Archive for May, 2008

Mission accomplished

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Yesterday we accepted an offer we could not refuse.

bi-axial key cutter

It was not cheap, but we managed to buy a medeco bi-axial key cutting machine and some bi-axial locks and blanks. Very nice material for the Dutch Open in Sneek.

The machine must be kept out of reach with children, as the metal particles that come from the keys are very sharp and nasty. I had to move the machine to a place with a concrete floor because cutting a few keys almost ruined my carpet 😉

But finally having locks, blanks and a key cutter will allow us to verify Marc Tobias his claims and play around with the system ourselves. And it is a great asset for the Dutch Open in Sneek ….

Now all we need is an ARX pinning kit to make things complete. Anyone got one for sale?

Fools, t.o.o.l.s and secret missions …

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Locksport is really getting somewhere in the US.

We see some interesting copies of concepts we know all so well, and names that vaguely sound familiar …

Take for instance ‘Fools‘ (Fraternal Order Of Locksport). Looking on their website it is a small initiative, but hey … so were the European locksports groups when they started.


An other name that rings a bell is T.O.O.L. (Tennessee Organization of Locksmiths). Admitted, they are not a lockport group, but it is funny to see they coincidentally picked that name 😉

For now this short blogposting: I am currently busy writing a column for 2600, and Han and I are on a secret mission today (preparing for Sneek already!). More on that soon …

special deal in ‘off the hook’

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Tonight Marc Tobias will be the special guest in the “Off the hook” radio show.

Topics covered are his new book, and the role lockpicking is going to play at the ‘last hope conference’.

And on top of that, some special offers will be made that are only valid during the show!!

“Off The Hook” airs every Wednesday night at 7:00 PM EST in New York City on listener supported WBAI 99.5 FM. It can also be followed by this audio stream, or as a high quality podcast (only available one week from now).

Silly experiments

Monday, May 19th, 2008

silly experiments

Even tough I never met him, I am starting to like Ian Cecil.
In the comments of the previous posting read had a different theory about what actually happens when you bump a lock.

This is what he wrote:

Every theory even so called facts have to be challenged.

So here is an experiment everyone can do.

1. Make a cutaway cylinder so you can see the top pins.

2. When you hit the Bump Key, what would you expect to see? The current theory would suggest you would see the top pins fly up above the shear line, just for a millisecond. Also you would see the top pin with a large bottom pin fly up further?

3. So keeping the cylinder perfectly lined up bump away…

4. Anyone with a high speed camera should be able to photograph the pins separated. (personally i have not seen this). They only separate when slight turning pressure is applied no matter how hard you hit it.

I would also suggest that the practice of turning the bump key just at the right time is also not correct. It is better to have a constant pressure like picking.
No pressure at all dose not cause any separation of the pins. so no point trying to get the timing correct.

Now, I like this way of thinking. Never assume anything, test and see for yourself. It is the only way to learn and find out new ideas.

So I followed Ian’s advice and assembled a cut-away lock.

And Ian is right. If you just hit the key, you do not see the pins move. But …. does this mean the pins do not move?
I think it just happens too fast for you to see, and maybe the blow of the hammer on the key causes your eye to close for a split second …

Unfortunately I do not have access to a high speed camera, so now I had to figure a way to ‘capture’ events that occur in a split second.

In my first experiment I used a thin piece of wire and bended it in a L shape. Then I just hung it in the top of the spring, the
The little wire was so short it did not made contact with the top pin. Yet, when I bumped without turning pressure, the L shaped wire jumped right out of the plug.

So something was moving, and I suspected the pin to push it out. But in theory it could also be the spring.

My next experiment was using grease. I greased up the springs and clearly photographed the cut away lock. This is the ‘before’ picture.

After that I hit the key ten times (without tensioning the key), and the result is the image on top of this posting. As you can see, all the grease was pushed out severely (here is a ‘before/after’ image). And most interesting on pin 1 and 5, there was now grease on the side of the top pins!

The fact there is a grease residue on the pins prove to me the pins did travel. And you can also see by the way the grease was pushed out of the chamber.

Of course I could be wrong, but for now I am still convinced the bumping theory works as advertised ….

Golden (bump proof) pins

Monday, May 12th, 2008

bump proof?

For a long time Han and I are doing tests for various lock manufacturers. At the beginning, most of the requests were concerns if the ‘bump proof’ pins they came up with were really bump proof. And most of the time they were not.

On average it took three rounds of testing (and back to the drawing board) before we could not bump open the lock anymore. In some instances we supported the manufacturer with some technical advice to really make the lock bump proof (or highly bump-resistant).

And of course we have been thinking about designing our own bump-proof pin. We labeled it ‘the search for the golden pin’.

In our view, the golden pin has to have (at least) the following properties:

1) Prevent bumping one hundred percent (bump-proof, must withstand ‘advanced bumping’)
2) If possible, make other kind of attacks more difficult (like picking, impressioning and decoding)
3) The solution must contain not too many parts and must be easy to manufacture
4) Easy to Add to a classic 5 pin tumbler lock without modifying the core or house (too much)
5) If possible the ‘golden pin’ must be implementable in dimple and or other pin-tumbler style locks
6) Free of patents

Han and I have been partly successful in this search. And still we are having new ideas and brainstorm/try out sessions on a regular basis.

But ever since our trip to Vienna, our way of looking at the problem has changed.

We learned that if you ever want to have your invention implemented by a lock manufacturer, stop searching for a ‘golden pin’, and start searching for a ‘golden key’!

That is right, lock manufacturers are under constant pressure to come up with new patents on keys. A ‘patented key’ is required in all serious projects, and when a patent is ‘end of life’, so is the commercial success of the lock. Or actually a couple of years before the expiration of the patent (after all, who wants to buy something that will lose it’s ‘copy protection’ in three of four years?).

In a way it is a very healthy system. It keeps lock companies innovative. They can not just design a lock once and live of that design for ever. It forces them to keep investing in engineering.

The flip side it that great locking systems all of a sudden become ‘worthless’ because of the patent expiration. And in some instances that is not fair if you look at the level of security the lock and keys are still providing.

Looking at our mailbox, we are not the only ones looking for the golden pin….

A couple of times per month we receive mail from people who came up with pins or solutions against bumping. In almost all cases the six above properties are not met.

One of the last mails I recently received was from a gentleman called Ian Cecil from Australia. His invention is somewhat smart and makes use of the ‘floating pin’ principle. With that I mean that one of the pins is not reaching the ‘9’ position. We have first seen this solution in CES locks where they simply did not drill the hole in the plug all the way. And other floating pins can be found in systems like GeGe Pextra, Nemef and Master padlocks.

But before I take you to all the solutions we found in various locks, back to Ian:

Ian cam up with the following idea: Use a short spring that is connected to the ‘stopper plug’ and the ‘bottom pin’. And the bottom pin is by magnetic force attracting the top pin. If you keep the top pin small (0-3), the bump key can not make contact and obviously does not work. As I said, a nice invention but far from ‘bump proof’. The lock can still be opened by ‘advanced bumping’.

How does advanced bumping works? If I know there is a floating pin inside a lock, all that is required is a set of probe keys to determine the position and minimum depth of the floating pin. And once that info is decoded all I need to do is cut a 99949 key and open the lock.

Still, Ian makes a lot of sense on his website and shows he does know what he is talking about. Who knows, maybe he will come up with a ‘golden key’ one day ….

Light in the darnkess

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

lockpick light - photo (C) by Charlotte Wels

We are in the process of having a special pickset designed for ‘the last Hope‘ conference, and are thinking of other cool gadgets/merchandise we can bring with our logo on.

lockpick light

Even though the ‘LED ring‘ is a nice gadget, it might send out a wrong signal having it handed out with the Toool logo stamped on it.

The last thing I want to do is give our hobby a bad name or bad reputation. And images like the one above certainly can be interpreted wrong. But the idea of using an LED ring for picking locks is just too funny not to mention.

And they are pretty cheap too (mirror) …