Archive for April, 2008

Nato flightcases and their locks ….

Monday, April 28th, 2008

I admit, I have got a lock fetish. Especially when it concerns government or military locks.
But for readers of this blog it might even be the reason for visiting here ….

nato unclassified suitcase

Well … Yesterday at some sort of flea market in Amsterdam I found some interesting suitcases.

Some with labels and stickers that caught my attention.
Triggers like: Nato unclassified, Nato Awacs, and various other stickers.

But the best was yet to come: some cases had locks on them, with complicated looking keyways!

So getting the cases for 10 euro each was not a problem and I immediately took them to my favorite locksmith. He studied the lock for a minute orso, and then tried a DOM blank (silca DM28)…. It was the correct blank …

flight case locks

On one hand I was happy he had blanks for me, on the other hand I was a little disappointed the locks were not extreme high security and had restricted profiles.

dom locks

Needless to say I went home and tried to make a key for the locks via impressioning. But that was much harder as I thought as the plastic from the side of the case the lock was mounted in absorbed my movements.

So I first had to pick the small five pin locks in order to open the cases, then remove the lock and mount them in a vice.

But after that it went relatively smoothly and a correct key was made in a couple of minutes.

Now I just need to find a purpose for the damn cases …..

* Update: in the comments, Agent X is asking for more images of the cases.
Here they are, enjoy: cases1.jpg, cases2.jpg, cases3.jpg and label.jpg

Going to Vienna with Han

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

I am on my way with Han Fey to visit some lock factories in Vienna.

If all goes well I should be able to shoot some unique video footage … if they allow that …
Or maybe Han and I will collect some nice locks to write about.

If there are people out there in Vienna reading this and want to meet up, just send me a mail (barry (at)

Furthermore I got persuaded to write a forward of Marc Tobia’s his book on Medeco locks, and it takes up some of my time.

The challenge is to write something fair and balanced, and not get carried away too much. I will manage and I hope to make the deadline.

And on top of that I have to send in corrections of things about me in the book. Unfortunately that also is some work too …

More coming soon …

Mysterious ‘key’ ….

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

We have another mystery….

what is it?

A couple of weeks ago a locksmith mailed us some images and asked us if we could identify the special ‘key’ you see above.

Little is known, and little information is given to us. So it might be another police investigation that is stuck …

The key seems to be made of two parts that can slide. At first it looks like a change key to a safe lock, however I do not think it is.

I honestly have no idea what it is, but do want to know the answer by now … does any of my readers know?

High resolution images can be found here: image1 image2 image3 and image4

The first one with the correct answer in the comments will receive a Toool pickset!

Han Fey’s article on ASSA TWIN

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Visitors of Toool are being treated well lately.

First there was the article on Master’s new Axis padlock by Michael Huebler, and now there is a new article by Han Fey.

ASSA’s TWIN sidebar system makes it very difficult to pick or otherwise manipulate the lock. Combined with it’s extreme tolerances, the lock it is one of the higher quality locks on the market. And one of my all time favorites.

As always, Han covers the lock deeply, answering many questions. Questions you did not even knew you had ….

I hope you enjoy assa-twin-part1.pdf (2 MB) … I know I did!

assa twin special 7 pin edition?

And Han does have some questions too … who knows more about a seven pin version of the lock?

(* Update: fixed broken link)

Picking the lock of a four wheel Naval Enigma

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

Well … I did not actually pick the lock. I used simplified impressioning to create a working key.

Toool Eindhoven

The nice thing about Toool is that it attracts interesting people. Some of these people come to learn about locks and lockpicking, others come with interesting lock related problems.

Last Tuesday’s Toool Eindhoven meeting was no exception. It was the day someone (who wants to remain anonymous) brought an Enigma machine and wanted me to make a proper key for it.

For those unfamiliar with the enigma: it’s a (by now) famous encryption device used by the Germans during World War II (wikipedia).

It is pretty rare device, and the most common place to find one is in a special museum or in history books. Yet someone brought one to a Toool meeting and gave us all the opportunity to have a close look.

The reason the machine was brought to Toool was because the key was missing. The only thing the owner did have was a key from a different machine that worked on the lock once.

For me it was a great advantage to have a key that is known to work at least once, as it would make my job a lot easier …

sealed screws

Under normal conditions I would just remove the lock and examine the levers to cut/file a proper key. However, at this device all screws were still sealed with a special kind of paint. The owner of the box was real keen on keeping this seal intact, and I can’t blame him for that. One other security feature that caught my eye was that the lock had the serial number of the device stamped in the housing.

My approach to make a key was relatively simple. I knew from emailing with the owner what type of key to expect, and came prepared with a range of blank keys.

At the club I filed one of the blanks down to same hight as the key he brought with him, except on my key all cuts were about one millimeter higher.

sealed screws

After filing this key, I used a marker to ‘paint’ the surface of the key red. When the ink dried, I inserted the key into the lock and gently tried to turn it. It did not rotate all the way, but already opened the lock!

Looking at the key I found that the ink was scratched on two positions. Filing down these two positions a little made the key fully turn and operate the lock. Still one more round of filing was needed to make the lock operate smoothly.

Maybe under normal circumstances no big deal, but the uniqueness of this device made it very memorable for me!
And I sure was happy and relieved it went so smoothly.

Of course we had many questions for the owner of this device. The main question was where he got it, and how he managed to get it. His answer sounded somewhat familiar: By writing on the internet about various encryption devices, and publishing about reverse engineering some of them, he became a known source of interesting and rare information. And because of his high google ratings on scrambling devices, he came in touch with lots of other people who share the same interest. Someone who owned an enigma machine contacted him because of these publications, and offered it for sale. The rest is history….

This approach shows interesting similarities with how we run Toool. We too benefit from the fact people know to find us because of our various publications and known expertise.

Of course we wanted to know if other kind of locks were known, and we learned only Naval Enigma machines were equipped with locks. The standard naval ‘three wheel’ device even had two locks. The one brought to Toool was a special ‘four wheel’ enigma used in submarines.

Worldwide around 200 of these machines are known to still exist. Around 30 to 50 are four wheel naval ones. And we were all pretty pleased to have one of them at Toool Eindhoven! (like Walter, Jos and Geert-Jan)

A nice software version of the Enigma can be found here
(and sorry guys, I did not manage to ‘crack’ the messages in the previous comments with it)

Teaser … more on Blackbag Sunday

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Wow! Yesterday visited Toool Eindhoven, and had a very, very good time.
On ‘Blackbag Sunday’ you can read the whole story.

Or maybe someone can crack the puzzle by identifying the image below …

teaser ...

You know it’s april fools day when ….

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

You know it’s april fools day when some of your friends installed an extra security add-on on your door to make you feel more secure ….