Posted in advice, locksmithing on March 10th, 2014 by The Locksmith
The typical rim cylinder key pushes up five or six pins or ‘tumblers’ inside the lock. These pin tumblers are sitting in the “valleys” between the pointed teeth of your key. And your key’s valleys match the heights of the pins in your lock. If your key doesn’t have pointed teeth along the top, then it’s another kind of fancy cylinder and this post doesn’t apply.
If you look at the sides of your key rather than the top with its pointed teeth, you will occasionally see something like four, five or six “scallops”. If that’s the case, then in addition to the pin tumblers your cylinder lock probably also has a ‘side bar’. As well as the pin tumblers needing to be at the right height, the pattern of scallops has to match the side bar or the cylinder still won’t turn.
One of the reasons this is done is to improve security; it’s more difficult to pick or bypass a cylinder with a side bar. But the main reason it’s done is to force you to go back to the locksmith who supplied the cylinder for any key copies, as most key cutters will not be able to replicate the scallops.
If your key cutter is an adventurous but foolish person, they might go ahead anyway. And if they use a thin enough, “universal” blank. The cylinder might just turn. But you will find, especially for example with a cylinder like an Evva, that the cylinder will lock up after turning by a small amount. It won’t turn forward any more; and it won’t turn back. The key will be stuck. And because it’s being held by the side bar’s spring there will be no way to extract the key. The cylinder is toast.
So if your key tells you that it shouldn’t be copied, it might just be right.
Posted in locksmithing on March 8th, 2014 by The Locksmith
As I tell customers who ask, there are problems fitting locks to bedroom doors. For fire safety reasons you can’t fit a regular deadlock, especially if higher than ground floor or windows are barred. A panic lock is often too expensive for “just want to lock my bedroom door”. A rim latch (a “Yale”) is often the best bet. However, the really cheap Yale can’t be fitted to a hollow door. And most bedroom in shared occupancy housing are cheap, hollow doors.
That hadn’t stopped this landlord from trying, however. I was there to let someone in. They’d lost their only key copy. And change the cylinder. Before beginning, I pointed out that the third fixing screw was doing anything as there wasn’t any wood behind it. The cylinder was a bit loose and wasn’t flat to the door surface.
First I found that the fitter hadn’t shortened the retaining bolts. Rim cylinders are bolted to the lock, through the door. But they are sold for the thickest of doors and have to be shortened if they are to grip in narrow doors. To overcome the ensuing flopping about of the cylinder, the fitter had vainly tried stuffing paper in. Having corrected all of that, I realized that the fitter had also made the classic mistake of not looking at the instructions and the template and noting that the hole for the cylinder is not coaxial with the centre of the lock. And this sad apology for a fitter hadn’t done what most carpenters sheepishly do when they realize this, which is to fit the cylinder upside-down.
(Which is probably why your cylinder is upside down; if it is.)
Posted in life on February 23rd, 2014 by The Locksmith
I haven’t posted much for a couple of months. I guess part of it is Christmas. And for our family the birthday season follows immediately after Chrismas, with four of us having birthdays in January and February.
I’ve also been having fun doing some more serious woodwork. Quite often people will call a locksmith for a door problem. Now, whilst I have learned to do the wood jobs that surround locks (often literally), I’m not really a carpenter. Some locksmiths are; most aren’t. I’ve learned how to chisel properlay and I can use a mortice jig.
In trying to make a cabinet for a piece of electronics I’ve been working on, I realized I had to splash out on a router – the device that cuts channels, grooves, rebates, etc. Having a router also means I can fit London bars where builders have put the mouldings too close to the door frame edge. Watching woodworking videos I realized that to get the most out of a router, a router table is needed. So I set to making one.
Then I got fed up watching YouTube woodworkers effortlessly cutting big pieces of timber on their table saws. Now, I can’t justify the expensive of a table saw for my little efforts, but my circular saw is a quality piece but not much use in regular joinery. So I turned it into a table saw. Most of the time was spent making it safe, I hasten to add. Then I needed a proper fence, with proper dust extraction. So I ended up making a fence that fit the table saw and the router table.
Then six weeks had gone by. Although there was quite a bit of learning: learning softwoods versus hardwoods versus particle versus laminates; learning why cutters sometimes burn rather than cutting.
Just like the serious metal work I’ve been doing for a decade, there’s an awful lot of making things to help you make things. Sometimes you even have to make something to make something you need to make something.
Posted in locksmithing, politics on February 23rd, 2014 by The Locksmith
… seems to bite the dust.
I’m no longer recommending the SC71, “Ingersoll” lock. A few years ago it might have been exceptionally expensive but it was exceptionally good. Then build quality slipped a bit.
I replaced one the other day and discovered that although the price has remained high, the build quality seems to have plummeted.
Such a shame that this is happening everywhere. Yale cylinders have dropped in quality. ERA … well …
At least Chubb (re-branded Union’s C series) still seem to be the same good stuff.
Posted in life, locksmithing on December 9th, 2013 by The Locksmith
Everything seems to be slowing down – getting sluggish in the cold. My drill batteries (woodwork, not locks, I hasten to add) are reluctant to drive at full power. After three years from an excellent Bosch heavy-duty, the van battery is beginning to sound tired. And me too.
Posted in advice, locksmithing on November 17th, 2013 by The Locksmith
Just back from picking open and re-keying four patio doors. They were fitted with multipoint locking strips. Oh, my! The worst catalogue of errors I’ve yet seen – apart that is from using masking tape – except too much masking tape.
The builders had applied masking tape to the MPL strips. But they’d left it on! So when the doors were locked and all the wonderful (ahem!) panoply of bolts had sprung out, they’d had to spring out though the masking tape. This has gone wrong in one door and now it can’t be unlocked. And that’s expensive with an MPL.
Then having painted the doors, they shut and locked them with the paint wet. So now they’ll have to be sanded and painted again as the paint films had to be cut and broken.
Three of the four handle sets had been fitted the wrong way around with the securing screw heads on the outside. Just where your burglar needs them.
And of course all the cylinders were far too long.
So, once again, the advice has to be: watch your painters like a hawk. Get them to use masking tape – and take it off again. And ask them what their plans are for allowing the paint to dry before closing.
Posted in life, locksmithing on November 14th, 2013 by The Locksmith
It’s getting cold now. And getting people in with cold fingers (mine that is) gets harder and harder as the years go by. If the van has been standing for a while, by the time it’s warmed up, you’ve reached the customer and your fingers are cold. Time to move the gloves (and hat – have to keep the brain working as well) from the bottom of the door pockets to the top.
Posted in advice, life, locksmithing, politics on October 23rd, 2013 by The Locksmith
Not the uniformed kind who hover around outside posh hotels, but the kind that sit over the top of a door and have a double armed, elbow joint mechanism. (And not the kind that just press on the door near the hinge side; nor the kind that is a little chain found between the frame and the door on the hinge side.)
I find that the way they are supposed to function is often misunderstood. Even by the people who fit them!
There are three parts to the way they work. First of all there is a big spring to close the door. But that’s not what you’re paying your money for, however. The three mechanisms above could do that. No, what you’re paying the extra for is damping – as in to damp down motion. Using, most likely, oil-filled pistons with holes, the door will close but it will close slowly without slamming. Of course, waiting for that could be tedious, so there are actually two dampers. One controls the closing of the door for most of its journey. That one is meant to be set just slow enough that you have time to pass without being smacked by the door. But at the last moment – the last inch or two – another damper takes over and ensures that gently but firmly the door clicks shut; rather than banging shut. Which is important in a block of flats if you’re on the ground floor with your bedroom close to a communal door with said closer.
So first of all you adjust the spring to ensure that it applies enough force to close the door. Then you adjust the main travel damper to give a reasonable closing speed. Then you adjust the final travel damper such that there’s no bang, just a gentle click. (The adjusters will probably look like screws and may be under the decorative cover. The screws change the size of the holes in the pistons.)
Getting all that correct is challenging. And many fitters give up. (Now that I’m no longer allowed up ladders (or allowed out with sharp objects) I’m not fitting them any more. I gratefully defer to others.) (And why am I no longer allowed up ladders? Well mostly its age and the pleading of my children. But there is, I believe (I can’t be bothered to read it or pay it any attention), legislation called Working At Height which require that I be qualified to go up a ladder. Pah!) (I’ve already moaned about the legislation that, I believe, says I can’t work on a 12V door entry system without electricians’ qualification. PAH!)
Posted in locksmithing, security on October 15th, 2013 by The Locksmith
Following on from yesterday’s post on key differs, there’s a venerable and excellent lock called the 110 (Union, nee Chubb). It’s not fitted to domestic properties very often; it’s usually fitted to something like a bank branch’s door.
Unlike a regular “Chubb” 114 – the typical domestic deadlock – all the levers (strictly speaking they are termed ‘detainers’ ) count towards the differs.* And there are more lever heights. So the 110 has 10,000 differs. Unless an unscrupulous locksmith has pulled a dirty trick:
You see, because of the peculiar geometry of a 110 you can’t easily tell by feel whether there are any levers in there at all. So say a customer calls a morally bankrupt locksmith asking that something be done about their 110 key which is getting increasingly difficult to operate and to get copies made (110 keys are notoriously difficult to copy correctly). This chap might simply remove all the levers and demonstrate that the key now operates very smoothly. The thing is that every other key will lock and unlock the lock; even some keys that aren’t even 110 keys.
If you’re wondering if you have a 110, it will say, “Chubb” (or “Union” if it’s reasonably new) and “5 Detainers” on the faceplate; that’s the narrow edge of the lock where the bolt comes out.
*If you’re interested, in order to have a key operate a lock from both sides and yet keep the lock’s case size down to something reasonable, the key will be symmetric; which means that two of the levers will always be the same, thus reducing the number of permutations.
Posted in locksmithing on October 14th, 2013 by The Locksmith
What are differs? When is a lock keyed to differ, and when is it keyed alike?
Given the levers in a lever lock (usually between 2 and 7 levers) and the different lever heights; or given the pins in a pin tumbler lock (usually 5 or 6) and the different pin heights, the number of their permutations indicates the number of different keys. A quality pin tumber, rim cylinder lock could have 10,000 differs. A typical 5-lever deadlock might have 1000 differs.
Typically locks are keyed to differ, but sometimes we’re asked to make one key operate two locks – say the two deadlocks a door might have. So that would be keyed alike rather than keyed to differ. Generally I don’t think this is a particularly good idea. Theoretically, a lock picker, having picked one lock would have a good idea as to how to quickly pick the other. However, that’s not a practical situation. Outside of the covert ops people breaking in to spy on you, thieves do not typically pick locks. No, the practical issue is when you need to give a deadlock key to a cleaner or child minder. If you have two deadlocks and one key operates both; and the cleaner or nanny absconds with that key then you’ll have to change both locks, rather than just one lock if you’d kept the second deadlock key to yourself.
When we have changed a deadlock for a new occupant, they are sometimes surprised that the old key still locks the lock. Of course, if we’ve done our job properly, and checked the differs, then the old key won’t unlock the changed lock. But for some reason, some deadlock manufacturers make it much easier to lock the lock rather than unlock; and quite a range of different keys will lock the lock.