but for someone trying to start in the industry, it’s another great investment to show potential employers that you are serious about succeeding in the industry and that you have quality education. ALOA membership also includes a subscription to a monthly trade magazine Keynotes. Keynotes has a wealth of information that will help you learn about this trade.
Third, legitimacy. By taking the steps to join ALOA, potential employers recognize that you are a cut above the rest. Built into each ALOA application is a background check and association vetting. At the very least, you will be able to demonstrate to a potential employer that you’re taking things seriously, going about things the right way, and have passed their background check and vetting process.
Classes and Continuing Education
Classes and continuing education are important for any locksmith or apprentice, or even those trying to get into the industry. Remember what I said about being in control of how fast you learn and become profitable for your employer or improving your value to potential employers? This is what I mean. The faster you learn and the more you are able to learn the more valuable you will be, and thus more profitable.
Take advantage of classes offered by ALOA and your local association and Chapters. Furthermore, check in with any local distributors, like Anixter, IDN, etc. They also host classes. These are all valuable to show potential or current employers. You are learning and progressing and adding value to not only yourselves but your employer.
There are classes available online as well. ASSA ABLOY offers a number of online classes at their ASSA ABLOY Americas University. They offer a wealth of information and they are free. Another great source of information are manufacturer’s websites. Yes, most of the information is catered to their products but there is a great number of “white papers” and generalized information that can help teach you. Our Library section contains links to a number of these documents.
Self-study options are available, such as books and used correspondence course videos and literature, and some are actually very valuable. We’ve compiled a list of a few of these texts/videos along with basic information and reviews:
- Introductory Locksmithing Books and Courses: Ranked and Reviewed
- Review: Locksmithing Video Courses
- Review: The National Locksmith Guide to: Advanced Wafer Lock Reading by Robert G. Sieveking
- Review: The National Locksmith Guide: Door Lock Encyclopedia by Robert G. Sieveking
- Review: Servicing Lever Handle Cylindrical Locks by J. I. Levine
- Review: Jake Jakubuwski Presents: Aluminum Stile Door Service and Repair by Jake Jakubuwski
I have heard good and bad about correspondence courses offered by Foley-Belsaw, Penn Foster, and the like. I’m not here evaluate any of them. What I will say is that if you are interested in taking these courses, hold off. Attempt to secure an apprenticeship and join ALOA and local Chapters or associations first. If you can’t find an apprenticeship, look for a job that has locksmithing duties. If neither opportunity arises within a year then take a course. Until that year elapses, I would devote my time and resources to reaching out to companies for an apprenticeship, joining ALOA, finding similar work, and/or networking and taking classes at local events.
Becoming a locksmith isn’t an insurmountable task. For some it’s easier than others but that’s nearly always a matter of circumstance that you won’t have control over. Hopefully the information above will serve you well. As I said, I have been in your shoes. If you have any questions, need assistance or guidance, or just want to network, I am easily reached and here to help. If I can’t personally help you then I’ll do my best to put you in touch with someone in your area that may be able to.