Gorgeous cutaway photos from Qikom

January 25th, 2023

Qikom, lockpicker from France, created gorgeous locks cutaways and shared the images online. I believe cutaways to be very useful for understanding intricate lock designs. Where a good cutaway allows us to observe the elements of the lock while still functioning as normal.

Qikom is an associate professor in mathematics and computer science. Who got interesting in lock picking a little before 2000 after reading R. Feynman (the physicist) autobiography. Like many pickers, he is interested in the “puzzle” aspect of locks, and making a working cutaway is another kind of puzzle. Furthermore, he added, to spend more time making cutaways than picking locks!

You can find Qikom’s complete cutaway collection at: http://qikom.free.fr/. The pictures are licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Screenshot from Qikom’s website as of January 2023.
http://qikom.free.fr/ CC BY-NC-SA 4.0


I’ve asked Qikom for tips on making great cutaways. He says about his cutaway strategy:

“I don’t have a well-defined strategy when planning a new cutaway. I know people start by making a 3D model of the lock to plan the cuts, but I don’t bother. In many of the locks I’ve cut, the cutting plan isn’t all that complex, and I try to set things up, so I can adjust things incrementally. One important thing I do, is to never cut a lock on the same day that I come up with the cutting plan, to get some time to think about it.

I usually try to have at least 2 identical locks to cut, and I consider one of them to be expendable. When everything works, I can sell / trade the second one, and if not, I get to correct any mistake on the second try. A couple of times, I badly failed twice, but could salvage enough parts to get the third attempt.
But there are still some locks waiting because I wouldn’t want to mess them up.

I’ve made several embarrassing goofs along the way, but none of them would have been prevented by that! The graveyard includes several Robur, Rosengrens, Abloy, Fontaine, and Fichet… 🪦 I’ve only attempted cutting an F3D when I got a couple of broken ones. This was a good idea, because the first 3 attempts were failures.

But there are still some locks waiting because I wouldn’t want to mess them up. Including the Emhart.”

Qikom often sells his cutaways online to partially fund the hobby. If you have interesting in these locks, or have a few spares that would work as a cutaway, consider contacting Qikom at qikom@free.fr


25/25 6-pin cylinder

January 18th, 2023

I got some new (old) cylinders. One was a small 25/25 cylinder with the key stuck in it. When I disassembled it, I was amazed to see six pins instead of the maybe three I was expecting.

The housing pins were tiny and also very short, except for one tall one, that has a double function as an anti-drill pin. The corresponding key pin is also made of hardened steel. There is one regular housing pin that is longer than the others. You would expect the key to have one cut that is deeper than the others, but that is not the case.

After reassembling, the cylinder worked fine again. Here’s a comparison of the key to this cylinder with one of a regular 6-pin cylinder:

Photos CCBY4.0 Walter @ Toool Blackbag

Space heater modification for affordable winter days

January 17th, 2023

This post is a bit of unusual content for this blog, but I believe it to be worth sharing.
In summary, I’ve modified a 1500 W space heater to output 400 W heat continuous. This lets me heat up just my computer corner, and subsequently save on my energy bill.

The winter is cold. While not unusual, this year’s energy prices are going through the roof. (For reference, electricity is about €0.8 per kWh and gas goes for €3 per m^3.) This requires us to be smarter about energy use, or pay the price. It doesn’t help that my house isn’t very energy efficient. Luckily, I wasn’t home during the coldest weeks of December. Annoyingly, I’ve paid about €50 in heating for the single day I used my central heating. While I can afford it, I’d rather spend it on locks.

One solution to save on the energy bill is to use a localized heating over central heating. The newest technology in that regard are infrared (IR) panels. They radiate infrared light, which is absorbed by surfaces. This is believed to be more energy efficient than heating the air. The panels are usually mounted to the wall. But I’ve also seen then hanging from the ceiling, or as large format placemats under a computer keyboard. I couldn’t find one that fit my needs, so I modified a fairly useless space heater instead.

Useless, wouldn’t usually be my way of describing these devices. Space heaters work as designed, converting electrical energy into heat. I’ve bought a 2* 750 W version some years ago, but have not used it much. It heats up quickly, and shuts off as it reached it maximum temperature. Heat for 10 seconds, cold for 30. This hysteresis is quite annoying to me. Therefore, I chose to wire the two 750 W elements in series, reducing the power output to approximately 400 W. This appears to be enough to make my workstation habitable. (Given, I’m dressed for the weather as well.)

The difference is, the heater will get less hot, and the temperature is more stable as the tipping point of the thermostat is rarely reached. You might even forget it is even there. (Please don’t, as it’s still a fire risk.) I’m using the heater for about 5h a day on normal winter days, and have not used my central heating for a month.

While the modification isn’t difficult for the average maker, I rather share the complete story and make it more accessible. Do take care, though, as electricity is largely unforgiving, and the dangers are easy to underestimate.

In the figure below, there are simplified two diagrams which represent the original and the modification. In simple terms, electricity flows through a heating element to create heat. As continuous heat can burn out the element, they added a thermostat to regulate the temperature. This is quite a dumb device and consists of a bi-stable thermal switch. The heat builds up, until it trips the temperature dependent switch. The switch is turned on again when the temperature cools down below the set point. The overshoot and undershoot is called the hysteresis.

Switches with a build in lights are added for usability, and the earth is the safety feature to complete the build. It should be connected to the metal case, as a short from line or neutral to ground will trip the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI or RCD), or at the worst case, cause your circuit breaker(s) to pop.

In the original configuration, the heater can be used as 750 W or 1500 W heater. Making it into something arguably more useful isn’t hard. I’ve simply wired both heating elements in series, which quadruples the resistance, and sets the power output to 375 W.

The modifications are fairly straight forward, as clip on connectors are used to simplify manufacturing. Swapping the wires is usually enough to make it work. As you will see, I’ve not wired the optional switch light, and reused the cable for another connection.

Please take care of the necessary safety precautions, including unplugging it from the wall. Furthermore, don’t forget to wire the earth, (thermal) fuse, and thermostat correctly as they are life-saving features.

Let’s summarize. I’ve outlined a simple modification to a space heater to output 400 W heat continuously. This is enough for me to heat my work space in moderate Dutch winter weather. For the next winter, I’m very likely to invent in a heated work table surface, and a heated office chair, instead.

Hopefully this inspired you to modify your devices, and save some money on the electricity bill. I’d rather see you spend the money on other necessities, and if possible your lockpicking hobby.

Lockpick set by Moki

November 13th, 2022

Hi everyone, this is a quick blog post to show off a lockpick set by Lockpick maker Moki who also makes wonderful pick cases, as seen below. These cases are made in part from bicycle inner tube, which appealed to us.

Moki pickcase with a Explorer Set lockpicks and 3D printed PETG handles
Bicycle inner tube lockpicking pouch

The Moki set contains three hook sets; small, medium, and deep hook of pointy, flat and round hooks similar style to the Sparrows SSDeV and Law Lock Tools Tipene set. All the lockpick shapes work very well. There is often debate on which is best, but we are open to all lockpick shapes, each has their function.

While we don’t expect to break these lockpicks, it’s an interesting design choice to have a replacement tip in the handle. All lockpicks came heavily polished, more so than any commercial lockpick we have seen.

The set of flat hooks and a triple peak rake. (Don’t look too closely at the reflections).

The lockpicks are longer and wider than standard lockpicks, think Law Lock Tools Pro, or Sparrows Sandman. Due to the size, the picks are quite flexible and are thus heavily improved with handles. Moki sells 3D printed handles from PETG, and has sold thick metal handles in the past. But it wouldn’t take much to make your own.

Experimenting a bit with the size and shape shows 2mm at each side works best. The screws in the set require countersunk holes, and are a bit fiddly to put together.

Moki PETG, POM 2mm natural, POM 2mm BLK, POM 1mm natural, 4mm plywood.

It is quite interesting working with these different handle materials. The 4mm thick wood is superb in feedback, but is thicker than any usual lockpick.

All plastic handles are an improvement over the handleless lockpicks, but none have the same feedback as glued/welded metal handles. The search for the best handle continues…

Closeup of the handle thickness.
The sky is the limit, except for the flex in wood.

Czech Lockpicking Championships

October 31st, 2022

The Association of Czech Lockpickers held their yearly competition last weekend. Starting up after COVID, they offered a limited program without impressioning championships, but still included a padlock competition, blitz, cylinders and freestyle.

I (Walter) went over to participate. There were competitors from Czechia, Germany, Austria, Hungary and I was the representative for the Netherlands. The championships were held at a nice and cosy facility, giving ample room for socialising and catching up with old friends.

Some of the ‘usual suspects’ were absent due to work or for other reasons, but still there were plenty of people participating

Padlocks

First up was the padlock competition. The padlocks were provided and differed quite a lot in difficulty. You are allowed to test your tension wrench before the clock starts. For one particular lock, it was hard to test the tension wrench without accidentially already opening the lock.. on the other side of the spectrum, some of the Tokoz padlocks proven impossible to open in the allotted time.

I had a tool stuck in a lock which I why I didn’t make the A-finals. But all for the best, because in the B-final I then became second. There were 7 people in the A-final, 9 in the B-final.

Blitz

The blitz competition requires opening locks within a minute. Each participant brings their own lock. I was a bit confused here.. I’ve done such competitions before. I fondly remember the one held by SSDeV in 2003. People would give me the lock and tell me exactly how to open, because the goal here is not to bring a difficult lock, but to encourage beginning lockpickers to have success. It is a competition that should also show the audience that lockpicking is a sport that can be done by anyone. However, at this competition, there were very difficult locks, I even saw a Mul-T-Lock with the pin-in-pin system. It was no surprise that it take not long for most of the people to be out of the game, me included.

Cylinders

For me, the cylinder opening is the most interesting competition and I was looking forward to it, after the Blitz. For this competition, people take their own locks that they need to open within 5 minutes or they cannot participate. I took an Ivana Necoloc (rebranded Anker Infinity) that was used in the Toool championship finals (nobody opened it there in 15 minutes). For the first time, I prepared for a competition, because I practiced opening this lock within 5 minutes. I managed to do so here under stress as well (about 1’20) and could participate. The competition saw some very difficult locks, such as the EVVA ICS.

I made it to the A finals, even though I did not open the FAB lock. Later, I learned it has a very deep pin because of bump protection, which I somehow missed in the stress.

In the final, I openend a cheap lock (Legallais) and a Winkhaus, but left the EVVA ICS and Cisa SB (similar to Abus XP1) closed. The Cisa was almost completely picked until I made a mistake and had to start over. Jascha had the same happening to him. The last round I got Jascha’s Yale dimple lock which had dimples and sliders. I destroyed my lockpick on it, but opened it in 14’58! That, in the end, was enough for fourth place overall. I though my Ivana lock would be difficult enough to give me an advantage, but it turned out everybody in the A-finals opened it within the 15 minutes.

Freestyle

For the freestyle competition, the locks were once more provided. They needed to be opened within 5 minutes. I did not bring any electropicks or other ‘freestyle’ tools, so reverted to normal picking. I again made it to the A-finals. There, I opened 3 EVVA locks and 2 Euro Plus locks. Once I figured using the Bogoto was the way to go, I opened these in seconds, but unfortunately the first EVVA and Euro Plus took me 1’49 and 2’14. THere were 2 Mul-T-Lock interactive cylinders that “talked” to me but wouldn’ open in the end, a FAB 400 I had opened in the first round but wouldn’t open in the final and a Kaba Gemini that was only opened by the winner using an electropick (and a bit of luck). I think it was due to my time that I only became 7th here.

Overall it was a very nice competition with a good atmosphere. Thanks to the organisers!

Photos CCBY4.0 Walter @ Toool Blackbag

Continued work on MIWA/Anker 3800

October 3rd, 2022

I had spent quite some time on the Anker 3800 cylinder. This system was originally patented by the Japanese firm MIWA. It contains just 4 pins, each of them having 4 possible depths. But, there’s also 4 sliders that are magnetically operated by magnets in the key.

An Anker 3800 Eurocylinder
The keys

This system was sold in the Netherlands by Dutch firm Ankerslot and is still used in many large, high security setups.

I made a magnetometer to decode the magnets in a key or in a cylinder, made a 3D model of the key to be able to print it and figured out how to get the master key of a system. My talk at MCH’2022 is available online.

At LockCon, Han provided me with a set of five cylinders, all keyed differently but all part of the same masterkey system. No keys were provided.

I started by reading out all the magnets in the sliders. Each slider can have one or two magnets. If there are two, one is for the user key, one for the master key (we’ll ignore submasters for the moment). By knowing the magnets in the cylinder, it is possible to figure out which magnet should be in the key. For master keyed systems, there might be two possible magnets to operate the slider, where one will be in the master key, the other in the user key. With this information, I could determine the magnets in the master key and in the individual user keys (for each slider, there was only one possible magnet that would open all cylinders, so it was clear that that particular magnet should be present in the master key).

The correct bitting is another story. I had no key to start with. It is possible to create 256 keys and try them all to find all possible bittings. I was lucky however to have gotten one half cylinder.

What I did is create a bump key (so four times the deepest cut, which I will call a ‘4’), containing the correct magnets. With the bump key, I could open a cylinder and disassemble it. The half cylinder was my luck, as that can also be re-assembled. For this task, I used a 3D-printed plug follower.

This gave me all the correct bitting positions for this one cylinder (pin 1: 3 or 4, pin 2: 1 or 3, pin 3: 2 or 3, pin 4: 4). Since I did not have the original key, I did not know which depth belongs to the user key and which to the master key. The configuration allows for 2^3=8 possibilities. By creating 8 keys and trying them on the other cylinders, I could find out the master key bitting. With 3D printed keys, it is possible to print, say, a 3/1/2/4 key and if it doesn’t work, file a bit away to get a 4/1/2/4 key. That is exactly what I did and 4/1/2/4 worked on all cylinders, giving me the correct master key.

Next, I wanted to create the user keys. I could have created user keys by only using different magnets and keeping the bitting the same, but that would not give me the keys as they would originally be made for these cylinders. Since I now had a working master key, I could easily probe each pin position for all depths in sequence. I started with a 1/1/2/4 key, trying that on the 4 remaining cylinders and writing down the results, then filing it to a 2/1/2/4, trying again and then 3/1/2/4. With four keys to start with and 4*3=12 filing actions I was able to decode all the bittings.

Decoded cylinders, ‘G’ and ‘R’ are north/south poles (my magnetometer uses green/red light as an indicator)

Here, I have put squares around the magnets and bittings of the master key. If there are other bittings or magnets, they must be in the user key. The first pin of cylinder 2 for instance has possibile depths 3 and 4, and the master key has depth 4, so the user key must have depth 3. Note that in this system (and in this instance), user keys can have a bitting that can be filed down to the master key, as long as the magnets are different. Cylinder 2 shares the middle two magnets with the master key, the outer two are different.

With that information, I knew all the individual keys and printed them.

The user keys only open one cylinder each

And I have the master key.

The master key is golden of course

In fact, with this collection of cylinders, it is now also possible to make submaster keys for certain subsets of cylinders, even if that was not intended originally.

Thanks for reading! -Walter.

Photos CCBY4.0 Walter @ Toool Blackbag

LockCon 2022 – Car Lockpicking Competition

September 3rd, 2022

Our friends from Italy organized the Car lockpicking competition this year. Many car door locks, provided by ParmaKey, were picked during the competition.

First place in the competition won a Multipick ELITE pickset, an Italian bag, and a bottle of wine. Second and third place won a Multipick ELITE pickset. All winners got a trophy, and a custom engraved PACLOCK, a book on lock history, and a lock comic book.

Congrats to the winners!

Lasse got 1st place
Tom C got 2nd place
Nitiflor got 3rd place

LockCon 2022 – Lockpicking Competition

September 3rd, 2022

During the Saturday, we ran the Lockpicking competition. For the first round, we had eight tables with eight participants each. Which all attempt to pick locks in 5 minute rounds, where everyone at the table gets to try all locks. The first and second best of the table get to the next round, which was four tables of four. The best of each table got to compete in the finals.

This year the competition had a wide selection of locks, from Abus, Corbin, Kibb, Iseo, Kale, Nemef, DMS, Winkhaus, DOM, S2, ERA, and Zeiss-Ikon, just to name a few.

First place in the competition won a custom engraved Abloy Classic lockpick by Jaakko and a Sparrows voucher of €100. Second place won a mh electronic lock bumping kit and a Sparrows voucher of €200. The third place won a set of Multipick LockNoob essentials lockpick kit. All winners got a trophy, and a custom engraved PACLOCK.

Congrats to the winners!

Oli got 1st place
Torsten got 2nd place
ImSchatten360 got 3rd place


LockCon 2022 – Impressioning Competition

September 3rd, 2022

At LockCon we ran the Impressioning competition on the usual C83 locks. (Abus, Thanks for sponsoring!) For the first round everyone has 1h to attempt the keyed a like locks. 12 people opened the locks in 20 minutes, this time. The best six went to the A Final, the subsequent six to the B Final.

In due time, we expect to publish a report on the key bittings, pins, and the times for each lock.

First place in the competition won a custom engraved Abloy Classic lockpick by Jaakko, and a Sparrows voucher of €100. Second place won a Multipick Artimis electropick. The third place won a set of Multipick Elite 27 lockpickset. All winners got a trophy, and a custom engraved PACLOCK, and an M&C pinning mat.

Congrats to the winners!

Jos opened 4 locks and got 1st place
Torsten opened 3 locks and got 2nd place
Lasse opened one lock and got 3rd place
Results A Final
Results B Final

LockCon 2022 – Toool Competition

September 3rd, 2022

Toool NL has a competition with ~25 locks, which can be picked during Toool meetings. Each member times his opening attempts and points are awarded according to opening times. The competition ran from LockCon to LockCon, which was a bit longer than a year, this time.

Competition archive from 2004: https://toool.nl/competitie/

Competition from 2020: https://toool.nl/competitie2020/

First place in the competition won a custom engraved Abloy Classic lockpick by Jaakko. Second place won a Multipick Kronos electropick. The third place won a set of Multipick dimple lockpicks. All winners got a trophy, and a custom engraved PACLOCK.

Congrats to the winners!

Walter got 1st place with 250 points
Tom got 2nd place with 176 points
Jos got 3rd price with 160 points