I Dropped a Pin Kit
A few weeks back I did the unthinkable: I dropped a pin kit. I’ve dropped pin kits before, don’t get me wrong, but never in my locksmith career have I had one spill out. Here is the aftermath:
You may notice that it wasn’t a “professional” pin kit made by LAB or even a lock manufacturer such as Sargent or Medeco. Guilty. We generally handle high-volume jobs (think hundreds of cylinders at a time) so we need large pin quantities for a specific brand or key bitting specification. A universal pin kit will almost never work for our jobs and lock manufacturers typically only offer kits with 50-100 pins per size/type. We’re odd balls so I wouldn’t expect a commercial product to suit our needs. As a result, we often have to make dedicated, DIY pin kits.
Prior to the mishap our pin kits were of the “tic-tac” plastic variety. They’re thin plastic containers with press fit covers. They do a great job of sorting and holding pins but if you drop one or rough it up it’ll show. Either way, I decided not to let this happen again and began searching for a better, more durable option. Here is what I found.
Plano Waterproof StowAway (3600 Series)
The day the pin kit disaster happened I immediately went shopping for a replacement for all of our kits. The first potential solution I saw was Plano’s Waterproof StowAway (3600 Series). For all intents and purposes, this is a tackle box; that’s what Plano specializes in after all. It features an o-ring seal around the perimeter as well as three tight-sealing cam-action latches. Both of these features will help ensure that pins don’t jostle around and work their way into other compartments, whether by dropping or just normally moving around. While plastic, the 3600 Series isn’t hard and brittle. In other words, if dropped from a reasonable distance this thing would stay shut and not crack. I’ll take it!
The 3600 Series features adjustable compartments, anywhere from 5 to 20 depending on how you wish to configure it. The more the merrier in my case because I can always load up spare compartments with springs or other parts. I maxed out each 3600 Series box and labeled them.
If you are curious, here are some of the pin kits I made:
I also made a kit for storing Medeco cams and tailpieces in my service vehicle:
The 3600 Series only drawback is it’s lack of compartments – 20 max. 20 compartments will cover most of our kits, such as Schlage’s Classic or Sargent’s .020″, but it isn’t large enough for a select few. There is just no conceivable way to make the 3600 Series support a Medeco key system or a Corbin Russwin interchangeable core variant without doubling or tripling the amount of boxes needed. That’s not practical. It also wouldn’t be practical to find a single box to accommodate every possible kit; that would leave many empty compartments in the smaller ones. I did find out that Plano offers (offered?) larger versions of the Waterproof StowAway but I could not find anyone that stocked them online or in-store. With all this in mind, I needed to find something comparable to the 3600 Series for the larger kits.
Plano Edge (3700 Series)
The Plano Edge 3700 Series shares a lot of qualities with the Waterproof StowAway 3600 Series. The 3700 Series too features an o-ring seal around the perimeter of the box. Rather than three latches, it has one oversized latch across the entire front of the box. I would have preferred the three cam-action latches like the 3600 Series had but the oversized latch is certainly better than a single, smaller one. The 3700 Series also features up to 34 adjustable compartments via very, very durable dividers with dove-tail locking.
One other great feature of the 3700 Series’ compartments is that the box has notches at the bottom of the box for each divider position. This design provides a secure and durable fit.
I quickly took advantage of the available compartments to handle our larger kits. Here are a few of those kits:
Dedicated pin kits aren’t necessary for all but I’m sure many locksmiths will recognize their value under the right circumstances. If you do require a dedicated pin for a specific key bitting specification you will soon learn that the commercial versions aren’t sufficient for larger jobs or long term use without frequent refillings. Put simply, you’ll be in our situation. No worries, there are definitely quality options available to you, such as the 3600 and 3700 Series.
Constructing DIY pin kits won’t break the bank either. I paid ~$8 for each 3600 Series box and $24 for each 3700 Series box. The cost of pins are dependent on the type and where you are purchasing from but you’re paying for those no matter if it’s a DIY kit or if it is part of a commercially available kit. All told, the entire project cost around $300 but you can see the amount of kits that were involved.
Learn from my mistake and find something that is secure and durable. It took me 13 years to spill a pin kit but it did happen. I only wish I had the foresight to prepare for it!