Essential Tools For Today’s Locksmith

Steve Young shares his top 10 tools in three categories: automotive, residential/commercial and safe and vault servicing.

Face Cap Removal Pliers – these are also known as “Cap Ripper Pliers” and they are available from almost any distributor. They are manufactured by Channellock Tools and the part number is 748. You may also find them distributed by “Lock Technology” under the part number LT450 at many distributors. Regardless of where you get them, they are invaluable for quickly and cleaning removing replaceable face caps.

The Determinator – These tools are custom made by “Determinator Tom” and they can really save you a lot of time on a variety of jobs. They are essentially impressioning aids that help you make a key quickly by determining which cuts on the key are high or low. Once you learn how to use the tools, you should be able to make a working door key in less than five minutes for most vehicles. There are over forty different Determinator sets available now and new sets are added as new vehicle lock systems are introduced. You can buy just the sets you think you’ll need or the entire assortment. The prices are reasonable and with practice, the tools will make your job a lot easier.


Adams Rite Tool – The LKM237 from Lockmasters, Inc. takes advantage of a weakness in some of the most popular lock systems used on aluminum frame glass doors. The hooked end of the tool can be inserted into the latch and used to operate the same mechanism that the key uses to unlock the door. This tool is a real time saver when you can use it, especially on double doors. If a latch guard is in place, or the door fits too tightly, the tool cannot be used. But, on some single doors without a latch guard, you can use an air wedge to spread the gap far enough to use the tool. I also use this tool as a method of selling latch guards. After the owner has seen how quickly you can unlock the door with this tool, they will usually want you to install a latch guard before you leave.

HPC Hollow Follower Set – This is a very handy set of followers that takes up almost no room in the truck or toolbox. I have had and lost more followers in the last 30 years than I care to think about. The darn things seem to roll away on errands of their own with absolutely no notice. With this hollow follower set, I have a full set of followers, including one for those weird “peanut” cylinders I still run into occasionally, tucked inside my tool box. When I worked for the Navy, parking on base was often far from where I needed to be, and by carrying this set of followers and a LAB Mini Kit (LMK003) in my toolbox, I was often able to do the job without having to go back to the truck.

Ace Breaker – This clever tool, the ABK-01 from Aable, makes short work of almost any tubular lock. You can usually open a tubular lock in less than a minute with this tool, if you are willing to destroy the lock. I’ve drilled tubular locks by hand and used hole saws to cut the pins, but this tool makes the job very simple and straightforward. The set has three major components: a breaker tool to remove the hardened center post (if there is one), a drill guide, and a drill bit that is just the right size.

AK-U-Temp Installation Templates – These sturdy templates solve a lot of problems. In my early days as a locksmith, I installed a boatload of deadbolts and I wish that I had one of these back then. They are light weight, durable, and inexpensive, and if you use them correctly, you’ll never drill a hole in the wrong place. I’m a big fan of simplicity and these things are about as simple as you can get, and they do a great job.

Hinge Doctor Kit – These are very cleverly designed tools for adjusting worn or sagging hinges. As an institutional locksmith, when I was working for the Navy, I spent a lot of time trying to keep overworked and abused hinges doing their job under tough conditions. If I had been able to use the Hinge Doctor back then, I would have been a very happy man. Four Hinge Doctor tools can be purchased individually or in a set. They are:

The HA1, for commercial hinges

The HA2, for residential hinges

The HA4, for large ball-bearing hinges

The HA4, for institutional style hinges

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