Making a Master Key System
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a master key system will make one lock open with the use of at least two keys. If you are looking to make a master key or master key system, the first step will be to gather two keys with the same style. Once you have these keys, you will need to decode their depths. You can do this most easily with a key gauge. In the event that you do not have a key gauge, you will need to get creative with the tools you do have. If you are a locksmith or have the tools and time to make a key with the exact cuts you want, there is no need to use two existing keys. Regardless of whether you will be making keys or using pre-existing ones, note the existing, or intended, groove depths. For our theoretical example we will say that these are our keys:
Key #1 = 2, 4, 5, 2, 6
Key #2 = 4, 2, 5, 4, 6
Next, gather a lock that the key type will fit in, for our example these keys will be Kwikset. You should have the ability to rekey the lock, so you can access the pins. Now we begin creating the master key system.
1) Compare groove depths vertically (2 and 4; 4 and 2; 5 and 5; 2 and 4; 6 and 6) and mark the shallowest one in a set:
Key #1 = 2, 4, 5, 2, 6
Key #2 = 4, 2, 5, 4, 6
2) Write down all of the shallowest depths in the correct order. In our case, this would be 2, 2, 5, 2, 6. (If a depth repeats that is the lowest depth.)
3) Subtract the lowest number from the vertically adjacent number.
ex: 4 – 2 = 2; 4 – 2 = 2; 5 – 5 = 0; 4 – 2 = 2; 6 – 6 = 0
4) Write down the numbers in the correct order. ex: 2, 2, 0, 2, 0
5) The number list from step 2 will be the bottom pins, and the number list from step 4 will be the values for the master wafers. ex:
Master Wafers: 2, 2, no master wafer, 2, no master wafer
Bottom Pins: 2, 2, 5, 2, 6.
6) Gather the correct pins and wafers. ex:
Master Wafers: 0.045, 0.045, no master wafer, 0.045, no master wafer
Bottom Pins: 0.195, 0.195, 0.265, 0.195, 0.285
7) Open the lock, and remove the existing pins. (You may keep the pins for any chamber that is not having a master wafer added. In our example that would be chambers 3 and 5.)
8) Place pins in their proper chambers beginning with the bottom pins, then add the corresponding wafer.
9) Reassemble the lock.
10) Try out both keys.
Once you have a working lock, that can be opened with two keys, one of the keys can be assigned as the master and the other as the change key. To continue building out the master key system, simply repeat this process with your master key, a third key, and a second lock. Try to stay away from using number one master wafers. If you are just using keys that you have, there may be no way around it, but in a professional setting only master wafers with a value of two or greater should be used. As I have previously stated, the smaller the master wafer is the higher the risk of damaging the lock, which will result in having to call a locksmith to repair damaged locks.\
Key Take Aways
- To make a master key system you need locks and keys that are the same make and model.
- Begin with one lock and two keys, and repeat the process until you have your desired number of locks.
- Use master wafers with a value of 2 or higher.
There are additional security measures, meant to keep your home safe, that can be added onto a master-keyed system. These auxiliary precautions will make picking and decoding more difficult, but not impossible. Adding sidebars and active elements to the key will make exploration much more complicated. A master system does not even need to use a pin tumbler type lock. Disk detainer locks can be mastered to serve as a more complicated and secure means of protection.
As the protections are added, the lock will need to become more complex. Whenever you are adding security be careful that you are comprehending the complexity of the system. My general rule is, “If you cannot take it apart and put it back together, you should not be making your own”. If you are brainstorming your very own ideas about additional security, I would recommend researching your idea. In the rare case that someone has not already had your idea, try and find a device that works similarly or in a more basic way than your idea. This is the mechanism that should be deconstructed and understood. Test all additional security before using it in your operational security.
Key Take Away
- Additional security will make the lock more difficult to pick and decode.
- Side bars, or lock types that use side bars can increase the lock’s security.
- Understand the mechanisms if you are installing them.
A master key system allows two or more keys to open one lock. To make a master key system, you need locks and keys that are the same make and model, and a way to rekey those locks. The basic pin tumbler master locks use a master wafer/pin in between the key pin and the driver pin. Although these systems often use pin tumbler locks, they can use different lock types for varying levels of security. The main selling point for master keys is that they limit the amount of keys needed to open multiple locks. These systems can get pretty complicated with the introduction of grand master keys and great grand master keys.
The more master wafers, the more keys there are that can open the lock because the number of shear lines increases. Master key systems are very susceptible to picking and decoding. The easier a lock is to pick, the more thieves there are who can steal from you. Completing a risk assessment will give you a deeper understanding of whether or not your threats and vulnerabilities should concern you. Anytime you are attempting any work on your own security, evaluate your strengths and weakness. There is no need to break your door locks (an important part of home security) in the hopes of saving a few dollars. Do not use any of this information for criminal activity. This post is intended for educational purposes only. Be safe, and know your security.