The Fine Line

Dec. 20, 2011

Locksmithing has always been an aftermarket business. We are rarely asked by contractors to furnish or install hardware at a new construction site.  Instead, locksmiths are the first ones called after building construction is completed and the owner either finds some hardware malfunction or hardware which does not meet owner requirements.  Hardware problems can either arise immediately or years after the building is constructed.

When a hardware problem occurs, we must have a solution.  Many hardware problems are not caused by poor hardware design, but rather by human error. If keys or combinations are lost, a locksmith must have some bypass method at his or her disposal in order to solve the problem.

Locks are basically designed to protect against theft of contents. Lock bypass methods are in direct opposition to the security which lock manufacturers are trying to design into their products.  In case of a lockout, there must be a way in. It may be simple manipulation such as with lock picks and a tension wrench or it may be a drill and destroy procedure. Almost every lockout problem has a different solution. Locksmiths draw on previous experiences to solve each new lockout venture.  

Lock manufacturers are in business to sell products.  Locksmiths often pride themselves on finding ways to bypass a lock product without physical damage. They then put the same existing lock back into service in operating condition. In most cases lock manufacturers would rather see lock replacement as the better option. 

Depending on the simplicity of the lock bypass method developed by the locksmith community, there can sometimes be a fine line between a secure and a not-so-secure lock product.  As simple bypass methods have been devised, lock manufacturers have always risen to the occasion and designed better, more secure products. As example, vehicle locks during the 1930s often used a simple five wafer locking system. As methods were developed to easily defeat five wafer locks, manufacturers added more wafers, then added sidebar security and double-sided keys with opposing wafers.  Sidewinder key systems were next followed by the electronic vehicle security systems of today.

It will be interesting to see what tomorrow will bring as the catch-up game between the locksmith industry and lock manufacturers continues.