Thursday, October 23, 2014

Make a Set of Progressive Locks

First off, a definition: a set of progressive locks is a set of locks with an increasing number of pins. They are a great way to gain confidence and learn to pick locks. A full set typically consists of five locks with 1 pin, 2 pins, 3 pins, 4 pins, and 5 pins, respectively.  

The 1 pin lock can be opened with just a stern look, but the 5 pin lock will take a bit of effort, and the ones in between... well, you get the idea.

Over this past weekend, we changed the locks in our new house and I was faced with discarding 5 locks. Hmmm... 5 locks... 5 pins in a lock... waitaminute, let's make a set of progressive locks!

Here's how to turn Kwikset locks into progressives:

  • Small flat head screwdriver for prying
  • Tweezers
  • Needle nose pliers
  • A set of lock picks (for testing!)
  • A bunch of spare locks that you own

1. Take off the outer ring and discard.

2. Then let's remove the post that sticks out the back of the lock - this moves the deadbolt, but isn't at all necessary for a practice lock, and will only get in the way.

Remove the retaining washer with a small flathead, and pull it out most of the way

Then, the post slides out easily.
Replace the retaining washer by pressing it back in place with your needle nose pliers.

3. Gently and slowly remove the top retaining clip. Keep a finger on top to prevent the springs from bouncing out.
Not shown:  a finger on top of that retaining clip to stop things from springing apart.

4. With tweezers, remove the springs, then shake out the pins.
Be gentle, those springs are delicate.

There are two kinds of pins: upper and lower
My lock, blown up view

The upper pins are all the same size and are flat on both ends.
the lower pins are beveled on both ends and come in different sizes.

5. With tweezers, place lower pin, upper pin and spring into each hole you want a pin to be in, starting with the hole closest to the keyway.

Example: for a 3 pin lock, you'd put pins and springs in the three holes nearest the opening of the keyway and leave the rest empty. For a 1, you'd only put pins and a spring into the first hole.
What a #3 lock looks like, note the three springs under my forefinger

6. Gently press the metal retaining clip back onto the lock with your finger. You should feel it pop into place.

7. Label your lock with the number of pins (or skip this, if you want it to be a secret)

8. Repeat until you have a full set of 1 through 5 (hint: you don't need to do anything to the 5 lock)
Bonus step #9: With the screwdriver, remove the metal face bit because it has sharp edges and annoys your fingers after a while.  Don't forget to re-label your lock.

I discovered that there's something very rewarding about creating a set of progressive locks and opening them in series while watching Boardwalk Empire and drinking a glass of Death's Door gin. It felt very gentleman-adventurer.

Total cost: either $0 or $125 (for my house's new locks), depending on how you count, and it took me 30 minutes of fumbling around with tweezers to accomplish this.
Oh, and a hat tip to the effervescent Schuyler Towne for not only being wonderful, but encouraging me to be curious about locks. If this post piques your interest in locks, lock picking, or anything lock-related, do check out his work here.