Best of 2020: Locksmith Tools & Trade Items

Dec. 2, 2020

Although 2020 was a relatively lackluster year for business and pretty much a disaster for the economy, the world didn’t come to a complete halt. There was plenty of action within the security industry where new products are concerned during the year.

Locksmiths sell products, but their mission is to provide security, using whatever tools are best suited for each client. When assessing products, we noticed an emphasis on time- and labor-saving solutions that enable locksmiths to perform tasks faster, more reliably and more economically. New technology, or rethinking the application of existing technology, typically was involved.

Our product selection spans the locksmith industry and includes products for residential and commercial applications. Some even have been regarded as game changers.

Original Lishi residential picks

Original Lishi 2-in-1 tools have been on the market for years and have been a boon for automotive locksmiths. In the past year, Original Lishi introduced and expanded its line of picks to include models aimed at residential and commercial keyways. The new line of 2-in-1 tools began with the KW1 Kwikset and the SC1 Schlage picks. These are probably the two most common residential keyways in use in North America. 

After the first releases, Original Lishi introduced 2-in-1 picks for several other common applications, including:

  • KW5 for six-pin locks
  • SC4 for six-pin locks
  • AM5 for American padlocks that use the AM5 keyway
  • M1 for Master Lock padlocks that use the M1 keyway
  • BE2 for BEST locks that use the “A” keyway (six and seven pin)

In addition, several variants of these picks have the hinged turning lever mounted on the opposite side for locks that are mounted in such a way that the standard picks are difficult to use. These picks have the letter “L” after the part number. 

Editor-in-Chief Gale Johnson notes in the report, “Top Pick for residential Lock Picking,” ( that Original Lishi  had moved lock-picking to a new level for locks that contain vertical keyways.

The reason: Lockpicking isn’t a perfect art. It’s a skill that’s acquired through knowledge, experience and mechanical aptitude, and it’s impossible to predict how long it would take to pick a lock.

A Lishi 2-in-1 tool uses a technique referred to as positional lock-picking (rather than the more common random raking across a row of tumblers), which allows each tumbler to be moved individually to the open shearline position.

Mo Ali, vice president of product development for American Key Supply, which is one of several U.S. distributors of Original Lishi products, says the tools work well, because they allow locksmiths to “not only accurately feel their way through the subtleties of the picking process, but also accurately measure the proper depths by reading the space between the contact point of the wafer and the cylinder wall.”

As far as moving into residential or commercial locks, Ali says, “why should the automotive guys have all the fun?” He acknowledges that the company had its work cut out for it when trying to tackle Schlage or Kwikset.

“Some of the locks in these lines were built in ways where they just were not meant to be serviced at all,” he says.

Now they can be.

One note: Original Lishi picks are prone to illegal copying. The genuine article has an engraving of Zhi Qin Li, the tool’s inventor, on the tool and, if new, comes with an unscratched verification sticker on the back. We have found that fakes can be faulty.

Fortunately, Original Lishi has an extensive network of distributors that can provide you with genuine products and support. Lishi also has online resources, including a Facebook page where you can find demonstration videos.

More info:

LockCaddy Caddy Carrier, GO-NO-GO Service Tool

Wes McKenney, CRL, CIL and founder of LockCaddy Products, continues to develop products that aim to help locksmiths to save time and  money, particularly with respect to cylinder servicing.

The Caddy Carrier is one such product.

Pinning high-security cylinders and securing sidebars, sliders and security leg pins can cause real problems if parts are lost. Lock Caddys are meant to keep those pieces organized and secure. The new Caddy Carrier is, essentially, an open “carrying case” for standard Lock Caddys, which slide into the carrier.

Meanwhile, the GO-NO-GO tool is used during the pinning process of interchangeable-core (IC) cylinders. If you pin IC cylinders, you know that the proper stack height is 23, and it’s imperative that each chamber has the correct number of pins and chips to achieve exactly 23. After you load a core, before capping, the GO-NO-GO tool helps you to measure the cylinders for the uniform required stack height.

The tool works on six- or seven-pin cores, including BEST original, Falcon, GMS, KSP, Medeco, Schlage and Yale, and works on A2, A3 and A4 pinning.

More info:

LockTech Kwikset SmartKey Decoder

Locksmiths frequently are unable to pick Kwikset SmartKey cylinders, so it’s necessary to drill them, creating an expensive service call. The folks at LockTech identified the problem and created a solution: the Kwikset SmartKey Decoder.

The decoder is essentially a handheld Wi-Fi camera that has a specially designed tip made to slide into a keyway and deliver a clear image back to a mobile app on the user’s cellphone or tablet. An integrated LED lights the inside of the lock cylinder. The design never involves movement between the camera, mirror or reading area, so a fixed focal length is attained.

Pretty nifty.

We interviewed Brian Capehart, a locksmith at LockTech for more:

Locksmith Ledger (LL): Tell us about your company.

Brian Capehart (BC): We started as a family-run business in 2007 that provides locksmith services, primarily focusing on the automotive side. By having several motorcycle dealer accounts, we soon realized there were no decoders for motorcycles and decided to design some for our personal use as well as offer to the locksmith industry. Currently, we manufacture locksmith tools as well as operate as a local locksmith business. Most of our products focused on the automotive side; however, recently, we expanded that to residential with the new Kwikset SmartKey Decoder. 

LL: The video we’ve seen explains the tool very well, but what more should locksmiths know about it?

BC: It’s up to the user on whether he wants to read from the front (position 1) to the back or from the back (position 5). You just have to make sure you cut the key the same way you read the lock. Also, there are three basic modes of decoding the lock:

  • Manually writing the wafer depths as you get to them through the live feed.
  • Taking still images of the screen while lined up on each wafer.
  • Recording video and rewatching it back in the comfort of your van.

LL: Why is the Kwikset SmartKey Decoder considered to be a game changer by locksmiths?

BC: In my opinion, there are several reasons for this reference. One of the biggest, I feel, was the decision to put the light inside the keyway, eliminating the glare from light reflecting off the front of the lock into the eyes, which is common using a traditional scope. Even the mirror isn’t exactly at a 45-degree angle. This was done to reduce reflection from the wafers themselves back into the camera. Another reason probably would be the alignment spacers, which makes the learning curve extremely small.

LL: What problems does this device solve?

BC: On these locks, the most common means of opening in a lockout situation would require drilling the lock and replacing it. Drilling out locks and informing the customer of added hardware replacement expenses usually does not make for happy customers. The decoder also doesn’t require the user to be hunched over looking into a lock or picking a lock, meaning the user is a lot more aware of his surroundings while working, which in this day and age is always a good thing. As many of us are no longer spring chickens, deteriorating eyesight is a fact of life for many of us. The decoder provides a large color video image of the inside of the lock that otherwise would require good eyesight as well as the user being in awkward positions.

More info:

Lucky Line Signal Blocking Key Hider, Touchless Door Opener and Stylus

Lucky Line Products released two notable products in 2020. These aren’t aimed at locksmiths per se but locksmiths’ customers. The first is the Signal Blocking Key Hider. This key hider features fabric that blocks radio-frequency (RF) signals and prevents their transmission from hi-tech key fobs.

Smart keys and smart key fobs constantly emit an RF signal that allows a vehicle’s doors to unlock and the “Push to Start” button to work. The Signal Blocking Key Hider prevents that and, thus, the unintentional unlocking of a vehicle and potential car theft. You simply place your smart key or smart key fob into the pouch to block the signal.

It also prevents relay attacks. In a relay attack, thieves amplify the signal from the key fob to trick the vehicle’s keyless entry system into thinking the key is in the thieves’ hand. Placing the key fob inside the pouch prevents hackers from acquiring your wireless key-fob signal and stealing your vehicle.

The key hider can be mounted onto any secure and clean surface on your car and is sealed with the strong hook-and-loop flap closure. After it’s mounted, the pouch can be attached or detached when necessary.

The Signal Blocking Key Hider is sold one per box and comes in packs of five. The pouch includes a key-ring attachment.

The second Lucky Line product, the Touchless Door Opener and Stylus, is a multifunctional door opener and stylus that’s designed to keeps hands clean and stop the spread of germs.

The Touchless Door Opener and Stylus features a door hook to easily pull open doors without touching the handle. It has a flat stylus tip to push buttons. The tip also works on touchscreens, including credit-card payment kiosks at checkout registers.

The device is made from brass, so it’s inherently antimicrobial. Ridges along the top provide for extra grip for heavy doors. The Touchless Door Opener and Stylus also includes a key ring.

The device measures 3-1/4 inches high by 1-1/2 inches wide and one-quarter inch deep. It’s sold one per pouch and is available in packs of five.

More info:

Medeco Intelligent Key Cabinet

Several years ago, one of our clients, the facility department for a state university campus, asked us for a solution for vendors failing to return borrowed keys they used for accessing campus buildings to perform repairs, particularly after hours. The campus used a proprietary keyway, and having unauthorized keys floating around was unacceptable. Every eloped key represented a security and safety liability and, thus, required a rekey.

We supplied a key control cabinet that was state of the art at the time, and it was a rewarding experience for all parties involved. Even as the use of keys is ostensibly on the decline, the demand for key-control cabinets in a variety of settings remains.

State of the art now is Medeco’s Intelligent Key Cabinet (IKC).

It includes biometric credentialing and is definitely a great tool for facility managers or anyone who has to keep track of keys and other assets.

The IKC works with Medeco’s XT Intelligent Key system to keep XT electronic keys securely stored and charged, and it tracks their removal and return. The IKC, in a different version, also works with mechanical keys, which are secured by using an iFob, so those keys can be tracked.

Only authorized users can gain access to the cabinet via the included Biometric Fingerprint reader, a PIN code pad or a combination of both. An optional access card reader also is available.

The IKC provides complete audit trail and reporting by user and key activity, which can identify potential problems before they escalate.


  • 32- and 64-port options
  • XT and iFob versions
  • Built-in LCD screen for ID
  • Audible and visual alarms
  • SMS, email alert messages
  • Camera for security photo capture

More info:

LAB IC-Pro 150, Mallet

Since 1956, LAB has specialized in the manufacturing of high-quality component parts for multiple industries, including locks.

Its latest products aimed at locksmiths are the IC-Pro 150 and the LAB Mallet.

The IC-Pro 150 is an all-in-one capping tool for small-format interchangeable-core (SFIC) cylinders that use the BEST keyway. This tool forms and installs caps and accommodates any six- or seven-pin SFIC cylinder that has standard 0.150-inch cylinder spacing.

No field adjustment is required. The location and depth of caps are preset at the factory. You just use standard LAB brass Capping Strips (LBCSP50 or LBCSP250) and a replacement punch assembly (LCP001-12).

The IC-Pro 150 is 17 inches high, including the ram, 12 inches wide and 13-1/2 inches deep, including the handle, and it weighs 32.5 pounds.

Meanwhile, the LAB Mallet is a hammer specifically designed for use with the LAB Core Annex  block. It has one plastic tip and one rubber tip, so it won’t mar or damage hard surfaces. It’s 10 inches long, 1-inch thick at the mallet head and 2-1/2 inches wide tip to tip.

More info:

Tim O’Leary is an experienced security consultant and a regular contributor to Locksmith Ledger.

About the Author

Tim O'Leary

Tim O'Leary is a security consultant, trainer and technician who has also been writing articles on all areas of locksmithing & physical security for many years.