30 Under 30: Fred Kuhar

Fred Kuhar, 20 years old, works for Fox Chase Lock & Key, Inc. in Philadelphia which is owned by Ron Marcinkowski. Ron has been a customer and friend for many years and was enthusiastic about his young employee sitting down with me for this interview. For...


Your generation seems to be much more versed in the world of electronic gadgets. Are you involved yet with that part of the industry?

We do some access control systems, a few a month. Right now it’s more of a Ron thing although I’ve helped with it. I’m sure I’ll do it eventually but I’d like to master some other things first.


What have you done so far that you look forward to being more proficient at?

I’m trying to work on my picking skills. I took a class on it and I’ve really seen improvement but it’s still pretty difficult. In the class he taught what to feel for; you go for the hardest pin first (most spring tension) and then go from there. That made a big improvement.


How about impressioning?

That was also covered in the same class along with a little time on bumping. I did learn how to impression but I don’t get very many opportunities to try it because so many things these days are just replaced. Once in a while we get something in the shop we have to fit the existing key to and then I can impression.


I can’t think of many things that feel better than a cylinder being picked, especially when you’re first learning. Do you agree?

Ron got upset with me recently. I went out to open a customer’s garage door and replace the cylinder because he lost his keys. It was 95 degrees and the door was in the direct sunlight so I drilled it off and swapped out the cylinders in 30 seconds.

When I told Ron, he responded that I should’ve tried to pick it first because it would be a confidence booster. He was upset that I didn’t try and not that I wound up drilling it.


I remember being left alone in a shop pretty early on in my locksmithing career. Are you in here alone now?

Yeah, pretty much I’m always alone now. Technically I’m part time until we get a truck for me to use full time. I’m here three days during the week since we’re closed on Saturdays although I can schedule jobs for Saturdays if I have the opportunity. Sometimes Ron will send me to do the easier jobs like rekeys and he’ll stay in the shop.


What do your friends think about you working as a locksmith? Do you remember what you thought about locksmithing before you learned what it was really like?

My friends think it’s pretty cool. I’ve gotten a few calls to come help them out. I like to tell my friends I’m going to smith some locks.

Before I began working here, while I was still baby sitting his kids, Ron called to ask if I would come help him move a safe. He got a kick out of me being so surprised that this was part of locksmithing. I didn’t realize safes were a part of it. I also didn’t see access control as being part of what we would do but Ron explained that locksmiths do many things these days.


In your short time in this industry, have you seen how people are moving away from using mechanical stuff and why you’ll need to keep up to do well?

I’ve seen that other locksmiths are moving away from automotive stuff while we’ve been keeping up with it. There are few locksmiths who can do all new car keys. We’re able to do the 2011 Fords and the high security keys (Fred points to the Tri-Code machine). The funny thing is that I’m actually better at using it than Ron. When we first got it, Ron was on the road a lot so I got the majority of the chances to use it plus younger people have been exposed more to things technological.


Have you worked with exit devices and door closers as well?

Yes, I actually have a lot of trouble with exit devices, I don’t know why. I’d like to think I can handle most things but I’m still having trouble. I haven’t had to install one yet but just rekeying one or making an adjustment has given me fits.

One of our customers has a Dor-O-Matic one with the gear in it. I had to just replace the gear portion and I must have been there close to three hours. I was back there a couple of weeks ago because the gear jumped a couple of teeth and the key couldn’t be removed in the unlocked position, and this time I did the whole thing in about 15 minutes. I’ve adjusted a few door closers and helped Ron install them but haven’t done it by myself yet.

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