Norton 1601 Series Door Closer Installation.

Norton 1601 Series Door Closer Installation

Today we’re going to be installing a Norton 1601 series door closer in the parallel position. Previously, we have shown you how to install this closer in the regular position. The parallel position installation uses the additional bracket. You will need to know how to install this closer in both formats, so let’s get started.

First, we have the instructions taped up on the door, as it’s more convenient this way. This allows for just one set of hands for installation. The instructions will guide you and give you exact measurements of where your first hole goes. Once you have the first hole both vertically and laterally mapped out in the correct measurements based on the degrees you need to have the door open, I usually start with an average of the middle setting. You’ll have an A, B or C, or an option 1, 2, or 3. Using the middle setting (a great starting point for me) will give you the most optimum range. If you need a longer range, go ahead and choose the one needed for your application and requirements.

Now that the door closer is securely installed, you want to make sure that the second set of holes is exactly the same grid pattern and the same depth down so that the closer is on a flat, level plane. Next, we’re installing the plate above, on the frame. You will have to get the first hole measurement. Once you get that measurement, all the rest of the holes will line up properly and everything will be nice and straight.

 After we have the mounting bracket installed and the door closer mounted to the frame, we will move on to the arm. One of the mistakes that happens quite often is that the door closer is installed upside down. If you go to hook your arm up and it’s not turning or rotating in the correct direction, this is the problem and the solution is very simple. If this happens, simply unbolt the entire mechanism, flip around, and bolt back into the previously drilled holes. Now that we put the square peg onto the top of the arm hole, you will need a crescent wrench or vice grips to preload that square stud just enough to be able to grab the bottom stud with the vice grips or the wrench. Do this just enough to be able to get it to slip to the next one and then leave about a hand’s width. I stick my hand underneath that door lever, giving me the perfect spacing.


Here is a link to the Rivnut Tool shown. We may receive a small commission from amazon if you use this link

Thanks for stopping by, we hope to see you again soon!

By |2022-03-28T00:01:36+00:00March 9th, 2022|Door Closers, Locks|0 Comments

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

Introductory Locksmithing: Lock Functions


Locks come in a variety of shapes, sizes, finishes, backsets, etc. These features were implemented to fill needs. Lock functions too were designed to fill needs. Situations exist where a door should always be locked, when it should never be locked, or when it should do X or Y. Locks with a variety of functions were and are therefore necessary to meet the needs of these situations. 

function n. a set of operating features for a particular type of lock or exit device which make it suitable for a specific application. The function is designated by a classification name or standards reference number. See ANSI or BHMA for a specific listing.


ANSI/BHMA standards both define and assign names and numbers (known primarily as function numbers but also as ANSI numbers or function codes) to functions. The use of function descriptions, names, and numbers is commonly associated with 2 lock types:  

  1. ANSI/BHMA A156.2 (Bored & Preassembled Locks and Latches) covers bored locks, such as cylindrical knobsets and leversets.  
  1. ANSI/BHMA A156.13 (Standard for Mortise Locks and Latches) covers mortise locks.  

While technically bored locks, interconnected locks and their functions are defined in their own standard, ANSI/BHMA A156.12 (Interconnected Locks & Latches); I will use the “cylindrical” nomenclature for the remainder of this article to avoid any confusion. 
Other lock types, such as deadbolts and even cylinders, have functions defined and assigned names and numbers by ANSI/BHMA standards. Mortise locks and cylindrical locksets will be the focus of this article since they carry many more functions than the aforementioned lock types. 


Standardizing functions helps bring uniformity to our industry. All manufacturers include function names and numbers in their catalogs. If you were searching for a specific function across multiple product lines, seeing this function name and number would tell you how the lock operates regardless of the manufacturer or their product number. For example, a Schlage L9010 and a Sargent 8215 are passage function (F01) mortise locks. Here is a side by side comparison of their catalog entries, each with their function number listed: 

Sargent and Schlage F01 comparison.

Sargent and Schlage F01 comparison.

Unique Functions

There are multiple functions that manufacturers offer that ANSI/BHMA standards don’t define or quantify. This is especially true for mortise locks which can incorporate more features, such as a deadbolt, than cylindrical knob and leversets. For example, Schlage’s L Series mortise locks has 57 functions – less than half have a corresponding ANSI/BHMA function name or number. Fortunately, all manufacturers include drawings as well as thorough descriptions for functions that ANSI/BHMA standards don’t cover. This eliminates any guess work.  
A clear majority of the locks that we sell or service have a function name and number. With a bit of familiarity and practice, their identification will be as second nature as identifying a tool in your tool box. In this article, we’re going to discuss the most common functions, their features, and where they are generally found to help build this familiarity. I’ve included descriptions, names, and numbers from Schlage’s L (mortise) and ND (cylindrical) series locks to help illustrate each function discussed. 

Function Terminology

Before we do that, let’s take a moment to cover some terminology. When describing a lock, we need to differentiate between each side of the door. Avoid using terms like secured side. This causes confusion over interpretation. Use the terms “outside” and “inside” instead. Outside refers to the side of the door which houses the cylinder; manufacturers will sometime refer to this as the “cylinder side” of the door. Inside nearly always refers to the side of the door without a cylinder. There are functions with cylinders on both sides of the door but the manufacturer will adequately describe these functions. This is the terminology used by manufacturers and it would serve you well to not only understand it but also practice it.  

Popular Functions

Popular Schlage ND Series (Grade 1, Cylindrical Leverset) Functions

Passage (F01 for mortise, F75 for cylindrical) 

Schlage L Series (Mortise Lock) Passage Function (F01).

Schlage L Series (Mortise Lock) Passage Function (F01).

The good thing about functions is that their name gives us clues to their use or operation. Passage function locks are a good example of this. They allow passage no matter which side of the door you are on. No key is required and passage locks cannot be locked. 
Passage function locks are ideal where doors are either required, such as by code, or desired to latch but not lock. Examples of their usage include common areas and on stairwell doors. They are also commonly used in conjunction with deadbolts where allowed. 

Privacy (F02, F19, or F22 for mortise, F76 for cylindrical) 

Schlage L Series (Mortise Lock) Bath/Bedroom Privacy Function (F22).

Schlage L Series (Mortise Lock) Bath/Bedroom Privacy Function (F22).

Privacy function locks allow an occupant inside of a room to lock the door from the inside via a thumbturn or push button. Turning the inside trim retracts the latch and/or deadbolt. Furthermore, there is an emergency override on the outside that a user can operate with a coin, standard screwdriver, or similar object that allows them to open the door in the event of an emergency. For mortise locks, F22 utilizes a latchbolt, no deadbolt. F02 and F19 incorporate a deadbolt. On F19 function mortise locks, the latch cannot be retracted by the outside trim when the deadbolt is thrown, on F02 function mortise locks it can (the latch and deadbolt operate independently). Privacy function locks are common on restroom doors as well as interior residential doors.  

Office/Entrance (F04 for mortise, F82 for cylindrical) 

Schlage L Series (Mortise Lock) Office/Inner Entry Function (F04).

Schlage L Series (Mortise Lock) Office/Inner Entry Function (F04).

Office/Entrance function mortise locks allow the room’s occupant to lock a door by utilizing a key and either a thumbturn or a toggle switch. Some manufacturers offer both types. For locks utilizing a toggle switch,you can only lock the door using the toggle switch. The door remains locked when turning the inside trim and using a key only retracts the latch. The toggle switch must be returned to the unlocked position to unlock the outside trim. For locks utilizing a thumbturn, the door can be locked using a key or the thumbturn. The door remains locked when turning the inside trim. The door can be unlocked by the key or by returning the thumbturn to the unlocked position.   
For cylindrical locks, F109 (Entrance Function) is very similar to F82. In fact, most people refer to them both as entrance function locks. The difference is that F109 function cylindrical locks utilize a turn-and-push button on the inside. Pushing the button will lock the door until you turn the inside trim or use the outside key to unlock it. Pushing and turning the button will lock the door indefinitely; the button must be turned back to the “push” position for it to be unlocked the next time the inside trim is turned or the key is used. Office/Entrance function locks are very popular on residences and individual commercial offices and closets. 

Storeroom (F07 for mortise, F86 for cylindrical) 

Schlage L Series (Mortise Lock) Storeroom Function (F07).

Schlage L Series (Mortise Lock) Storeroom Function (F07).

Storeroom function locks always remained locked from the outside and unlocked from the inside. You can use a key to retract the latch but that will not unlock the lock. A storeroom function lock prevents someone from inadvertently leaving the door unlocked. Storeroom function locks are popular on rooms containing sensitive information, such as server rooms, or items, such as storage rooms. Storeroom function locks are also popular with doors utilizing electric strikes. This prevents someone from unlocking the lock, relying instead on the electric strike, while still allowing for a mechanical override if necessary. 
Most manufacturers now offer storeroom function cylindrical leversets with “clutched” levers. Standard storeroom function cylindrical leversets have rigid outside levers whereas clutched levers are not; they allow movement of the outside lever without retracting the latch. This protects against destructive entry attempts to open a cylindrical leverset by forcing the outside lever trim. 

Classroom (F05 for mortise, F84 for cylindrical)

Schlage L Series (Mortise Lock) Classroom Function (F05).

Schlage L Series (Mortise Lock) Classroom Function (F05).

Classroom locks are very popular on, you guessed it, classrooms. The function allows only key holders, such as teachers or other school staff, to lock and unlock the outside trim of the lock. You don’t want to give students or other individuals the ability to lock the teacher out, after all! 
It’s important to note that new hardware products and lock functions are being developed by manufacturers to help protect classrooms in the event of an active shooter or similar threat. Furthermore, life safety codes related to this specific situation are actively being debated, researched, and, in some cases, revised in response. The usage of the term “classroom” is highly popular with these new functions. I cannot stress how important it is to verify the function of these locks as well as their legality in your jurisdiction before choosing to service or install them.  

Other Functions 

Passage, privacy, storeroom, entrance, and classroom functions are by far the most popular and utilized lock functions currently. You can satisfy a large majority of customer’s requests with these functions alone. There are, however, dozens more functions available. It would serve you well to familiarize yourself with different manufacturers’ offerings by reviewing their catalogs. These also serve as excellent research tools if a customer requests a lock function that you aren’t immediately familiar with.  

Universal Function Mortise Locks

Best 45H “Universal Function” Mortise Lock. Screw positions (labeled 1-5) allow the lock’s function to be changed in the field.

BEST, Sargent, and Schlage offer multi-function/universal mortise locks. These mortise lock bodies are capable of multiple, different functions with a single lock body. Changes to the lock body, such as screws in BEST’s case as seen above, result in changes to the function. Changing of these functions can potentially require you to add, remove, or swap existing trim and/or components. For example, transforming a passage function mortise lock to a storeroom function mortise lock requires a mortise cylinder. It’s important to understand these changes when quoting to change the function of mortise locks so that you and your customer don’t incur additional costs during the job and/or potentially leave unfilled holes in the door. 

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

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

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.

The Simplex Combination Chamber

For nearly 50 years the Simplex line has represented the most popular combination locks in the North American market. Even if you aren’t actively involved in the lock/security industry, you’ve seen them. Simplex locks are everywhere. Per KABA’s website:
Simplex mechanical pushbutton locks offer a convenient way to control access between public and private areas. There are no keys or cards to manage, no computers to program, no batteries to replace, and combinations can be changed in seconds without removing the lock from the door.
The brain(s) of the Simplex line, to speak, is the combination chamber. It stores the code and validates or denies an entered code. Let’s explore the Kaba Simplex combination chamber.

KABA Simplex Combination Chamber(s) Part Numbers

Combination chamber is really a “catch-all” term as there are more than one type of combination chamber used in the Simplex line. Some combination chambers are specifically suited for a single Simplex model while others can be used for multiple Simplex models. Originally, combination chambers were assigned part numbers that began with “M”. For example, there were/are M56 and M54 and M71 combination chambers. Somewhere along the line the part numbers were changed. I suspect this was due to a design change but whatever the case may be, they are now:

Simplex Model Old Chamber Part No. New Chamber Part No.
900 M55 74080-000-01
1000/L1000 M56/M63 74366-000-01
2000 74459-000-01
2015 742412-000-01
3000 M56/M63 74366-000-01
5000 74832-000-01
6200 M64 74870-000-01
7100 M71 74660-000-01
8100 M56/M63 74366-000-01
9600 M54 74014-000-01


Nearly all models of the Simplex line utilize the same combination chamber, there are really only slight nuances between them. The outlier of the Simplex family is the Simplex 900 which features a design radically different from the rest. The Simplex 900 really deserves its own article and perhaps I will one day write one but, for now, the information in this article relates to every lock in the Simplex line except the Simplex 900.

Inside of the KABA Simplex Combination Chamber and How They Work

Let’s start with the key stems. The key stems are what interact with the buttons of the lock. Each key stem is connected two gears. The first set of gears is directly connected each key stem. Upon the pressing of a key stems, the first set of gear turns a second set of gears.

These second set of gears are what you see in the above picture and what interact with the unlocking slide. These second set of gears are equipped with gates, or recesses, inside of them. When the correct combination is entered, the gates all line up to allow the unlocking slide to move upwards and enter into them. The handle of the lock is turned which rotates the control shaft, via linkages inside of the lock body, and lifts the unlocking slide into the aligned gates. Because the unlocking slide is spring loaded, once the control shaft lifts it, it snaps back down into it’s normal resting position while simultaneously resetting all gears and buttons via cams attached to the control shaft.

Here we can see the correct combination already entered and all of the gates aligned, ready to receive the unlocking slide.

And finally the unlocking slide moves up, allowing the lock to be unlocked.

Going back a moment, we can see the aforementioned first set of gears above. These gears are of no real importance except to the function of the combination chamber itself. It should be noted that these are not the gears that interface with the unlocking slide and should not be confused with them. Also pictured is the unlocking slide’s spring; it is a tension spring so that the unlocking slide is pulled away from the gears at all times unless forced up via the control shaft.

Decoding the KABA Simplex Combination Chamber

Now that we’re familiar with the key parts of a KABA Simplex combination chamber and how it works, let’s go through the process of decoding one. Decoding of the KABA Simplex combination chamber is required when the code is lost or forgotten. There is no possible way of decoding a KABA Simplex combination chamber with the lock on the door; it requires disassembly of the lock and removal of the combination chamber. If you aren’t familiar with the disassembly process for a KABA Simplex lock, KABA has produced videos and published them on their YouTube channel. We also have the instructions for this process for every current Simplex model in our Mechanical Combination page in the Library (under the Manufacturer’s Literature and Manuals tab).
The process for decoding KABA Simplex combination chambers used to be very tedious and frustrating. It wasn’t difficult, it just required many steps and the removal of a few tiny parts that could easily become lost. I’ve decoded dozens and dozens of Simplex combination chambers in the field. Not once have I ever used the method that KABA once taught. Yes, I do have to remove the lock from the door and remove the chamber links and the combination chamber but once the combination chamber is in hand, I’m either done or one more step from being done. Confused? Ok, let me explain.

  • Combination chambers manufactured prior to 12/15/2010 had solid combination covers. You can’t see anything on the inside of these combination chambers; you must remove the combination cover itself to view the gears and thus decode the combination. When KABA redesigned their combination chambers, they decided to utilize covers with viewing holes that allowed your to see the second set of gears.
  • Combination chambers manufactured after 12/15/2010 will have these holes in the cover.

A combination chamber manufactured after 12/15/2010.

The decoding process that I and many others have always used for combination chambers with solid combination covers doesn’t involve disassembly of the combination chamber beyond the combination cover’s removal – we simply take note of the positions of the gears and derive the existing code from it. KABA must have agreed with this method because now all combination chambers are designed and built to facilitate this through the use of the aforementioned viewing holes.

With that said, let’s start the process of decoding a combination chamber. Regardless of when the combination chamber was manufactured, the process is virtually the same. If your combination chamber doesn’t have viewing holes, you simply have to remove the cover by gently prying it away from the rest of the chamber. It’s not hard, don’t force it.
The goal of the decoding process is to align all gates with the unlocking slide. When the gates are aligned with the unlocking slide the shearline is established. This is KABA’s terminology, not mine, but I guess it’s accurate enough to work. When a gear is at the shearline it means that the gear is set, so to speak. This is an important piece of information when decoding a combination chamber: gates already set at the shearline are not used in the combination.
Let’s decode a combination using a brand new, factory default combination chamber. The default code is 2 and 4 pressed together, and then 3. For the purpose of this article, let’s pretend we didn’t know that.
What do you notice?

We can immediately see that gears 1 and 5 are at the shear line. This tells us that they are not used in the combination. Our combination will utilize gears 2, 3, and 4. Furthermore, we can see that gear 3 is very close to being at the shearline. This is our next clue. Each gear utilized in a combination will rotate towards the shearline whenever a button in the combination is pressed. This means that gears closest to the shearline are the last utilized in the combination. After decoding a few combination chambers, you will learn their relationship to the shearline and immediately be able to tell if they are the last or next to last button used in the combination. With this piece of information, therefore, we know that 3 is not the first button utilized in the combination.
By process of elimination, we know that either 2 or 4 or 2 + 4 are the first digit(s) of the combination. But which is it? Here is the next tip: each key stem has enough play in it that you can almost move it’s corresponding gear to it’s next position. In other words, we can see what’s going to happen with out committing to pressing a button and having to start all over if we messed up (more on that shortly). By pressing both 2 and 4 key stems, we see that their behavior is nearly identical. Each gear is in the same position. When two or more gears are in the same position, they are used simultaneously in the combination as long as their original position is not already at the shearline. We can therefore use this information to make an informed decision: the first part of the combination is 2 and 4 pressed together.

Now we’re getting somewhere. We’ve almost got the combination. We can see that the 2nd and 4th gear are almost at the shearline. The 3rd gear has moved slightly but is still the furthest from the shearline. We now know that it is the next part of the combination.

And there we have it. All gears are aligned at the shearline. We have decoded the chamber. Before we start the resetting/code changing process, let’s address a few final points:

  • If you mess up during the decoding process at any point, simply rotate the control shaft counter-clockwise (when viewing from the key stem side). This will reset the combination chamber, so to speak, and allow you to start over. Rotating the control shaft will take some force so you’ll more than likely need to do it with a pair of needle-nose pliers or similar tool.
  • 4 or 5 single digit combinations can be very difficult to decode. That is because certain gears will be so far from the shearline that even slight depression of the key stem won’t allow you to see the gate. A flashlight aimed inside of the combination chamber greatly assists if this is the case.

Changing the Code on the KABA Simplex Combination Chamber

Now that we know the existing combination, we can change the code. This can be done in one of two ways:

  1. Reassemble the entire lock and change the combination on the door.
  2. Change the combination by directly interfacing with the combination chamber.

There is no right or wrong answer. It’s a matter of preference. If you chose to reassemble the lock first and then change the combination, the instructions for your specific Simplex model are available online. Here are the instructions and here is a video showing the process of changing the combination of a Simplex 1000/L1000, for example.
If you choose to change the combination with the combination chamber in hand, that’s no problem either. Let’s walk through that process:
1. Using the key stems, enter the existing code to align the gears at the shearline.
2. Depress the lockout slide.
Yeah, yeah I hear you, “what’s the lockout slide?” The lockout slide is located at the top of the combination chamber. It looks like, in the words of KABA, a spark plug.

Once you depress the lockout slide, you’ll notice that the gears shift down towards the control shaft (or should if you’re doing it right!).
3. When viewing the combination chamber from the side with key stems, rotate the control shaft counterclockwise.
This will “clear the chamber” and prepare the gears to accept their new sequence. After rotating the control shaft, the lockout slide should move back up. The button below, known as the code change button, should stay depressed.
4. Enter the new code.
Each key stem should click once depressed.
5. When viewing the combination chamber from the side with key stems, rotate the control shaft clockwise.
The code change button should pop back up.
6. If correctly done, the gears should be scrambled according to their sequence. Enter the new combination to ensure that all gears line up at the shearline. If not, something was done wrong and you’ll need to either attempt to change the combination again or you’ll need to decode the new, unknown code and try again.

By |2018-06-05T09:00:40+00:00June 5th, 2018|All, Locks, Mechanical Combination|1 Comment
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