Schlage Wafer Lock Key Bitting Specification

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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:

Patents That Shaped American Locksmithing, Part 4: The Sidebar Lock

The gallery was not found! Patent Number: 167,088 (Google Patents)
Issue Date: August 24, 1875
Inventor(s): Philo S. Felter


Philo S. Felter might be one of the most underrated and unknown innovators in the history of locks. In March of 1868 Philo received a patent for one of the earliest, if not the earliest, wafer tumbler lock designs (Patent No. 99,013). On August 24, 1875 Philo was issued a patent for another revolutionary cylinder design. Philo’s cylinder utilized a locking bar to prevent plug rotation. Philo called it a “fence-bar”, we know it today as a sidebar. When the proper key was inserted it would lift the “notches in the tumbler” to the proper height to accept the fence-bar. Once this happened, the fence-bar could enter the plug far enough to allow the plug to be rotated.
Taking things a step further, Philo implemented multiple “false notches”, or what we now call false gates, in each tumbler. This greatly added to the lock’s pick-resistance. Additionally, if taking the patent at face value, the new cylinder design was to be paired with rim night latches, which were very popular at the time.
Unfortunately, the sidebar design never really caught on at the time. The sidebar concept laid largely dormant in the American market for the next 58 years. Then, as fate would have it, a new mind revisited the concept.The gallery was not found! Patent Number: 1,965,336 (Google Patents)
Issue Date: July 3, 1934
Inventor(s): John W. FitzGerald
Enter John W. FitzGerald. In July of 1934, FitzGerald received a patent for a wafer tumbler lock design that utilized a sidebar. Utilizing 4 different depths (eventually growing to 6) across 6 positions, this new design offered a great number of possible bitting combinations and, unlike the popular pin tumbler automotive locks at the time, it was very, very pick-resistant.
FitzGerald, unlike Philo, had perhaps the greatest series of circumstances that would ensure that his design would flourish:
First, it was the 1930s. Bootlegging, bank robberies, and automobile theft occurred at an alarming rate. Gangsters, mobsters, and crime rings were rampant; criminals like Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, and Dutch Schultz were mainstays in the newspapers of the day for their “activities”. As a result, automotive manufacturers and insurance companies were looking to protect automobiles as much as reasonably possible. A lock that offered greater pick-resistant than it’s contemporaries was right up their alley.

Second, FitzGerald was an employee of the Briggs & Stratton Corporation. By the end of the 1920s, Briggs & Stratton had manufactured and shipped more than 11 million automotive locks to nearly 130 manufacturers, including Chrysler, the Dodge Brothers, Ford, and General Motors. At the time, they were largest manufacturer of automobile locks in the world. Needless to say, the design was in the right hands.


In 1935 Briggs & Stratton began selling it’s new sidebar lock to General Motors. It quickly became a hit and would go on to be perhaps the most popular automobile lock ever made, appearing in all GM models for the next 50 years.
Sidebar designs didn’t end with the Briggs & Stratton and GM; other automotive manufacturers, such as Chrysler and Ford, began to utilize sidebar locks as well. Sidebar designs would find additional, widespread usage in high security locks. High security locks utilizing a sidebar include:

  • Abloy Classic
  • Abloy Disklock
  • Abloy Exec
  • Abloy Profile
  • Abloy Protec
  • Abloy Protec2
  • ASSA Twin Combi
  • ASSA Twin V-10
  • BiLock FG
  • BiLock NG
  • BiLock QC
  • Chicago TuBAR
  • EVVA 3KS
  • Fichet 450/480
  • Medeco3, or M3
  • Medeco Biaxial
  • Medeco BiLevel
  • Medeco Original
  • Mul-T-Lock MT5
  • Schlage Primus
  • Schlage Primus XP
  • Scorpion CX-5
  • Zeiss-Ikon Sperwellen
  • Zeiss-Ikon SK6 ZSE/ZSV

Sidebar designs aren’t restricted to high security locks, however. The following locks utilize sidebars as well:

  • Kwikset SmartKey
  • Schlage Everest 29 SL
  • Schlage SecureKey (Discontinued)

Much like the Blake brothers and the cylindrical lock, Philo S. Felter’s design was well ahead of it’s time. And while Philo might not have received his rightful “due” for this sidebar design, there is a lot to be said about an idea that, nearly 150 years after it became a reality, continues to be a hit.

By |2018-04-16T09:00:35+00:00April 16th, 2018|All, Cores and Cylinders, High Security, History, Locks|1 Comment

How Key Bitting Specifications Work

If you haven’t already, take a moment to stop by our Key Bitting Specifications page in the Tools section. For those new to locksmithing or for those that might not understand some of the abbreviations or information listed, I’m going to take a moment to cover each item by using one of the most popular keying systems in the United States: Schlage Classic.
Throughout this article I’m going to reference information as it’s organized in our key bitting specifications. Yes, we organize information in an arbitrary manner (one we think is the most conducive), but the information we include is the same information manufacturer’s use as well; that’s where we draw our information from, after all. Also, I’m not going to focus on items like key origination options or notes – that’s self-explanatory. Finally, I’m going to define terms using The LIST Council’s Professional Locksmith Dictionary. With that said, let’s cover the information left to right, top to bottom.

Schlage Classic key bitting specification.


What’s in a Key Bitting Specification?

Not all manufacturers list the same amount of information in each of their key bitting specifications. Some manufacturers choose to share more information than others. At the very least, we’ve found that spacing and root depth information is listed by all manufacturers. Schlage, on the other hand, leaves nothing to guess work; they list just about every relevant detail necessary for generating or decoding keys and/or pins of their keying systems. Regardless of availability, all manufacturer’s key bitting specifications include the following information:
MACS, or maximum adjacent cut specification, is the maximum allowable difference between adjacent cut depths. MACS essentially tells you which cuts are allowed to be next to each other. If your MACS is 7, for example, a 2 cut can be right next to a 9 cut because when subtracting their difference, 9-2=7, it is at or below the MACS of 7. If the adjacent cuts were 1 and 9, however, their difference would be 8, which would violate MACS and therefore would not possible. In the Schlage Classic keying system, the MACS is 7.
Increment is the distance between different, successive depths. If you look at the Root Depths, or the dimension from the bottom of a cut on a key to the bottom of the blade, you’ll notice that the measurements of different, successive depths increase or decrease, depending on the order in which you read it, by .015″. This .015″ difference is the increment for Schlage Classic.
Progression is defined as a logical sequence of selecting possible key bittings, usually in numerical order from the key bitting array. That might not make sense in our context but allow me to explain. Progression relates to master keying and can be represented as either “Single Step” or “Two Step”. Differences between cuts in progressed keys can either be 1 increment (Single Step) or 2 increments (Two Step), depending on the size of the increment. Due to tolerances and the potential for key interchange and even cylinder failure, progression must match the manufacturer’s specifications. For all intents and purposes, if the increment size is less than .023″ then it is considered a two step progression, if it is more than .023″ then it is considered single step progression. Using Schlage Classic, which is a two step progression, we cannot have a difference between cuts of 1 increment in the same chamber of a master keyed cylinder or the aforementioned risk of key interchange and cylinder failure will exist. Therefore, we must have two step, or 2 increment, progression for Schlage Classic.
E.P.D., or effective plug diameter, is 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. E.P.D. will not necessarily be the same as the actual plug diameter.
Included Angle is a measurement from one sloping surface of a cut to the opposite surface, typically stated in degrees. If you look at the geometry of key cuts you’ll see that they look very much like a valley. Each side of the valley is what the definition refers to as a “sloping surface”. The measurement between each sloping surface is our included angle. For Schlage Classic the included angle is 100 degrees.
Root Cut, not to be confused with the cut root, refers to the measurement of the bottom of the individual cut itself. It is also sometime referred to as cut flat. Key cuts may have different cut root shapes, or the shape of the bottom of the key cut (either flat or radium or even a perfect “V”), but the bottom of the cut will always have a measurable distance. In our example, the measurement of the bottom a cut in Schlage’s Classic key bitting specification is .031″.
Spacing is can refer to two things. First, T.F.C., or To First Cut, refers to the distance between the shoulder or tip, depending on if it’s tip-to-bow or bow-to-tip, to the center of key’s first cut. B.C.C., or Between Cut Centers, is the distance between the centers of adjacent cuts. If you have a LAB Universal Pin Kit both values can be found in each manufacturer’s box. In each case, we have the full spacing information for all key bitting specifications. That includes the T.F.C. measurement, the B.C.C. measurement, and each respective available spacing measurement possible.
Finally, we include all pin segments available for a respective key bitting specification. In the case of Schlage Classic that includes bottom, master, and top pins. In other examples, such as Corbin X Class (System 70), we include bottom and master pins for both available plug diameters as well as interchangeable core top pins and build-up pins. Whatever is available for a respective key bitting specification we include, and with the manufacturer’s verbiage.

How do we use a Key Bitting Specification?

As we say on the Key Bitting Specification page, you’re only limited by your imagination with ways to utilize and “translate” the information from key bitting specifications. The following tasks can be completed, or greatly assisted, with an accurate key bitting specification:

  • Key Generation
  • Key Decoding
  • Determining Keying Systems
  • Determining Applicable Blanks
  • Cylinder Pinning
  • Cylinder Decoding
  • Master Key and Master Key System Design

Small Format Interchangeable Core Video Tutorials

Here are a few video tutorials related to the servicing and pinning small format interchangeable cores.
This first video allows you to create a pinning chart for small format interchangeable cores in literally seconds. Whether an A2, A3, or A4 system, you only need a piece of paper and a pencil or pen to get the job done. No software, websites, Excel spreadsheets, just basic math.

This next video is a pinning tutorial. In addition to basic pinning information I shared a few techniques and methods I use during the pinning process.

The final video covers tools commonly used to service and pin small format interchangeable cores. I give my opinion on the tools as well as demonstrate their usage.

This post will also be archived in the library.

By |2018-02-23T07:00:30+00:00February 23rd, 2018|All, Cores and Cylinders, Locks|0 Comments

Patents That Shaped American Locksmithing, Part 2: Frank Ellison Best's Interchangeable Core

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Patent Number: 1,561,771 (Google Patents)
Filing Date: March 18, 1922
Issue Date: November 17, 1925
Inventor(s): Frank E. Best


Frank Ellison Best was a high school custodian for a large high school in Washington state (incorrect, see update below). His key ring reportedly carried upwards of 100 keys, one for virtually each door. When a key was lost for one of these doors/locks, Frank was tasked with rekeying it. Frank was determined to create a better lock that allowed for a faster and more economical rekeying process. For 7 years, Frank tinkered with ideas. In 1922, he applied for patents for two of those ideas. The first (1,500,297), filed in February, secured a “figure 8” core into a cylinder housing by use of a screw.

The second (1,561,771), filed a month later in March, secured a similar “figure 8” core into a cylinder housing as well but rather than rely on a screw it used the core’s “extending shoulder”. This extending shoulder is what is commonly known as the “control lug” today. Furthermore, this extending shoulder could be retracted by use a special key, eventually known as a “control key”. This meant that a core could be removed and replaced in seconds with nothing more than a key. It’s not hard to imagine which core eventually caught on.
Frank would go on to form Frank E. Best, Inc., which became the patent holder for his core and other patents. Best would also create a separate company, Best Universal Lock Corporation, in 1925 to manufacturer and sell his new core and locks. In 1938, Best and his company would relocate to downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, where the company remains to this day.


In 1966, Frank Best passed away. Frank left behind quite a legacy, accumulating 58 patents for locks, keys, and lock related equipment throughout his life. Frank Best’s oldest son, Walter, became President of Best in 1966 and held that position until 1994. Best Lock Corporation’s mechanical lock hardware line was fully developed during Walter’s tenure. According to Best company literature, Walter saw sales grow from $4.5 million in 1966 to $104.6 million in 1994. Keying systems using Best’s “small format interchangeable core” became synonymous with many institutions such as schools, hospitals, colleges and universities, government offices, and even military installations.
Russell Best, Frank’s grandson, acquired Best Lock Corporation in May of 1994 from his father Walter. In November 1997 Best Lock Corporation became Best Access Systems. On November 25, 2002, Stanley Works purchased all of Russell Best’s holdings to become the new owner of the company. The company became Stanley Security Solutions although they continued doing business as Best Access Systems. In 2010 Stanley Works and Black & Decker would merge to become Stanley Black & Decker. On February 22, 2017, Best was acquired, along with other Stanley Black & Decker mechanical security businesses phi Precision and GMT, by dormakaba. The deal was worth $725 million. Throughout it all, Best Access Systems remains one of the premiere lock manufacturers in business today.

Update (2/20/2018)

Man oh man did we get some details wrong. Not long after this was posted, we received a copy of Frank Best’s obituary (posted below) from Zach J. Olson through a mutual friend. A few corrections therefore must be made using this new information:

  • Frank Best was actually a teacher, not a janitor, at the high school.
  • Frank Best’s genius wasn’t just limited to locks.

The story of Frank being a janitor is one that is repeated throughout this industry; in fact, it’s the first sentence on the current BEST Access “About BEST” web page. I hope this was in error on their part because honestly, the true story is far more interesting and far better than what I, and many others, have been told about the man. We apologize for any confusion we may have created. Thank you for the update Zach!

Photo credit: Zach J. Olson

By |2018-02-19T07:00:35+00:00February 19th, 2018|All, Cores and Cylinders, History, Locks|0 Comments
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