Manipulating the Stanton Concepts RKS

July 20th, 2021

By Tom Eklöf (obrotund on Discord), 2021 (CC BY-SA 4.0 license.)
Previous post on RKS: https://blackbag.toool.nl/?p=3416

This is a proof of concept for a manipulation method for the RKS. At least a passing familiarity with safe combination lock manipulation is assumed.

As far as I know this is the first public manipulation for the RKS – or at least it was when I did the actual manipulation some months before writing this post. Please do let me know if you know of others before me.

editors note: Pics or it didn’t happen, no hearsay allowed. 🙂

RKS operating principle

I’ll provide a quick rundown of how the RKS lock works, but I’d suggest reading Han Fey’s excellent writeup for more in-depth information. Note that there are some differences between what’s detailed in the doc versus the lock I have, but the general idea is the same.

The RKS cam lock innards resemble a hybrid of a fixed drive pin combination lock and a disk detainer lock. Like both disk detainers and combination locks, it has several disks with gates on them (ie. wheels in combination lock terms, but the RKS doc uses “disk” so I’ve stuck to the same terminology) – 5 in my version – and a drive disk which is equivalent to the cam. Like in combination locks, the gates can use the full 360° of the disk. Each disk including the drive disk has multiple false gates in addition to the true gate, but they’re equally spaced. Like in a disk detainer cam lock, the plug is prevented from rotating by a sidebar that fits into the gates on the disks. The combination is changed by changing the position of a drive pin on the edge of each disk, similarly to screw change combination locks although it seemed like only the “bottom” or dialer side pin is changeable – or possibly the ones I tried were just very tight, but I didn’t want to force them considering how tiny the screws are.

The drive disk is at the “far” or cam end of the lock, and it’s driven by a drive shaft that goes through the disk pack and is connected to a detachable dialer, either manual (which I have) or electronic. In effect this gives us a 5 wheel combination lock with each number in the combination between 0 – 63 which is opened like a fixed drive pin lock: you always track the previous number, so if the combination starts L30 R7 L28 … you need to pass L30 5 times (ie stop on the 6th), then dialing R7 you need to pass 30 4 times before stopping on R7, then going to L28 you need to pass 7 three times etc etc. After you’ve dialed the combination you apply counterclockwise tension to the edge of the dialer to rotate the plug itself (ie you don’t rotate the “dialing part” of the dial so the drive disk doesn’t move), which then forces the sidebar to slide down into the gates and allows the plug to rotate.

Note: I’ll use the same numbering scheme for the disks as with combination locks, so disk 1 (abbreviated to d1) is the one closest to the dialer and disk 5 (d5) the one furthest away from it, right next to the drive disk.

The cutaway lock, sidebar and disks visible. The drive disk is the one on the right, followed by d5, then d4 etc.

View of the “keyway”

Manual dialer. The dial itself is rotated with the knob, and torquing the body / edge (the black part) of the dialer counterclockwise is used to actually open the lock

Manual dialer, underside. The black screw visible on the right side of the body of the dialer makes it click to increments when dialing

Measurements

  • number range 0 – 63, meaning 5.625° per increment
  • 5 disks and a drive disk
  • 4 gates per disk (including drive), 3 of which false at 16 increments or 90° apart
  • 8 drive pin holes per disk, at both edges of each gate
  • gates are ~5 (28°) increments wide, including the drive disk. Measured by looking at the cutaway from the top and moving the edge of the sidebar from one side of a gate to another
  • gate binding (or, rather, lack thereof) can be felt for ~6 increments
  • drive pin width is ~2 increments, 11.25°
  • sidebar ~2.2mm

Top and under side of disks with default “0” pinning. Each disk’s three false gates are a bit poorly visible in this picture, but all gates are 90° from each other.

Figuring out a manipulation method

To even get started I had to slightly modify the dialer; normally it clicks in place to number increments, but that would stop me from getting useful feedback. I removed the screw that does this, meaning I got a free-spinning dial. Unfortunately that made accurate dialing very hard since the dial moves if you so much as look at it wrong.

My initial thought was to approach the RKS like a DD lock; I first turned all disks left or counterclockwise (“ADL”, i.e. same as AWL or all wheels left for regular combination locks) to L0, then started to apply tension while turning the dial to the right, feeling for gates on d5 passing under the sidebar. However, this method has some fairly obvious problems. First of all, you get feedback from the gates (false or otherwise) of every disk that’s rotating, including the drive disk. Even on d5 you’ve got the drive disk gates and d5’s own gates in play, and it only gets worse the further down the disk pack you go. I did feel the gates (true & false) on d5, and while I thought I could distinguish false ones from the true but that seems to have just been confirmation bias.

Like with safe combination locks, some disks are also “shadowed” by others due to manufacturing tolerances, meaning that a very slightly bigger disk (or one that sits slightly higher on the drive shaft) will block feedback from smaller disks. This means that simply turning all disks in one direction won’t necessarily give you the gate positions on all disks.

So, obviously this wasn’t a viable manipulation method, at least by itself.

“Well, it’s sort of like a safe lock?”

Maybe I should have approached it more like a safe lock?

My reasoning was that when there’s a gate under the sidebar, applying tension with the drive disk gate (think “cam gate”) also under the sidebar should allow the sidebar to descend slightly lower than otherwise, meaning I should be able to measure the width of the area where the sidebar doesn’t bind near the drive disk gate when I apply torque to the dialer’s edges to make the sidebar drop down – this is the RKS’s equivalent of the contact area and contact points you deal with on safe combination locks.

Unsurprisingly this method turned out to be the proverbial ticket, but to actually get good results I had to refine it. I had problems with consistent torque when tensioning, poor choice of initial disk positions when starting graphs, slop / play in the dial, and the sheer amount of dialing that would have to be done unless I cut down on the number of measurements I had to do.

Tensioning

Getting consistent readings was hard since I was tensioning using my fingers – the torque I was applying was variable, which meant that the sidebar lowered different amounts every time I took measurements. So to even get started I needed to come up with a way to provide consistent torque when tensioning, and I experimented with a few different methods. Since this is a proof of concept I eventually gave up and ended up cheating a bit and tensioning by hanging some weight from the cam itself, but something similar-ish should be doable on the dialer side albeit with more work.

Tensioner attachment on the cam.

Tensioner weight (and yes that’s a Manifoil lead shield)

Initial disk positions

I started my first graphs with ADL. However I soon realized why this is a bad idea.

When going ADL, the drive pin of the previous disk ends up in the gate, meaning that it blocks the sidebar from descending and therefore gives you much narrower and shallower gate signatures.

Going ADR leaves the gates open.

Dialing

Dialing with a modified free-spinning manual dialer is extremely fiddly and liable to drive you insane, and since there’s 5 disks the amount of dialing that would have to be done with a “naïve” approach would be ridiculous.

However, the fact that gates are always 90° apart can be exploited to radically cut down on the amount of dialing. This means that when you find one position where the drive disk doesn’t bind, you know that the other gates are n * 16 increments (1 <= n <= 3) apart from it. Since gates can be felt over about 6 increments, you can then map out the edges of one gate and therefore figure out the edges of all gates.

Also, as I went along it turned out that I was getting indications in order starting from d5; my assumption is that this was due to the fact that I was tensioning the lock from the rear which meant that the sidebar would be at a very slight angle so that it’s lower on the d5 end and higher on the d1 end. After some playing around I noted the same phenomenon but reversed if I tensioned using the dialer (like it would “really” be done), so d1 would read first, then d2 and so on. This meant that once you successfully find the position of a disk’s gate you can figure out how many increments from that position the next disk’s gate will be at a minimum, and start your next graph from that position so you wouldn’t waste time graphing a spot where it’s impossible to have a gate. You can do this by using the fact that there’s a fixed amount of drive pin positions; when going right the minimum distance is - (pin distance + pin width * 2) , and left is pin distance - pin width, both modulo 64 (proof is left as an exercise to the reader).

Graphs

Graphs for this method end up looking slightly different from safe combination locks since a lot of the time you’re not actually getting any binding on the drive disk due to shadowing, so for some indices you can’t get any contact point readings.

I generally kept the cutaway “window” covered, but since this was a proof of concept I occasionally peeked to verify theories or make sure I dialed a number right.

I’ll showcase the graphs for the first 3 disks here since they’re the most interesting.

ADL

As I said, I started off with ADL before realizing it’s a bad idea. This is what the first graph where I used the tensioning tool but with ADL looked like (left contact on the bottom):

So I found the gates, but I couldn’t tell the true gate apart from the false ones.

First ADR, disk 5

Switching to ADR gave this graph. Note that only 3 gates are visible; one of them was shadowed entirely by a disk further down the pack.

The gate with midpoint R49 gave the deepest reading with the sharpest edges. My theory was that since the false gates are so shallow, that’d be the true gate on some disk. I used my Mk I Eyeball on the cutaway window and noted that it was the gate for d5, so now I could be fairly confident that I should be able to tell the true gate apart from the false ones.

To actually verify this, I started by moving d5 a bit to the left and checked for sidebar binding. After I got worse binding for that, I did the same for d4 and got good binding, then d3 and still got good binding (ie. I essentially did a lo test but with only 3 disks). This satisfied me that I’d probably found the number for d5: R49 / L46

Disk 4

I started the next graph assuming that I’d probably be getting indications from d4, so I dialed d5 to L46 and then the rest to R38 which should be close to the first possible index for the true gate on d4.

Note that gate edges are about 2 increments – ie. drive pin width – off from the gates on d5: there’s a gate edge at R20 here but it’s R18 on d5, there’s a gate edge at R36 here but R34 on d5 etc. This means that this graph is most likely for d4.

The gate with midpoint R2 has the sharpest profile, so I assume that’s the true gate. I do a lo test with just d4 and get worse results, so I figure that my assumption about this being d4 was right.

Disk 4 rotational conversion

I initially tried doing rotational conversion with my estimation of the drive pin width plus some simple math, but I kept having problems with it so I end up doing it with graphs. This is what the graph looked like for d4 R2, determining the gate midpoint is at L59:

Lucky disk 3

After finding the gate for d4, I dialed d5 @ R49, d4 @ L59, and the rest ADR to R60 which would be the first possible index for the gate on d3:

After measuring a few points around R60 I realized I probably hit the true gate right off the bat since the gate signature was so sharp and deep. I took readings from the midpoints of all the other gates and noted that they weren’t as deep as the one at R60, and after a quick lo test I declared d3 to be R60.

Disks 2 and 1 held no surprises and graphed as the first 3 had.

Et voilà, that’s how you manipulate an RKS.

About Impressioning Handles; DIY

July 10th, 2021

In the summer of 2020 Jan-Willem decided to photograph his impressioning handles. Not only are pictures easier to share than the handles themselves, most of them are not worth keeping as they don’t work as well as advertised. This will hopefully be a short series of blogs on impressioning handles. This is the first one about DIY handles and handle experiments by Jan-Willem. Hopefully this post will inspire you to pick up impressioning or to motivate you to build your own impressioning handles; really you can do a lot better then most of the handles in this post.

What makes an impressioning handle an impressioning handle? It has a few requirements:

  • To hold a key for impressioning.
  • Facilitating the motion of impressioning; rotational torque while moving the handle up and down.
  • optional: Comfortable to hold. (This will come in at another blog on improvised handles.)
  • Preferably to reduce strain on the arm by applying rotational torque with one hand and the up and down movement with the other.

This post is solely about the handles not about impressioning itself. Missed out on this marvelous way of defeating locks? Maybe you can find videos on YouTube. I believe Jos Weyers has a few videos on the subject. 🙂

Disclaimer: I’m not a machinist and most of these handles are mostly build with simple tools and from scrap metal.

DIY Impressioning handle 1

After lockCon Jan-Willem was inspired to build his own Impressioning handle. This is the first iteration. Build from scrap laying around in the workshop. The handle works very well and the form factor is great. Mostly as you can’t torque and move the handle up & down with the same hand teaching good impressioning habits from the start.

DIY Impressioning handle 2

This is the second impressioning handle. It’s from 25mm or about 1/2″ aluminum round stock with a slot for the key and a few screws to keep the key in place. The long screw was kept in place to help with rotational torque. The blue covering is for racing bike handlebars and is, apart from looks, completely useless. The covering gives the illusion of grip. People unfamiliar with impressioning tent to think impressioning must require a lot of torque and thus break more keys when starting out.

This model was quite successful and about 20 of them where made. Jan-Willem still uses them, without the handle. Toool has a bunch as well for impressioning workshops, two of these are still traveling the UK, and the rest are sold to friends starting out with impressioning.

DIY Impressioning handle 3

Impressioning handles three and thereafter are made to save as much cost as possible. They can be made with simple tools out of inexpensive material but still work reasonably well.

The first two are made from partially flattened copper pipes. The ends are bend up to keep the key in place. While the design works it has a few obvious drawbacks like replacing the blank is an hassle on both of them.

DIY Impressioning handle 4

This design works a lot better than handle 3. But it’ll not work for all keys as the hole in the blank is used for mounting. It was also an experiment using bicycle handles for grip. It works almost as well as it looks.

DIY Impressioning handle 5

This concept is the cheapest of them all. It’s a PVC tube with a wooden dowel/insert clamping the key with friction. It works well but changing the blanks can be a hassle. The rings of dust around it are where it used to have the race bike handle covering. That has been removed and hence the ugly stripes.

DIY Impressioning handle 6

The last design I want to show is a failure. This is made from POM (Brandless Delrin) rod and is similar to handle two of this article. The POM is not stiff enough for gripping the key tightly.

In a future blog post we will hopefully discuss more impressioning handles. A few ideas for future blogs: Why you might or might not want to pickup professionally designed impressioning handles for hobby use, Things that can hold a key but where never designed to, and more DIY handles from other people in the community.

Feel free to steal ideas or use the photos. The ideas are free the photos are CCBY4.0 Jan-Willem Markus, Toool Blackbag. If you create your own impressioning handle design, please share it with us and we will add it to the DIY impressioning handles in a future blog.


New tool: EVVA Dual Gut Key

June 24th, 2021

The EVVA Dual is a lock with twelve spring loaded sliders and two sidebars. One on each side. It is an exceptionally hard lock to pick. Reinder Stegen, a gifted picker, found gutting of the Dual error prone and devised a tool to help with gutting the lock instead.

EVVA Dual with the correct key inserted.

For a normal pin tumbler lock you can gut the lock once the plug rotates freely. This can, for example, be achieved by picking, back shimming, or using the key. The EVVA Dual can’t be gutted in the same way as a regular pin tumbler lock as the sliders protrude the cylinder both in the resting position as with the correct key. While the housing has grooves cut for the sliders to slide and rotate this also means that gutting the lock is much harder to accomplish.

EVVA Dual Gut Key moved the sliders down

You will find more detailed pictures on the EVVA Dual on a recent upload to the Lock Wiki. http://lockwiki.com/index.php/EVVA_DUAL This wiki has been quietly expanding with lots of detailed pictures over the past year. Certainly worth a look at the Abloy Easy and the Chubb Mark IV Manifoil that are recently added.

Let’s get back to the EVVA Dual as that’s what this post was all about. The solution to gutting the EVVA Dual is this Gut Key (Set-up key for gutting) designed and 3D printed by Reinder. It solves the problem by moving the sliders down to the fictitious ‘shear line’ making gutting the Dual a breeze.

EVVA Dual Gut Key by Reinder Stegen

Reinder Stegen was kind enough to allow inclusion of the pictures and STL under CCBY4.0.

Alternative download for the Gut Key: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4892450

Bought a safe; decoded; sold

June 15th, 2021

This is a short story of me, Jan-Willem, buying a floor safe without a combination. Then failing to decode it, resorting to an alternative method, and eventually having to part with it again.

Let’s start at the beginning. I’ve found a rusty Major floor safe for sale online, without combo. The ad looked alright and the price was good. I miscalculated the drive and spend the next five hours in the car to pick it up. (Note: I live pretty cental and the Netherlands is not that big.)

The safe was also a lot heavier than anticipated and comes in at about 40kg (~90 pound). The safe door is about 8kg (17 pound).

Failing to manipulate
First up was cleaning the safe. The dial felt quite gritty and washed most of the sand away with lock spray from the WD-40 company. It worked quite well. It also created a huge mess in the safe but that was not my concern at the moment.

I’ll just say this outright: I’m not good at manipulating safes. I’ve beaten a few S&G but never beyond 6730 and 6741. Manipulating it was a pain as the space was tight and the dial didn’t show much. I must have spend 10h on it over a week and gave up on it.

Opening the safe, slightly destructive
When I have projects like this I want them done as soon as possible. I decided manipulating was not fun and resorted to the semi destructive method of drilling a small hole and use the key change hole to dial the safe open. I’ve used a 8mm (1/3th inch) hole and a 4mm (1/6th inch) camera. (Hopefully more about those in an upcoming blog.) The process was still quite painful but I’ve learned a lot from it. It did not take more than 60 minutes in the end.

As the camera is actually an integrated USB webcam I’ve recorded the process and shared for your entertainment. The short version is 82 seconds and the long version just over half an hour. [note to self: fix Word press so it embeds YouTube videos properly.]

Short video: https://youtu.be/t72zbyRs2EI
Full video: https://youtu.be/jezF5elcHbc

Selling the safe
I’ve promised to share the full story so I’ll share a bit about selling the safe as well. These safes are quite rare here. From a quick search I’ve found a new safe door would cost me about €1k. Mostly shipping and import charges.

I love buying second hand goods. I search online and find an item, strike a conversation, place a very good bid, and pay minutes after we struck a deal. Selling on the other hand is extremely painful. (Hence why good manners work so well as a buyer.) For this safe I’ve taken plenty of detailed pictures, included all measurements, and put the safe up for sale. The difference between one buyer and another is clearly noticeable. Many people offered me to take the safe away for free or next to nothing and were offended when I said no. Finding a buyer took a few weeks.

The buyer asked for details on the change key mechanism and I’ve found the La Gard change key worked well. I’ve reset the combination to a random but valid combination. The buyer was unfamiliar with safes and how to operate them. We must have spend an hour on it. Instructing him how to dial the safe and he preformed the dialing a dozen times.

Just before the buyer left with the safe, afraid they would forget, they recorded them selves opening the safe. I’ve discussed this with a few locksmiths and it’s apparently normal. People, scared to forget, will take videos or involve spouse to help remember.

I’ve made a bit of profit on it, not including my time. Learned a few new tricks and have another story. I’ll think twice before buying another safe without combo but we know it’ll happen again.

Pictures
Lastly I want to add a few pictures for the archive. The lock is integrated in the safe door and can’t be removed or function without the door. The safe door has a cover that’s held in place with a large spring washer. Without the cover a relocker prevents the lock from opening.

Photo credit: CCBY4.0 Jan-Willem Markus, Toool Blackbag

Other than the circular nature of this lock it’s very similar to a La-Gard 3330.

Wooden lock; Binding order demo

May 23rd, 2021

In 2019 Jan-Willem build a binding order demo out of laser cut wood.
In this post we would like to share the project with the rest of the world.

Binding order is the order in which the pins bind in a lock. This is mostly due to the manufacturing tolerances but can have other causes. This concept is hard to grasp for a new lockpicker and is one of those ‘You’ll get it when you see it’ concepts. When teaching lockpicking it is common to hear: ‘I have been pushing down this pin and it doesn’t want to stay down.’ This tool can be used to demonstrate why the pin did not want to stay put.

This demo is certainly not ‘the’ solution. It is just a fair attempt that works for us. It will make the explanation better by adding both the visual and touch to the explanation. The participants can play with the board and feel the effect of binding and what the effect is of using light or strong tension.

For reference: The board is about the size of an A4 piece of paper. The base is crafted from three layers of 3mm plywood. The core is a single sheet and the pins are three or four layers, depending on the feel you prefer. Each pinhole in the base/core has a different size and different offset. All of the pins are a different size er well. This gives plenty of options to change the binding order.

We used the demo in lockpicking villages across the globe. We have found that it helps the explanation immensely when encountering language barriers. Video link to how you can use the binding order demo: https://youtu.be/WiCdws84EuQ

The binding order in this model can be quite subtle. It would great to have another with extreme exaggerated binding order also a smaller, 3D printed version, would be great to have. A bit of paint will not hurt either.

CC-BY-4.0 Jan-Willem Markus Toool Blackbag.

Bought 70kg of locks, now what?

May 19th, 2021

Once in a while we find locks for sale in bulk. Either as a large bucket or just a pile of brass. Most of the times it’s not worth the time and effort. (sorting and cleaning takes loooong). While other times the deal is just too good to pass on.

We bought a batch last week: Sold as 70kg of recycling brass. Seemed alight as it was not too expensive and the locks looked clean. It was also clear from the pictures that there wasn’t much high security or ‘expensive’ locks in there.

A few of these boxes/crates full of locks doesn’t look much until you need to carry them home.
Nicely sorted Basi.
All the locks!

In total it’s about 400 locks: 20% BASI, 20% MD, 40% DESTIL, 15% other (DOM, Corbin, Nemef, CES, S^2, etc etc.), and about 5% trash (tags, screws, actual trash). There are very few jewels in the box: Anker necoloc, DOM sigma, and a keyed alike Zi-ikon set with one key.

Most will be put to restocking the lockpicking village kits. The Basi will make very nice progressive locks. The Destil, however, are (re-branded?) Corbin locks and always a pain to pick. Therefore a lot less useful for teaching lockpicking. (Maybe keep a few for teaching humility or patience?). All other locks will be saved for the Dutch open at the next LockCon.

As always the picture of the bucket looked more promising than the outcome. However, the easy locks will come in very useful. It’s just not as fun as finding a EVVA MCS in the crap bin. Maybe there will be one in the next one…

Sophie’s safecracking simulator

May 9th, 2021

A few weeks ago on twitter I read a tweet by Sophie and they were working on a safecracking simulator. I was intrigued and joined the conversation. Both to comment (and compliment) on the progress and add ideas for even more realism!

https://sophieh.itch.io/sophies-safecracking-simulator

So what’s the game? They designed a safe lock simulator and the game is to crack the safe! The lock from the fictional brand Safe and Sound (S&S). It acts as an average group 2 safe lock with three wheels (4xCCW, 3xCW, 2x CCW, and 1x CW). You input the combination with your arrow keys: Left and right arrow for moving the dial and control/shift to control the dialing speed. The simulated lock works just as you might expect, you can feel and hear the contact points and you can manipulate and graph it just like any other group 2 safe lock.

Cracking a safe

I’ve bought the game as soon as it was available and spend a couple hours cracking my first virtual safe.

Cracked the safe with manipulation. The transparancy is on for the screenshot.
Safe manipulation graph.

I like to start with getting a rough idea for the lock and do this by dialing all wheels left (AWL) with 20 number increments. I noticed the wheels are almost perfectly round requiring a full AWL graph and find one number at the time. I graphed AWL with 2,5 count increments and found the gate between 80 and 85. I set the number to 82 and tested the wheels. I found the number was on wheel three.

Then graphed W1 and W2 left and parked the W3 to 82 and graphed it with 5 count increment. Wheel one was at about 7. Figuring out what wheel it is was actually tricky as the simulated safe does not have flies and this means LRL is not the same as RLR for this lock. This also means you can find a number that’s impossible to dial without some calculating.

Lastly I graphed the last number 7-X-82 and found the combo 7-78-82. The dial stopped at 80 indicating I opened the lock. In the version I played it wasn’t possible to open the safe. I claimed being the first one to open the virtual safe on twitter shortly thereafter.

What else can the simulator so?

Once you have mastered the three wheel, why not try a twenty wheel lock? This lock will take 21 times right, 20 times left, 19 times… Or was it 21 times left, 20 times right. at what number was I again? In total it would take 231 moves to just open it with the combination. I can’t imagine how fun it would be to graph this one!

Not all hope is lost as the safecracker gets a handful of tools to simplify the process: Gyroscope angular measurement, camera to amplify vision, sound spectrum analyzer, and X-ray vision. You can also use advanced keyboard shortcuts to spin the dial exactly one rotation, simplifying the safecracking process.

Suggestions to Sophie

The project is very cool and certainly a functional game. These are a few suggestions for added realism:

  • I feel the current shape of the wheels is too perfectly round. Real life safe wheels are sometimes oval or egg shaped. They sometimes have an offset from the wheel center as well. This feature is only beneficial when the wheels are closer matched in size. Currently it’s very hard to find what wheel is the largest and thus the one you want to isolate.
  • As far as tolerances I think the game does very well. Yes, you can make it more tight but then you can easily make the safe impossible to manipulate. It’ll not be bad to have a setting you can play with to make the lock a lot harder.
  • Currently the safe does not have flies. It’s hard to explain what it is or how it works; It’s a small movable element that ensures you can dial two numbers on consecutive wheels to the same number. If it’s worth the effort for this extra realism, I won’t know.
  • Lastly there are a lot of ways you can go to with this project. As a simulator it works but it would be very cool to have a ‘spot the fault’ puzzle game. I.E. The combination is 10-20-30 and it only opens sometimes. Then the player could learn about failure modes like when fly is stuck or the wheel slipped. You can use the trouble shooting guide for a S&G as inspiration. In the PDF it starts at page 9.

Conclusion

The game is very much what I expected from it and it captures the nuances very well. I will certainly recommend it to people that are looking into safecracking. I will use the the simulator as training material as well. (Every participant buys their own copy.) I think it can be a very useful teaching tool.

I don’t think I would play much with the simulator myself, mostly as I have played with and have access to the real locks. The game captures the tediousness of safecracking very well and that’s amazingly impressive 🙂

Cellular CyberKey

April 30th, 2021

A friend knows I’m into electronic locks and gave me this CyberKey key as a present. He did not have the locks to share so you will have to do with pictures of the key. Let’s just admire the construction and not worry about all the ways you would break an electronic access system like this.

Note: Click the pictures for the full size image.

CC-BY-4.0 Jan-Willem Markus Toool Blackbag

Lock pin collection

March 19th, 2021

In a previous blog post Jan-Willem’s pin collection was mentioned. In this post the pictures of the pins and keys are shared.

There is no epic conclusions to this project. At this moment it’s is just a collection of photos of locks and pins. Shared with the world. Hopefully it’ll be a resource for new pickers that would like to know what they are up against. Maybe future research will use it. Where someone clever uses the fact some spools are different than others to decode the lock. Sputnik comes to mind and we think the possibilities are not exhausted yet. (If you are working on something I’m happy to assist.)

New pickers, don’t be intimidated by the key or keyway. If you look through the collection much of the pins are underwhelming. Where a Evva is known to be difficult lock it was not expected to find all standards or one spool pin. When struggling with a lock just take it apart and see what’s in there. For the next time you encounter the same lock you will know Nemef has a spool on position two (insider joke).

This collection has a few obvious biases:

  • The collection only contains basic pin tumblers.
  • Most locks are from Europe, and are from well known lock brands.
  • The locks are not too expensive and are usually old. Therefore it lacks fancy pins like gins and Christmas trees.
  • Pins/locks that are too similar are rejected. There are some duplicates as well.
  • This is a snapshot in time. The pinning of the locks change every few years. A good example is DOM RN with two different types of pins in this collection.

If you have specific knowledge on these locks. Please share, we are open to learning more about locks. Find us on Discord, leave a comment or send us an email.

The photos are: key, pins, key, pins. The photos of pins are arranged with the brand and number. The keys have ‘key’ in the name. The Titan with a key engraved D5474 will have the pictures: TitanD5474-1key-1-scaled.jpg and TitanD5474-1-1-scaled.jpg.

The pictures are by Jan-Willem Markus. CC BY 3.0. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
In short: you are free to use, modify and share these photos as long as you give attribution. If you plan on selling them or using hem in a blog/paper/book please notify us.

The end.

RKS Combo Change

March 15th, 2021

( Post by Tom Eklöf )

So what do you do with a really rare collectable lock that comes with no documentation, has no documentation and practically nobody knows anything about? YOU GUT THE HELL OUT OF IT.

I’m not going to be going over RKS basics in this doc; check out Han Fey’s “RKS Robo-Key System” doc from 2007. But long story short is that it’s a cam lock with 5 wheel combination lock guts, and it’s meant to be dialed with an electronic dialer but can be dialed with a manual “emergency dialer” as well.

Note that the latest generation locks (IV) detailed in Han Fey’s doc are different than what I have. How exactly? Beats the hell out of me. Let’s find out!

RKS core cutaway.
RKS core cutaway.

I’ve been told that the core’s in a repurposed Protec cam, and it does look familiar.

Core’s easy to plop out, just remove the nut in the endplug and that’s it. The sidebar’s not attached to anything so be careful it doesn’t fall off.

Endplug screws.
Endplug screws.

There’s 4 hex screws inset in the endplug that a 1.5mm key was too big for and that’s the smallest one I have, so I figured I’d leave them alone if I can.


You can see that one of them was loose; it promptly fell out when I tilted the core. Welp. As far as I can tell they hold the part with the threads to the rest of the endplug.

Sidebar.
Sidebar.
Sidebar removed.
Sidebar removed.

The sidebar’s got springs on both ends, attached the sidebar. The endplug is attached to the plug casing with 3 screws with PH000 heads (although PH00 will probably do too.) Note that those screws were only very weakly magnetic, so don’t trust them to stay on a magnetized screwdriver.

Disk pack ahoy!

That pin you see on the drive disk sits on a spring. Two washers although it looks like just one.

Disk pack.
Disk pack.

Showing drive pin holes in drive disk, with gate pointing to the upper left, although obviously no pin on this side.

Drive pin holes.
Drive pin holes.

The disks sit pretty snugly in the casing, and they’re proving hard to remove. Trying to nudge them from the side just tilts them so the sides snag.

Then I thought to push at the drive shaft from the dialer side with a screwdriver, which got got things moving. This disk pack is now going places!

Dial-side drive shaft.
Dial-side drive shaft.

Your friendly neighbourhood drive disk and their trusty pin.


Note that in some of the subsequent comments I’ll be talking about “top” and “bottom” pins. They refer to the orientation the lock is in, in the picture below, so “keyway” (dialerway?) down, and the wide part of the disk goes “down.”


Before I even started taking this apart I was thinking that my smallest screwdriver might not have a thin enough head. It didn’t. And no way am I doing anything to those pins without better tweezers.

Drive disk.
Drive disk.

Circlip washers from hell. Getting those back on will be interesting, but if I manage the pins these should feel like a walk in the park.

Circlip.
Circlip.
Disks.
Disks.

Disks. You can see that the gates are always 90° apart and the pin positions are 45° apart and at the edges of the gates. All disks except 1 (lower right) have 2 pins, and disk 1 only has the top pin (it’s top down in the picture).


The drive pin screws are 1.2mm wide at the head and they’re around 1.9mm long but they’re nontrivial to measure.


The disks were about 1.2cm at the widest part. Unfortunately I forgot to write down the measurements and only realized this after I’d reassembled the lock. Oh well.

Drive disk.
Drive disk.

Looking at the pins got me wondering if the combo change is supposed to be done so that you can change the positions of both of the pins, or is the top pin fixed? Why I thought it’d be the top pin (i.e. the one sticking up towards the drive disk in this orientation) was that the drive disk only has a bottom disk and it has pin holes, so its pin likely isn’t fixed.

7 gate positions per disk sounds very small compared to the RKS doc, though, but who knows if that applies to this version. The other option would be that both pins are actually movable, but I’m not entirely sure how much that’d increase the keyspace. We’ll hopefully find out once I get my grubby mitts on a smaller
screwdriver.

Closeup of a disk.
Close-up of a disk.

Closeup of a disk, “bottom” side up. The lock is currently on a “factory default” pinning where both pins are next to the gate.

When you go all disks left / right and spin the core, you can see that the gates just follow each other at regular intervals, i.e. each separated by two drive pin widths. That’s actually surprisingly hard to see when not moving the core because you generally see at most 3 gates and even then one of them’s under the side bar, so it took me a while to realize the gates were just sequential even after having figured out the combination.

Intermission

“But obrotund, how could you not notice a rising sequence? Shouldn’t it be obvious if it’s something like L0 R6 L12 … ?”.

If you go ADL to 0 and then continue left, the gate for each disk (from the drive down to 1) will be at roughly L0, L6, L12, L17, L23, L29 – fairly obvious they’re sequential when done like that. Since the lock came with no instructions or anything, I eyeballed the correct combo to be 6x L29 5x R40 4x L17 3x R19 2x L6 R0; that didn’t exactly scream “sequential” at me.

To see how much of an effect the stacking of drive pins has on something with 6 wheels we can go ADL 0 and then start dialing right so that we note the index where each disk gets picked up, and get something like:

d5: R2
d4: R5, after going around once, of course. So already at d4, pickup is happening 5 indices earlier because there’s now a bunch of drive pins there
d3: R10
d2: R15
d1: R20

So the difference is 20 increments at the last disk, which is about 30% of the dial’s range of 0 – 63. To drive the point home, the correct combination but starting from R is 6x R49 5x L23 4x R30 3x L12 2x R10 L0.

Act II, the Screws

So, now I was ready to actually start dealing with the drive pin screws. Note that if you happen to have an RKS or manage to get your hands on one, this probably won’t be as difficult for you, but I’ve got a tremor that makes dealing with screws this small a bit of a challenge. Luckily for me I enjoy challenges, so I headed over to a hardware store and bought a set with the smallest screwdrivers they had, some tweezers, and a “helping hand” that I knew to have a fantastically useless base but with alligator clips and such that I could put to use.

Note that you’ll really want to have good angled tweezers; you likely won’t be using them for the drive pin screws, but the washers between disks and then the 3 . The ones in the picture were cheap but extremely annoying to use and stuff had a tendency of slipping out of them, and ended up getting Tamiya’s angled tweezers the next day.

You’ll definitely want a magnetized screwdriver; I used a neodymium magnet I had lying around.

Easy part’s done, so now for the hard part. I held the disk in locking tweezers and somehow managed to get the screw in on the first try. Victory!

Armed with a false sense of confidence, I attacked the next disk. The same locking tweezer technique failed to work. I tried it a few times and after almost losing the screw because the disk had a tendency of starting to slip from the tweezers, I changed tactics.

Tools.
Tools.
Disk with screw.
Disk with screw.

Helping hand time. As said, the base is absolute crap so I duct taped it to the desk. That worked about as well as you’d expect.

Helping hand.
Helping hand.

Helping hand.
Helping hand.

I was extremely paranoid about losing parts, so I kept everything in minigrip bags that I made sure to close.

Bags.
Bags.

OK, so that was a no-go. I headed over to Discord to see if anybody had any advice.

NKT gave me the idea of using something cylindrical for stablizing the screwdriver, and I gave that a go. I grabbed my Revolver, stuck it to the table with some two-sided mounting tape and tried the concept out – this could work.

Narrator: “it didn’t.”


At that point I gave up for the day and put the screw in the naughty box.

Revolver.
Revolver.
Naughty box.
Naughty box.

On Monday I headed over to a hobby store, and the guy there suggested drilling a hole into a piece of plastic and then using that as a screw holder, and it sounded like it might work so I decided to give it a go. I got a 1.6mm thick rod of plastic, a 1.2mm drill bit and a handle for it, and the Tamiya tweezers.

After some experimenting it looked like the plastic was just a bit too thick (should have gone with eg. 1.2mm) and it was hard to see if I was anywhere near the screw hole, so I thinned it a bit with a file and rounded the head. In hindsight I should probably have taken even more of the head off. While it was easy to get the screw onto the plastic “handle”, getting the screw positioned properly was a pain and the screw had a tendency of falling out, but I suspect a 1.1mm bit would have already been too small. I tried different ways of clamping the disk in place but eventually gave up. I was starting to doubt I’d get this done.

Plastic screw holder.
Plastic screw holder.

Act III, Rustling up Some Screws

On Tuesday I asked around on Discord if people had any further ideas, and legendofthesamurai suggested using thin copper wire to make a lasso around the threads of the screw and then using that wire as a handle. That’d solve the problem of not being able to see where I was putting the screw, and I could use the plastic tool to hold the currently detached screw for lassoing.

After I had the screw in the lasso, it was downright easy to get it in the disk.

Success.
Success.

OK, not so easy that I wanted to do all disks so I left one at the default position, but I did change the pin on the drive disk, which was challenging due to the drive shaft.

Getting the washers back in took me a while, and I don’t think I could have done it without two tweezers, but I eventually got there. The last step was tightening those 3 screws in the plug casing, but they were big enough that I could hold them with the tweezers to screw them in, so that was an absolute breeze. Used a 1.3mm hex head to reattach the loose screw on the endplug, and plopped the sidebar back on.


And there we have it. 3 days later I have an assembled lock again.

It does seem like there’s a little more friction than there used to be; I think I dinged some of the circlip washers as I was putting them back in, but there’s
no way I’m popping it open in a while and not much I could do about those washers anyhow. I put very small amounts of PTFE-based lock oil between the disks which helped a lot.

Drive shaft challenge.
Drive shaft challenge.
Reassembled.
Reassembled.
RKS core.
RKS core.