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Review: The National Locksmith Guide to: Advanced Wafer Lock Reading by Robert Sieveking

The National Locksmith Guide to: Advanced Wafer Lock Reading by Robert Sieveking 

ISBN: 193592064-2
Publisher: Sieveking Products Company
Pages: 243 Pages
Dimensions: 8 ½” x 5 ½”  
Price: $49
Purchase Instructions: Via the author’s web site.


  1. The Wafer Lock A good introduction to wafer locks, including the GM sidebar lock, master-keyed wafer locks, single-sided, double-sided convenience, and true double sided locks. 
  2. Wafer Lock Reading Tools  A discussion of Key-Scope and Welch Allyn Otoscopes, a wafer depressor/reader that Sieveking sells, and how to make a spring shutter tool to help with automotive doors. 
  3. Key Making Techniques  How to lay out spacings on keys even when the spaces are unknown, how to do it via impressioning, and a discussion of depths and filing technique.  
  4. The Reading Method  How to use an otoscope and a tool to pull down the wafers one at a time and read them. 
  5. Reading Cabinet Locks  Goes over specific locks and their unique characteristics as applies to sight reading: Guissani flush T-handle, L-handles from Yale, National, and Bauer, T-handles from Bauer and National, and furniture/tool box locks from Haworth, Corbin, CompX, Shaw Walker Pundra, Huwil, Fort, Hon, ESP, National, Global, Staples, and Hurd.  In some cases, spaces and depths are given, along with key blanks and other useful information.  There are a model or two that would throw off most locksmiths and this chapter describes how to deal with them.   
  6. Chrysler 7 Wafer Y-154 This, and the other automotive sections, shows how to use the Fast Facts books to find the key blank, spaces and depths, and what positions the wafers are in in the various locks on a car.  It walks through an example of each lock. 
  7. Chrysler 7 Wafer Y-157 
  8. Chrysler 8 Wafer Y-159 
  9. Ford 10 Wafer H-54 
  10. Ford 8 Wafer H-75 
  11. GM 10 Wafer 
  12. GM “Z” Wafer 
  13. GM 6 Wafer Side Bar These cannot be sight read the normal way, but there is a work around. 
  14. Foreign Autos This covers dealing with stepped wafers 
  15. Motorcyles 


This is an exhaustive book on making keys for disc tumbler locks via sight reading.  It is a very useful skill when a key cannot be made by code.  Impressioning is often used to make keys for locks without codes, but impressioning can be rough on locks and can be time consuming.  Sight reading is where a locksmith looks into a disc tumbler lock, observes the relative heights of the wafers, and cuts a key accordingly. 
The first time you look into a lock, write down the observed disc heights, cut a key accordingly by space and depth, and it works the first try—that is a mile stone.  It can be fast and has no risk of damaging a lock—so easy it is almost fun.  But it does require some skill and some special tools.  The Foley-Belsaw course, and the old Locksmithing Institute course each had a chapter on sight reading, but they were just enough, in my opinion, to introduce the topic.  There could be a steep learning curve going up against anything but the most ordinary locks.   
This is where this book comes in.  It goes over a lot of the potential landmines and could save someone a lot of frustration in learning the skill. 
It is a useful skill in automotive locksmithing, but it can be used for non-automotive wafer locks as well.  This book devotes a very large chapter, around 60 pages, to sight reading non-automotive locks, including nuances specific to certain locks that could throw you off.  So it is a useful book even if you have no interest in automotive work but do need to make keys for office furniture, L and T-handle locks, or locks for tool boxes. 
Sieveking has a less-expensive book for an introduction to sight reading, but for a little more, why not get the big book?

By |2018-09-27T09:00:09+00:00September 27th, 2018|All, Book Review|0 Comments

Making Keys for an Older Wilson Bohannan Padlock

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:

By the markings, it is easily identified in the old WB catalogs as being sold from 1886 until 1890. Wilson Bohannan has all their old catalogs downloadable in PDF format on their website! Like I was saying, Home Depot doesn’t carry blanks. The local lock shops claimed they didn’t have them either.

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:

And the best part of your new key:

It opens the lock!

By |2018-08-27T09:00:41+00:00August 27th, 2018|All, Locks, Padlocks|0 Comments

Review: Locksmithing Video Courses

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

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

Schlage Wafer Lock Key Bitting Specification

The gallery was not found!
Walter Schlage patented his unique wafer lock system in 1927 (Patent No. 1,691,529).  At the time the design was quite innovative. It was one of the first locks suitable for permanent mounting in a door that was constructed entirely from stamped metal parts, it was of the first commercially successful examples of the now common cylindrical bore format of locks, and coincidentally was remarkably resistant to weather and debris. Schlage’s company would continue to make improvements on the design for the next four decades before finally ceasing production sometime after 1960.While these locks are now considered to offer very little in the way of security they have hung on long enough to be considered important for maintaining the historic aesthetic of buildings from the 1930s through the 1960s.
After extensive research, we have compiled the following key bitting specification for the Schlage wafer:
Schlage Wafer Key Bitting Specification
For more information on the Schlage wafer lock, see the following:

The Great Foley-Belsaw Scare

There was no small amount of hand-wringing several months ago when Foley-Belsaw announced the discontinuation of its locksmith correspondence course.  Several people proclaimed it was a sign of the end of locksmithing. And who can forget Gale Johnson’s Changes In the Wind?
If a company ceases to offer a correspondence course for a trade, does that mean the trade is over?  Well, years earlier Foley-Belsaw stopped offering a course on HVAC.  Anyone who has had to call, and pay for, an HVAC technician knows that they are both in demand and doing a brisk business.  Who knows why Foley-Belsaw dropped that course years ago, but it was not because of a lack of demand for HVAC technicians, and the HVAC industry did not seem to suffer for it going away. 
In my spare time, I sometimes enjoy reading old magazines like Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated.  The 1960s must have been the heyday of correspondence courses. There was page after page of correspondence course ads in magazines of that era.  And sure enough, there was Belsaw’s locksmith course (it was Belsaw before it was Foley-Belsaw), and there was also a course from the Locksmithing Institute.  But there were just as many ads, if not more, for courses to train to be a lawyer, an accountant, an engineer, a mechanic, an insurance investigator, an appliance repairman, or a meat cutter, just to name a few.  That there are few, if any, of those correspondence courses today does not mean that accountants, mechanics, and appliance repairmen are not still out there making a living. 
When the Locksmithing Institute went out of business in the early 1980’s, it did not coincide with a drop in the need for locksmiths.  If anything, that may have been a sort of golden age for locksmithing.  Scammers were unheard of.  Homeowners were still calling locksmiths to install deadbolt locks on their 1970’s homes to get the insurance discount.  Compared to these days, automotive locksmithing did not require much investment to get into.  And the Locksmithing Institute course material, said to have been created by locksmithing legend Leonard Singer, was actually pretty good.  So why did the Locksmithing Institute go under?  Who knows?  But it seemed to have little to do with the state of the industry. 
Saving up for a correspondence course, then working though it instead of spending time in front of the TV set every night, and then moving up in the world, is as American as apple pie and Chevrolet.  A sort of do-it-yourself American Dream. And for someone who wanted to go into locksmithing, the courses did give them the basics.  It would give them a head start in an apprenticeship, so long as they did not think they knew it all.  It might prepare them for residential locksmithing—if they could find enough work to make a living. 
So most of us probably have a soft spot in their heart for at least the idea of correspondence courses.  But times have changed.  There is only a fraction of the correspondence courses offered today that were offered fifty years ago, or even twenty years ago.  Perhaps the question should not be why has demand for locksmith correspondence courses dropped over the years, but rather, why is there still demand at all?  In the heyday of correspondence courses, there was a labor shortage in much of America.  It was also an era when people went to work for one company for life.  It was not a big deal to hire someone who showed promise by, for example, having completed a course related to the job, and then train them.  What would a year or two of training amount to, if that employee would likely be working at the same company for the next twenty or thirty years?  Those days are over.  It could be that correspondence courses never were all that amazing, but they did not need to be. 
Training courses for other trades, these days, tend to be short, in-person seminars, or they are over the web.  For technical subjects, web classes may include computer simulations where electricians can use a virtual volt meter to check out a virtual malfunctioning machine.  A person might program a CNC lathe on a simulator.  Or they might construct the ladder logic for a programmable logic controller to run an imaginary machine.  Great ideas, but it would take a lot of locksmithing students to justify someone programming that sort of thing, or at least contracting a programmer to do it for them.  That, and locksmithing is very much a hands-on skill anyway. 
Today, of all the trades out there, why do people think locksmithing can still be learned by correspondence courses?  Does anyone read through a binder of lessons, take some quizzes, then try to get a job as a carpenter?  Or a mechanic?  Perhaps it is because there are in-person training programs for those trades, while there simply are not enough locksmiths out there to justify either local union or community college programs.  Such programs, and anything close to them, for locksmiths can be counted on one hand with some fingers left over.  It may be a case that correspondence courses are not that great at teaching locksmithing either, but what else is there for someone not lucky enough to have a good apprenticeship?    
It turns out that someone bought the locksmithing program from Foley-Belsaw and they have just re-launched it, so to speak:  https://foleybelsawlocksmithing.com/
So anyone who thought that Foley-Belsaw going away was the end of the world can rest easy on that count.  But the question remains, is there a better way to learn locksmithing than by a correspondence course? 

By |2018-03-22T09:00:02+00:00March 22nd, 2018|All, Industry|1 Comment

Review: Jake Jakubuwski Presents: Aluminum Stile Door Service and Repair by Jake Jakubuwski

Jake Jakubuwski Presents: Aluminum Stile Door Service and Repair by Jake Jakubuwski

Publisher: N/A
Pages: 423 Pages
Dimensions: 8 ½” x 11”  
Price: $9.99
Purchase Instructions: Via the author’s web site.


Part 1 – Parts and Hardware Overview
1. Pivots
2. Hinges
3. Locks and latches
4. Exit devices
Part 2 – Installation Procedures and Practices
1. Pivots (Includes a section on pivot deactivators)
2. Hinges  (He really likes continuous hinges)
3. Locks and Latches (Mainly about Adams-Rite style locks)
4. Exit devices


The first part goes over the components and terminology, how they go together and so on. The second part goes over installation and repair.
The book has two good strengths: first, Jake has a fairly engaging writing style–he can impart a lot of information and make it interesting; second, the installation and repair portion is not just reprinting vendor handbooks, instead it is full of beginning to end projects with a lot of photographs.
The book avoids the trap of explaining how things work when everything goes well.  The real world is not like that.  Bolts strip, things rust, and so on.  Doors take a lot of abuse and a locksmith may not be called until things are ugly.  He shows how to overcome real world problems when dealing with doors in very bad shape.  This book may be the next best thing to watching over the shoulder of a locksmith who installs and maintains these types of doors. 
For anyone considering servicing aluminum store-front doors, it is a great resource and a no-brainer at that price. 

By |2018-03-10T10:59:11+00:00March 10th, 2018|Book Review|0 Comments

Review: The National Locksmith Guide: Door Lock Encyclopedia by Robert G. Sieveking

The National Locksmith Guide: Door Lock Encyclopedia by Robert G. Sieveking

Publisher: Sieveking Products Company
Pages: 218 Pages
Dimensions: 8 ½” x 5 ½”  
Price: $49
Purchase Instructions: Via the author’s web site.


  1. Tools and Recombinating Cylinders
  2. American Eagle 5300 deadbolt, 5500 lockset, and 8500L lockset
  3. Arrow M and H locksets, and E, F, and D deadbolts.
  4. Corbin 6600 and 400 locksets
  5. Dexter 3000, 7000, and 4100 locksets
  6. Harlock 7900, and 700 locksets, and 59-920 and 59-940 deadbolts
  7. Kwikset 400 lockets, and 660 and 880 deadbolts
  8. Lori 4500 deadbolts
  9. Master locksets and deadbolts
  10. National / Amerock 441D locksets, and 497L deadbolts
  11. Sargent 6, 7, and 8 locksets
  12. Schlage A, D, and F locksets, and B deadbolts. Also a chapter on Schlage wafer locks and a chapter on hotel/motel cylinders.
  13. Weiser A 500, 530, and E 520 locksets, and D9470 and D9370 deadbolts.
  14. Yale 5280 lockset.


There are two parts to the book. The first 41 pages are mainly about repinning cylinders in general. The remainder of the book gives detailed, illustrated directions on how to remove and replace the cylinder for various key-in-knob and deadbolt locks. The book devotes 3 – 5 pages per lock, depending on the complexity of the given lock.  
The first 41 pages of the book is a good guide on pinning cylinders: MACS, good and bad cut combinations, top pin sizing, checking for master pins, shimming, removing and replacing retainers, and hints on identifying locksets by keyways. It assumes the reader has never worked on locks before but has a lot of practical advice so it’s still a good read for the beginner who has keyed cylinders before. The book has a few pages describing the more common lock functions, door handing, and common finish codes. 
Each lock section has hints on identification, including what different key ways they shipped with. There is a space and depth chart for each lock along with the LAB .003 pins that correspond to each cut. But the main point is a series of several photos and text that describes in detail how to get out the cylinder and then put it back together again. 
A plus to the book is that it has a great intro to pinning locks, and the detailed instructions could save someone a lot of frustration when dealing with an unfamiliar lock. It would seem to be good for a new apprentice rekeying locks behind the counter and could be handy for someone to review for a lock they have not worked on in a long time. 
The negative to the book is that it is becoming out of date. Nothing about Kwikset Titan, lever locks, etc. A mitigating factor, though, maybe that while instructions on rekeying newer model locks are freely available from the manufactures on line, some of the models in the book are still out there but may be hard to find online.  It would be a good companion to Servicing Lever Handle Cylindrical Locks by J. I. Levine. 
This book is not to be confused with the Lock Repair Manual by The National Locksmith–that book is a collection of random articles on locks and, in my opinion, is not worth more than a buck or two. 

By |2018-03-10T10:46:49+00:00March 10th, 2018|Book Review|0 Comments

Review: Servicing Lever Handle Cylindrical Locks by J. I. Levine

Servicing Lever Handle Cylindrical Locks by J. I. Levine

Publisher: Locksmith Publishing Corp.
Pages: ~50 Pages
Dimensions: 8 1/2″ x 11″  
Price: N/A
Purchase Instructions: Via the ALOA Webstore or Lockmasters.


  1. Arrow Sierra H
  2. Best 9K
  3. Corbin Russwin CL3200
  4. Corbin Russwin CL3400
  5. Kwikset Winston
  6. Lockwood 900
  7. Marks 195
  8. Medeco Embassy-17
  9. Medeco Embassy-19
  10. NT Falcon T
  11. PDQ SP
  12. S. Parker 8161
  13. Sargent 6500
  14. Schlage D
  15. Schlage S
  16. Yale 5400L


The section for each lock, usually about 4 pages in length, lists the available keyways, the keyblanks (including aftermarket), combinating information and pin lengths, door prep (including installation jigs), cylinder removal and rekeying, an exploded diagram, and sometimes changing the handing and timing.
The book also includes a list of locks that are similar to each other, e.g., if one is working on a Russwin 800, a the instructions for a Corbin-Russwin CL3400 apply. It also contains some information about working with IC’s, including removal methods.
It has a good number of drawings but few photos, and that could impact how well a person could identify the make and model of the lock. It was published by Locksmith Publishing Corp, which does not seem to be active anymore.  It would be a good companion to the National Locksmith Door Lock Encyclopedia by Robert Sieveking, which only dealt with knob locks.

By |2018-03-10T10:24:37+00:00March 10th, 2018|Book Review|0 Comments

Introductory Locksmithing Books and Courses: Ranked and Reviewed


There are many introductory books and courses on locksmithing available.  It’s important to note that any trade that can be learned by simply reading a book is hardly a trade worth getting into, and locksmithing is no exception.  There is no substitute for extensive hands-on experience.  At best, these books and courses let you know if locksmithing is something you are really interested in. Additionally, they can impart some of the lingo and basic techniques of the trade.  Reading through them would be the first of many steps towards becoming a proficient locksmith.
As a final note, these books and courses can be ordered by bookstores, are at some libraries, and can usually be found used on eBay, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other book dealers. While I do mention certain businesses in specific context it does not mean these books are limited to that specific business.
With that said, here are introductory locksmithing books and courses ranked in order of desirability, based strictly on my opinion:

First Place:  

First place goes to buying a used Locksmithing Institute or Foley Belsaw course on eBay.  Sometimes they do not go for much money.  They, like every other book, do not cover everything, and do not cover new developments, but they tend to cover the basics very well and they are well illustrated.  If buying a really old copy, note that filing down lock pins should not be done these days given the pinning kits now available.  Buying one of those old binders, collecting a box of old locks to practice on, and buying some basic locksmith tools would be a good start. 

Second Place: 

Locksmithing From Apprentice to Master, Joseph Rathjen, Copyright 1994, ISBN 0-07-051645-6, 309 pages, 7″ X 9″.
Table of Contents:
1. Locksmithing Intro / Getting Started
2. Tools
3. Jobs / Certifications / Law / Setting up Shop
4. Types of Locks
5. Lock Functions
6. High Security Locks
7. Door Closers
8. Keys, Spacings and Depths
9. Master Keying
10. Interchangeable Cores
11. Automotive Locksmithing
12. Alarms
This book has its weak points and strong points. The weaknesses are:
1. The title includes “from apprentice to master”. The “master” should have been left off. I think the book has some good parts, but master locksmithing it is not.
2. It does not go over picking, impressioning, or bypassing–Rathjen did not believe in letting that information out.  Fair enough, but an aspiring locksmith would need to learn about these subjects somewhere else.
3. The automotive section is 20 years out of date, and does not go over opening cars–a traditional source of revenue for new locksmiths.
4. It has a door closer section, but it is very light. It does not go over door closer sizes, does not mention ADA (which had become law a few years before this book was published), etc. Maybe better than nothing but not really enough for one to offer one’s services for door closer installation and repair.
5. It has a section on going into business for oneself but seems to be more oriented towards setting up a storefront than establishing a mobile service. Being published 20 years ago it cannot help being out of date on advertising and such.
The strengths are:
1. It does not have a lot of filler material and the writing is direct and to the point.  A lot of information per page. 
2. It has a twenty page section on master keying, and I think it would be enough to actually get someone started with the rotating constant progression method.
3. It has a 17 page section on interchangeable core locks. It goes in detail on how to work with Best SFIC, and briefly touches on Schlage and Medecco.
4. It has an almost 50 page section on alarms. It goes over hardwired systems. From designing the system, setting up the panel, running wires, installing sensors, etc.  It is thorough for when it was written and probably still good background information for someone interested in them.  
It is long out of print, but can be picked up cheap from Amazon and other used book sellers.  At the current used prices, this book gives the most bang for the buck.   

Third Place (tie): 

The Complete Book of Locks and Locksmithing, 7th Edition, by Bill Phillips, copyright 2017, ISBN 978-1-25-983468-4, 648 pages, 7 1/4″ X 9″
Table of Contents:
1. Lock history
2. Tools
3. Types of locks and keys
4. Warded locks
5. Lever tumbler locks
6. Disc tumbler locks
7. Pin tumbler locks
8. High security locks
9. Masterkeying
10. Smart Locks
11. Buying and selling safes
12. Keyed padlocks
13. Home and business services
14. Lock picking and impressioning
15. Automotive
16. Opening locked cars
17. Forced entry
18. Combination locks
19. Electrical access control
20. Working as a locksmith
21. Key duplication machines
This book is the first locksmithing book that a lot of beginners read. It is fairly comprehensive. It is published by McGraw-Hill, and is marketed to bookstores, libraries, etc. First, some background on the book. The first couple of editions were written by C.A. Roper. Then Roper and Phillips co-authored. Then later on, Phillips was listed as the sole author. Do not be surprised if an early edition lists Roper as the author. 
The strength of the book is that it does a fairly good job of going over the basic basics.  Clear writing and good illustrations.  The weakness of the book is that parts of it are very shallow, other parts are dated, and it is bloated with material cut-and-paste from manufacturer’s literature.  Literature that anyone can download for free off the internet. As an example, the section on automotive is badly dated.  It goes over AMC cars and the latest technology it discusses is GM VATS.  Nothing about transponder technology and nothing about modern opening tools. 
In the page after page of cut-and-paste filler, it devotes 22 pages to the installation instructions of the Schlage model G.  That lockset went out of production in 1981.  Meanwhile, it has nothing about, for example, the Kwikset Smartkey locks.  In electronic locks, it goes over Dialocs and Memorilocks, but does not mention the Alarm Lock Trilogy. 
It does not go over door closers and does not have much by way of life safety codes, the ADA, etc.  The chapter on working as a locksmith makes no mention of being a mobile locksmith and advertising is mainly concerned about hanging a good sign in front of the shop. 
The book really does not go into detail about cutting keys by code.  While it goes over the fairly uncommon Framon DBM-1 flat key duplicator, it does not mention the Framon #2 or the HPC 1200 which are very common code machines for locksmiths, new and old. 
There is no meaningful discussion of interchangeable core locks. It gives a picture of one, but does not really go into enough detail to actually do anything.
Where the book does have value is in a fairly comprehensive treatment of the basics: types of locks, how they work, how to rekey them, etc. Basically what was in the 2nd edition from 1983. Bottom line, if you want the basics in one book, then get The Complete Book of Locks and Locksmithing, but get the cheapest edition you can find.  Early editions go for almost nothing used and they have the basics, but not the filler. 

Third Place (tie): 

Locksmithing, Bill Phillips, Copyright 2010, ISBN 978-0-07-162275-2, 412 pages 7″ X 9″.
Table of Contents:
1. Business of locksmithing
2. Types of locks and keys
3. Key blanks
4. Warded, lever tumbler, disc tumbler, and side bar wafer locks
5. Pin tumblers
6. Tools
7. Key-in-knob, deadbolt, and cylinder mortise locks
8. High security locks (CoreKey, DOM, Kaba Gemini, Medeco, and Schlage Primus)
9. Simplex Locks
10. Picking, impressioning, and bypassing
11. Masterkeying
12. Safe basics
13. Drilling safes
14. Key bumping
15. Key code machines (KD80, Exacta, Borkey 989, and Framon DC-300)
16. Automotive Locksmithing
17. CCTV
18. Access Control, Alarms, and Systems Integration
19. Working as a Locksmith
This book is basically The Complete Book of Locks and Locksmithing but with a couple of hundred pages of filler removed.  It may be easier for someone new to the trade to read through—it seems to be a little better organized in that regard.  The sections on automotive and key machines are no better than the other book.  CCTV and Access control chapters are high level, not much practical information in them. 

Fifth Place: 

Shankle and Shankle Comprehensive Manual of Locksmthing, R.H. and M.D Shankle, Copyright 1994, ISBN 0-9640733-0-7, 584 pages, 7″ X 10″.
Table of Contents:
1. History of Locks
2. Pin Tumbler Locks and Keys
3. Basic Tools
4. Key Machines — Basically the handbooks for the Ilco 017, the MK2 Exacta Punch, and the Framon DBM-1 Flat Key Machine.
5. Types of Locks and Keys
6. Services — Goes over work that Locksmiths perform, then goes into detail on rekeying common door locks. Almost 100 pages in this chapter.
7. High Security Locks and Keys — Medeco (40 pages), Corbin Emhart, Schlage Primus, Assa Twin, and DOM.
8. Disc Wafer Locks and Keys
9. Master Keying — There is enough to this chapter to enable one to actually create a simple master key system.
10. Double Bitted Locks and Keys — (Doubled sided wafer locks)
11. Warded Locks and Keys
12. Lever Locks and Keys
13. Automotive Locks and Keys — With the book being more than 20 years old it is out of date. VATS is the latest technology in the chapter. No transponder keys.
14. Vending Machine Locks and Keys — Tubular Locks
15. Combination Locks — For an intro book a fairly thorough section. Nothing on safe opening, but lots on combination changing and troubleshooting from an S&G handbook.
16. Pad Locks — How to re-key pad locks. Includes Abloy Disklocks.
17. Lock Decoding — A couple of paragraphs on reading wafer locks, and a few pages on the Lee Decoder Kit for lever locks.
18. Key Blank Reference. OK, but anyone serious about the subject would have the latest catalog from Ilco or Jet.
19. Lock Picking — Half a dozen pages, very basic. Nothing on security pins.
20. Law Related to Locksmithing — One page.
21. Starting a Locksmith Business — May have been good advice twenty years ago. Only marketing mentioned is the Yellow Pages.
22. Electronics — Access control, cameras, and an interesting section on fence intrusion detection systems.
This 1994 book might be seen as an alternate to Phillip’s book on locks and locksmithing. Compared to that book, it tends to be a little more advanced and practical in places, but may not be as a good a book for a complete beginner. It was self-published and is out of print, but used copies show up on Amazon and eBay.
It was probably written as both an introduction to locksmithing and as a handy all-in-one reference source for common locks. Where this books suffers is that it is not very well organized and might not be the best choice for a beginner. It is all there but skips around a bit. As a reference, it does have an index so at least one can find things. However, it was written a few years before the Internet became ubiquitous and much of the reference material can be found on-line.
Overall, if a beginner could only have one book, this would not be a bad one to have. But there are better books out there for beginners and as a reference source, it was a good idea in 1994, but much of the reference sections are available on-line these days. 

Sixth Place: 

Master Locksmithing, Bill Phillips, Copyright 2008, ISBN 978-0-07-148751-1, 9″ X 7″, 416 pages.
Table of Contents:
1. Types of locks (refresher)
2. Picking pin tumblers
3. Bumping
4. Impressioning
5. High Security Locks
6. Rekeying Kwiksets
7. Non-locking Door Hardware
8. Electronics
9. Emergency Exit Devices
10. Electric Strikes
11. Alarms
12. Magnetic Locks
13. CCTV
14. Access Control
15. Automotive Locks
16. Masterkeying
17. Safes – Buy and Sell
18. Safes – Drilling and Manipulating
19. Working as a Locksmith
20. Safe and Secure Home
21. Security Consulting
22. Appendixes: Finish Codes, assorted spaces and depths, suppliers, electrical schematics, suppliers, etc.
Phillips has a tendency to cut-and-paste a lot and in this book he goes on a rampage. One of the worst examples is reprinting 40 pages worth of a Kwikset guide on rekeying. First, rekeying the 400 Series Kwikset can be done by a lot of hardware stores—it is not the stuff of master locksmiths.  Second, if one wanted the Kwikset guide to rekeying, it is free to download anyway.
The most ridiculous cut-and-paste was the appendix on electrical schematic symbols—it is  apparently copied from an old amateur radio handbook.  How often do dipole antennas, headphones, telegraph keys, phono-jacks, and pentode vacuum tubes show up in locksmithing?  Pure filler.  
The bumping chapter is more cut and paste: nasty-grams between AOLA and Marc Tobias. One page on how to bump, and the solution to bumping is not to sell bump keys to the public. Nothing about bump resistant locks or how to make them bump resistant.
The impressioning chapter was very light on text, very basic. The high security chapter was about a dozen pages reprinted from ASSA. The electronics chapter was very basic, high school stuff on Ohms law. The emergency exits chapter was 16 pages of a handbook from Alarm Lock.  The electric strike chapter was one of the better chapters, about twenty pages from Adams-Rite.
The alarm systems chapter was very high-level. The magnetic lock chapter was mostly a reprint from Magnalock. CCTV was mostly useless. It does not even mention DVR’s or IP networked cameras. This was published in 2008 and it sort of implies that the only way to record footage is via a VHS recorder on 6 hour tapes.
Access Control was two pages. Automotive locks was very basic. Masterkeying started with a strange excursion into warded and lever locks, then 6 pages on pin tumblers. Not enough material to get anyone started, in my opinion.
Selling safes goes over some safe terminology. Drilling and Manipulating–finally, something exciting for an aspiring locksmith? It has a few high level pages about how safes can be drilled and there is one page on the concept of manipulation, but not enough to really do anything. After reading the Master Locksmithing chapter on drilling and manipulating the reader would be stumped by a SentrySafe from Walmart.  Granted, it is good that a book that would get a person started drilling safes is not sold to the public, but the book gives false hope that the reader will be able to do something useful with opening safes, and it does not.
Overall, it is bloated with manufacturer literature that is freely available and the material otherwise in the book is so high-level that I doubt that anyone could actually put much of it into practice, at least intially.  

Seventh Place: 

Complete Course In Professional Locksmithing by Robert Robinson, Published by Nelson-Hall in 1973. ISBN 0-911012-15-X, 399 pages, 8 1/2″ X 10″.
Table of Contents:
1. Mortise Lock and Panic Exit Device Construction
2. Rim and Cylindrical Locks
3. Key Operated Mechanisms
4. Utility Locks
5. Environmental Servicing
6. Key Duplicating and Code Key Cutting
7. Lock Coding and Masterkeying
8. Opening Doors, Equipment, and Automobiles
9. Lock Engineering Standards
10. Repair Techniques
11. Electric Locks
12. Locksmith and Locksmith Shops
This book is long out of print and is expensive used on Amazon and eBay. The average price is ~$100. Seeing as this book was going for much more used than comparable books new, is there anything to it? Could this be a long lost introductory book that is actually well-written and complete? Is this a hugely useful book or is it a sort of mass-hysteria on Amazon where sometimes out-of-print used books are priced sky high?  I borrowed a copy through interlibrary loan to check it out.
On basic topics, I think the book is a little weak. But it has two bright spots:
1. The first surprise is the first ~50 pages are on mortise locks. Extensive coverage of the topic.  Might be useful for someone repairing an old lock. 
2. The section on lever tumbler locks (under Key Operated Mechanisms) is good, including some things I had not seen before. The book also touches on master keying lever tumbler locks.The lockout chapter is interesting–it would seem that a lot of the material from this book found its way into the Desert Publication Lockout, and Phillips credited Lockout in his chapter on lockouts in his Complete Book of Locks and Locksmithing. So making bypass techniques public knowledge went back to at least 1973 to this book.  
There is some cut-and-pate in the book, for example, the Schlage handbook on wafer locks is in it. But overall, less cut and paste than other introductory texts.
Robinson does devote a few short chapters to lock design. Some engineering principles, corrosion, wear, etc. There is also a chapter on welding, riveting, etc., to rebuild parts. In both cases I’m not sure if there is enough meat there for someone to really make use of it, but there it is. Has some quaint photos of a VW minibus set up as a locksmith van.
But in the end, no, the book is not a lost gem worth the high prices some people are asking. There is a sort of mass-hysteria sometimes on Amazon and eBay with out-of-print books. Just because a book is rare or expensive does not mean it is good, it may just mean that the sellers chose to list it at that price point. The sellers know nothing of locksmithing, they have never read the book, they just know that it is out of print and someone else is listing it for big bucks, so they will list it for about that much too. Personally, I might add it to my locksmithing library if I found a used copy for $10. 

Eighth Place: 

Practical Course in Modern Locksmithing, Whitcomb Crichton, Copyright 1943 – 1971, 222 pages 6″ X 9″, no ISBN.
Table of Contents:
1. Introduction to the Trade – glossary of terms, how doors are handed, etc.
2. Tools and Equipment.
3. Warded Locks – a page on how to fit keys.
4. Lever Locks – several pages on fitting keys and service.
5. Disc Tumbler Locks – briefly goes over disc tumbler, the Schalge wafer tumbler locks, and mentions a short-lived crushable self-keying disc lock.
6. Pin Tumbler Locks – discusses pinning locks, suggests filing down pins (common back then).
7. Masterkeying – really likes Corbin with all their different key ways, so each floor of a building can have a different key way. Does not really go into how to actually masterkey.
8. Service Hints – mentions Best SFIC, cutting keys by code, etc. Mention being the operable word.
9. Safes- discusses how to change combinations, how they operate, etc.
This book shows up used on Amazon every now and then for a few dollars. On the title page it notes that it is “A Benj. Franklin Home-Study Course Complete in One Volume.” That sounds promising. A 40+ year old book is obviously dated, but some elements of locksmithing have not changed since then.
The book is lacking in is anything to do with picking, impressioning, or bypass. It was also strangely lacking in automotive locksmithing, back when a locksmith could just about do anything that needed doing to a car with minimal tools. The page count was 222, but the lower margin is about 1 1/2″ so it is really smaller than it seems.
Overall, there is nothing very useful in the book, not now and probably not when it was published either. What was discussed tended to be at a high level. More like a long pamphlet to be handed out by high-school career counselors. It is of interest possibly as “locksmith lore”, a look back on what the trade used to be. For example, there is a suggested list of hand tools, to take on service calls in something like a doctor’s bag, and the writer reminisces about carrying such a tool kit to service calls via streetcar.

By |2018-03-06T07:23:16+00:00March 6th, 2018|Book Review|0 Comments
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