Asking locksmiths for their views is like rolling the dice; you're never sure what you'll come up with. In fact, if you ask 10 locksmiths for an opinion on something, you'll likely get 11 answers. When trying to untangle the issue of tool preference, they're even more opinionated.
I recently decided to try to answer a new locksmith's question: "What tools are the most essential for a locksmith?" I thought to myself that I simply would take a survey of locksmiths who I deal with on a regular basis, combine their informative suggestions and come up with a simple little list. Surely these security professionals would agree on something as basic as their favorite tools. Hah!
After extensive research and surveying thousands of locksmiths around the world (would you believe dozens of locksmiths around the Midwest?), I came up with the following list of tools a locksmith reaches for on a constant basis. In many cases, two locksmiths in the same shop had different opinions on the brand or model of a tool. For example, there are many manufacturers and styles of picking guns -manual, electric, painted, chrome, fixed, adjustable, etc. Other tools are very unique and specific. There may be only one brand to fit your needs.
This survey threw out the common hand tools such as drills, screwdrivers and hammers - you know, the stuff we use all the time. Instead, we concentrated on items that would be found mainly in the toolbox or tool kit of someone in the locksmith profession. Pin kits, key machines and key blanks were also not considered because they usually aren't found in the toolbox category.
For the purposes of this article, I chose the most-often mentioned brand to represent the type of tool selected. In many cases, a variety of manufacturers offer similar or identical tools. Sometimes there is a considerable price difference between competing brands; more often, there is not. Likewise, there are material differences. Follow tools, for instance, come in solid or hollow varieties and can be made from brass, steel, aluminum, nylon or plastic.
Locksmiths being strong-minded, there probably are fewer than two locksmiths in the entire reading audience that will agree with this entire list. I do bet, however, that you have many of these tools somewhere in your arsenal. If there are some tools shown here that you've never heard about, maybe you're missing out on an easier way to do things.
In reverse order, here are the most popular tools, according to my survey:
12. The Keedex K-22 Lever Opening Tool
This unique piece of bent metal rod is a really great idea, yet simple. By reading and following the instructions (yes, people actually do use tools without doing that), you can quickly and easily open most locked doors outfitted with levers. Regardless of any high-security lock cylinder installed on the outside, the inside lever of any lock must unlock or open the door simply by turning it. If someone were on the inside of the locked door, they could simply open it. This ingenious little tool is a piece of strategically formed wire and a loop of nylon cord. The working end of the tool is fed under the door bottom, rotated upward, slid into position and leveraged to turn the inner lever. Suggested dealer price is about $16. For more information, contact your favorite locksmith distributor or visit www.keedex.com.
11. The PRO-LOK MCOT Under-the-Window Tool
Often described as the slim-jim of the '90s, the under-the-window car-opening tool was invented by PRO-LOK (yes, they have the U.S. patent to prove it). The tool is fed into the door between the window glass and weather stripping. It is lowered, rotated, and raised until the tip is on the inside of the car. The tip is then used to manipulate the lock button or door handle to open the car. Like the slim-jim, the MCOT (Multi-Car-Opening-Tool) has undergone a vast number of improvements and variations since its introduction. New tools with wider mouths, longer reaches, different applications and knurled tips have come onto the market. Almost all car-opening tool manufacturers offer their own version of the under-the-window tool. This type of tool won't work on everything, but when it is applicable, it avoids the problems associated with manipulating linkages inside the door cavity. Suggested dealer price is about $13. For more information contact your favorite locksmith distributor or visit www.pro-lok.com.