Creating Pinning Charts for Sargent 6300 LFICs

Sargent 6300 LFIC.


Sargent 6300 large format interchangeable cores (LFIC) utilize a control lug found in the 3rd and 4th chambers of the core. The Sargent 6300 utilizes the Sargent .020” key bitting specification that has depths 1-10 (shallowest to deepest), sometimes labeled 1-0, and requires two-step progression. Control keys for the Sargent 6300 will contain the same cuts as either the operating/change key OR top master key in all positions except the 3rd and 4th.

Key Considerations

One big item to keep in mind is that the coded difference between the operating and control shearline is .160” or 8 increments. This means that certain control bittings used in conjunction with certain operating/change key OR top master key bittings can result in key interchange. In other words, operating/change OR top master keys functioning as control keys or vice-versa. Sargent avoids this risk with factory systems by not using depths 1 and 2 for control key bittings and depths 9 and 10 for operating/change OR top master key bittings in the 3rd and 4th positions. Please keep this in mind when servicing cores in the field. For further information on this topic, consult Chapter 12 of The Core of the Matter by A.J. Hoffman and Billy B. Edwards, Jr.
Additionally, the Sargent .020″ key bitting specification uses two step progression. This means that the control key and operating/change key and/or top master key bittings must all carry the same parity in their respective positions/chambers. You must follow this rule to avoid key interchange.
The control key typically shares the same cuts as the top master key in positions 1, 2, 5, and 6. This allows the control key to function in all cylinders in a master key system because chambers 1, 2, 5, and 6 will already be master pinned to operate with the top master key.

Hollow Drivers

Sargent 6300 hollow drivers.

All Sargent 6300 cores manufactured after January 1, 2009 should utilize “hollow drivers” in control chambers. Hollow drivers have a portion of the driver/top pin “hollowed out” to accommodate special hollow driver springs. This re-design was to correct potential operational problems. Because control chambers have a uniform stack height that is 5 increments larger than non-control chambers, the 3rd and 4th chambers will be .100″ (5 x .020″) larger than non-control chambers. By removing a portion of the driver, the risk of premature spring wear in control-chambers is drastically reduced.
If you plan to service Sargent 6300s, you should obtain both hollow drivers and hollow driver springs. Contact your local distributor or consult page CK-14 in the 2018 Sargent price book for more information.

Pinning Chart Tools

We currently host three tools available to assist you with creating pinning charts for the Sargent 6300:
First, we have a pinning worksheet that contains a pinning chart and pinning instructions/rules for the Sargent 6300. This pinning worksheet, demonstrated in the video below, allows locksmiths to quickly generate a pinning chart for the Sargent 6300.
Second, we have a control chamber pinning worksheet. This worksheet/matrix, modeled after Sargent’s 6409D training manual, is a “cheat sheet” for control chamber pinning. By using cut depths from the keys being used you can quickly determine the pinning segments for control chambers.
Finally, we have a key bitting specification for Sargent that includes LFIC pin segments and information.
Aslo, Sargent currently hosts a 2 page PDF that contains instructions for rekeying their 6300 LFIC.

Creating Pinning Charts for Sargent 6300 LFICs

By |2018-10-04T08:05:21+00:00October 4th, 2018|All, Cores and Cylinders, Locks|6 Comments

Introductory Locksmithing: Extracting A Broken Key


Broken keys are a frequent and lucrative source of revenue for locksmiths. Analogous to lockouts, extracting broken keys can be done in quick order with the proper tools and know-how. Here are some of the finer details related to extracting broken keys from locks.

Broken Key Jobs

When you receive a service call/request for a broken key, stress to the customer that they do not touch the lock until you arrive. I have seen relatively simple key extractions made far more complicated than they have to be simply because the customer took it upon themselves to try to remove it. Sometimes they’ll exhaust all attempts to extract the key before they call you. In case they haven’t tell to them that they leave it alone until you arrive. Let the customer know that their actions can turn a quick and simple job into a costly one.


Before you attempt to remove a broken key, you want to assess the lock and make sure the job is going to be as straight forward as pulling the broken key out. First, is the plug rotated beyond the key pull position?

key pull position n. any position, of the cylinder plug at which the key can be removed

If the plug isn’t oriented at the key pull position, the plug’s wafers or tumblers will keep the broken key trapped. In order for the key to be removed, you must rotate the plug to the key pull position.
Second, is the broken key behind a wafer or tumbler? Similar to the problem with the key pull position, if the broken portion is resting against a wafer or tumbler, it more than likely won’t pull straight out. You will have to address and overcome this potential problem.

Key Extraction Tools 

Whatever the tool, the purpose is the same: grab the broken key and pull it out. Here are different types of key extraction tools:




I always have a pair of tweezers with a thin, sharp-pointed head in hand when called to extract a broken key. If there is enough of the key to grasp with the tweezers, that’s what I start with. They also are great at removing brass slivers that love to stick into your fingers. You can source tweezers from dozens of brick and mortar and online stores.
Peterson sells a scissor extractor set that functions much like tweezers. While marketed for automotive keys, I have found them more than sufficient for wafer and pin tumbler locks as well.

Spiral Extractors

Spiral extractors.

Spiral extractors.

I have always had great success with spiral extractors. Spiral extractors are ~.040″ thick wire with spiral teeth running along it’s length.
To use a spiral extractor, insert the spiral extractor somewhere between the key and plug. Press the spiral extractor in while rotating it clockwise. This process is very similar to tapping and, for lack of better words, that’s what you’re doing. The spiral groves of the extractor grab on to the key as it’s being fed into the plug. More is not always best with these, if you feed too much the force required to remove it will exceed the extractor’s tensile strength. When that happens, the extractor will break and you’ll make your situation worse. I usually try to feed spiral extractors 3/8″ to 5/8″ into the plug for wafer locks; up to 3/4″ for pin tumbler locks.
Once you have fed a sufficient amount into the cylinder plug, attach a pair of vise grips to the extractor’s handle. Before pulling, make sure your vise grips are in line with plug and you’re pulling straight out. If you pull at an angle you’re likely to cause extra force/work and you could potentially break the extractor.
The spiral teeth will wear down over time and some will inevitably break; it happens. Make sure you carry at least 3-5 on you at all times.

Saw-Tooth Extractors

Saw-tooth extractors are typically .022-.025″ thick and utilize multiple teeth, like a saw blade, to grab the key and remove it.

Hook Extractors

Hook extractors come in a variety of shapes and sizes but all utilize a sharp, pointed hook to grab and remove the key.
Saw-tooth and hook extractors are very similar in size and function. With the exception of the number of teeth and the shape of the teeth, or hook, they are comparable in size, both in height and width.  Both aim to grab the key on the top of the blade, where the key’s cuts are, to “snag it”. With that said, certain situations allow for both types of extractors to grab the side of the blank as well. Keeping with this possibility, Peterson manufacturers a type of hook pick called the sidewinder shim that is specifically suited for side grabbing.


If all efforts to pull the key out with a dedicated extractor fail or are proving fruitless, it may be time to remove the cylinder to give yourself more access to the cylinder and thus a better opportunity to remove the key. Keep in mind that this may or may not involve unlocking the door via a method other than the cylinder itself.
I have seen and heard of other locksmiths using super glue to remove broken keys. This is accomplished by gluing a small probe tool to the broken key, allowing it to cure, and pulling. Don’t do this. Glue doesn’t belong in a lock no matter the circumstances. I’ve been a locksmith for 11 years now and have never encountered a broken key that I couldn’t remove utilizing the aforementioned tools.

Preventing Future Broken Keys

Simply removing the key and collecting payment shouldn’t be the entirety of the service call. Try to find out what caused the key to break. Was it user error or is the lock not operating correctly? Before you leave, make sure everything/everyone is working as it/they should to prevent broken keys in the future.

Video Supplement

Tools Update: New Key Bitting Specifications and Pinning Worksheets

New Key Bitting Specifications

There are 5 new key bitting specifications (KBS) available on the Key Bitting Specifications page in the Tools section:

  • Chicago Disc Tumbler
  • Corbin Russwin Access 3 (AP)
  • Master Lock Pro Series
  • National Disc Tumbler (Single Sided)
  • Sargent Degree (DG1)

The Chicago and National Disc Tumbler represent two of the most popular specifications in use for wafer/cam locks. The Master Lock Pro Series is an equally popular specification for padlocks. Finally, we have the Corbin Russwin Access 3 (AP) and Sargent Degree (DG1) specifications. These are two very unique cylinder/key platforms.

New Pinning Worksheets

There are also 2 new pinning worksheets available on the Pinning Worksheets page, also in the Tools section:

  • Sargent 6300 Decoding Worksheet
  • Sargent 6300 Pinning Worksheet

The Sargent 6300 Decoding Worksheet is an updated version of our original 6300 Decoding Worksheet. We have made a few changes to it that we think will allow locksmiths to further streamline it’s use. The Sargent 6300 Pinning Worksheet will allow locksmiths to draft pinning charts for these cores in seconds. Both worksheets contain pinning rules and formulas as well as pin segment lengths and measurements.

Tyler’s Take: Don’t Ignore the ‘Bible’!


Far too often I have seen cylinders rekeyed incorrectly. I’ve seen this in person and online, specifically on YouTube. The incorrect rekeying process typically goes like this:

  1. Remove the cam/tailpiece.
  2. Remove the plug with a follower.
  3. Dump the old bottom pins.
  4. Install new bottom pins.
  5. Re-install plug.
  6. Re-install cam/tailpiece.
  7. Lubricate.
  8. Check operation.

What’s missing? Perhaps one of the most vital steps of all: checking the ‘bible’.

The Bible

We covered the ‘bible’ in Locksmith Terminology: Pin Tumbler Cylinders but to recap:

bible n. that portion of the cylinder shell which normally houses the pin chambers, especially those of a key-in-knob cylinder or certain rim cylinders

The bible for KIK/KIL, mortise, and rim cylinders houses the top pins and springs. In the above scenario, no attention is given to it. Why should there be?

Potential Problems

There are quite a few items related to the bible that every professional locksmith should be concerned with:

  1. Springs. Are the springs crushed or weak? If so, there’s a very good chance that the cylinder will operate intermittently.
  2. Top Pins. Are the right top pins being utilized? Manufacturer’s specifications are not friendly suggestions. Has someone inverted bottom pins to account for a prior, poor rekeying job? That removes a tremendous amount of pick-resistance.
  3. Potential Master Pins. Are there any master pins in the bible? Whether you disassembled the cylinder with a key or via shimming, the potential exists for master keys to rest above the plug and within the bible. With that comes the potential for incidental master keys.

incidental master key n. a key cut to an unplanned shear line created when the cylinder is combinated to the top master key and a change key

There’s also a chance that debris, such as dirt or excessive graphite, has worked it’s way into the chambers. That too could cause intermittent operation or failure.


Once you touch that cylinder  you “own it”, so to speak. If something goes wrong, you were the last person to touch it and you’re more than likely going to hear about it first. Avoid the headaches and liability by doing things right from the start. Rekeying isn’t simply replacing the bottom pins. A professional rekey job also includes inspecting what’s in the cylinder’s bible; a process that only takes an additional 10-15 seconds. It also includes correcting any mistakes the last person to touch it made. If those mistakes are beyond reasonable correction, a professional alerts the customer and makes the recommendation to replace it.
Here’s another way to consider it:
A call back results in what? An hour of your time? If we assume 10 seconds to check the bible, that means you can check 360 cylinders during that time, albeit broken up and over time. If you ignore the bible all together, you’re essentially gambling that at least 360 of the cylinders you touch aren’t going to have any of the aforementioned problems present AND those problems won’t result in a callback. On the 361st cylinder you touch, you’re coming out ahead by a whooping 10 seconds. See what I’m getting at? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Checking The Bible

You can complete the process of checking the bible in just a few seconds. Here are two ways you can do that:

By |2018-09-04T09:00:19+00:00September 4th, 2018|All, Cores and Cylinders, Locks, Tyler's Take|0 Comments

Introductory Locksmithing: Decoding Keys


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 specification it 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.

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

Direct Codes

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.

An example of a direct code.

Blind Codes

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.

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.

Key Gauge  

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.

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.  


Digital calipers.

Digital calipers.

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.

Cylinder Math

Effective Plug Diameter – Root Depth = Bottom Pin Length. 

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.

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. 

Visual Decoding 

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.

Video Supplement

Tyler's Take: Drafting Key Control Policies

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:

Key control policies aren’t the only key control resource available to you. You can also reference other key/credential request forms:

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.

By |2018-08-16T09:00:20+00:00August 16th, 2018|All, Cores and Cylinders, High Security|0 Comments

Introductory Locksmithing: Shimming Cylinders


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.

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.

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.  
Shim inserted into a cylinder.
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. 
Demonstration of a shimming technique.
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.

“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.  

Video Supplement

By |2018-08-14T09:00:47+00:00August 14th, 2018|All, Cores and Cylinders, Locks|1 Comment

Locksmith Terminology: Cores


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

Examples of cores.

Examples of cores.

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

Examples of housings.

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

Control lugs on interchangeable cores.

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

Core Types

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

Sargent "Old Style" removable cores.

Sargent “Old Style” removable cores.

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

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

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

Examples of interchangeable cores.

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

Interchangeable Core Types

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

Examples of small format interchangeable cores.

Examples of small format interchangeable cores.

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

Examples of large format interchangeable cores.

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

Creating Master Key Hierarchy Charts…For Free

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


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

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

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

Tools Required

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


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

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

6. You should see something like this:

Zooming in to see more detail:

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

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

Locksmith Terminology: Pin Tumbler Cylinders


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

Examples of pin tumbler cylinders.

Cylinder Types

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

A key-in-knob cylinder.

A key-in-knob cylinder.

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

Tailpiece orientation on a key-in-knob cylinder.

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

Tailpiece orientation on a key-in-lever cylinder.

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

A mortise cylinder. Note the threads on the cylinder.

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

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

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

A rim cylinder.

A rim cylinder.

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

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

Cylinder Components

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

Red arrow pointing to a mortise cylinder's shell.

Red arrow pointing to a mortise cylinder’s shell.

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

Cylinder plugs.

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

Keyways in a plug.

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

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

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

Chambers inside a shell.

Chambers inside a plug.

Chambers inside a plug.

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

Examples of pin tumblers.

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

Cylinder Retainers

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

A cylinder cap.

Cylinder cap on a KIK/KIL cylinder.

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

Retainer pin on a KIK/KIL cylinder.

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

Cylinder clip on a rim cylinder.

Cylinder Actuators

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

A mortise cylinder cam.

A mortise cylinder cam.

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

Rim and KIK/KIL cylinder tailpieces.

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

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