Thursday, December 29, 2011

Master Keying System Set-up Checklist

Personally, I like how ideas for doing jobs better can sometimes hit you.  And how they sometimes inspire my writing for work or for this blog.  In this case, I was listening to a science podcast and it referenced a significant paper on surgery. The researchers had looked at the airline industry and found how common mistakes were avoided simply by having routine functions done with a checklist.  Critical yet routine items were not missed or put in the wrong order.  The thought was to test if similar checklists would help to prevent common surgical errors.  After drafting the checklists, they had a bit of a struggle to find surgeons who would test them.  However, they did find several cooperative surgeons and the checklists had dramatic effect to decrease complication. (1)

The common element is repetition. Errors leak in for a multitude of reasons because the work demands attention to detail but the details are highly patterned and yet not completely identical.

This had me thinking of drafting, designing and implementing master key systems.  It can go 'off the rails' simply by failing to ask one question or think to include one step.  I quickly tossed up a small poster for my shop to prompt me to think of all the issues.  Keep in mind this is a first draft. I will pencil in items the next few times I draw up systems and then amend the list.

With that, here is it.  By all means suggest a line or two to add.  Or suggest some in a different order.  Even now, I am thinking I need some points about the implementation phase where I cut all the keys, pin the cylinders and keep the records.

Master Keying System Set-up Checklist
Do you know the floor plan and room programming?

If extension of existing …
    Do you know the TMK and all issued changes?

If replacing a known MK …
    Do you know the old TMK? Fixed or constant parity?
    Can you select a new TMK to retire all old keys?
    Check all other items as if new system.

If new …
    What is the keyway?  Look up ITL# and MACS.
    How many MK levels are needed?
    Do I need a Control Key?  Auxiliary MK?
    How many changes are needed in each level?
    Are NMK doors known?  Are SKD doors known?

Select a TMK cut sequence.
    Does it have one high cut? One low cut?
    Does key repeat in registry?
    Select H/P and SOP to find available keys.
    Can each branch of system be used under 60%?
Are there enough blanks?  pins?  tags?
How many cylinders are there to change?
    KIL__  KIK__  DB__  Mort__  Rim__  Other___
Do cylinders have to be pulled and replaced in boxes?
Of course, this is MY checklist and needs to function for my work. If you do different jobs, then you checklist would be slightly different.

(1) This is research which dates back about 20 years now.  Strangely enough, it is not universally done in surgery even as effective as it proved to be.  I tried to track back the original paper but after getting flooded with hits, had to just move on.  If you know the authors, I would be happy to credit the work. Google Scholar shows the topic is still hotly researched.

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The contents of this post are released for non-profit or educational use in whole or in part provided this statement and the attribution below are kept attached. And remember, keep your follower on the plug.

Laux Myth ... Thoughts From a Locksmith
By MartinB, Found @

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mechanical Drawing Mess

Recently, I was tasked with installing some hardware which I had not installed before.  Well, not this model but to some degree a door closer is a door closer.  I am choosing to not name the culprit but if you recognize this diagram, so be it.  Basically, the instructions ticked me off and so they get some time on the net.

This is the main diagram to measure off the drill and tap points on the frame header and the door.  Being a diagram and not a template, it is not expected to be at 1:1 scale.  However, a quick look will find measurements which are not even in proportion.  For instance, compare the line for 4 1/8 (105) to that for 4 15/16 (125) to that for 11 3/8 (289).  For the best contrast, there are two places labelled 4 (102) and they are not even close to the same.

Another problem is that of reference.  A door closer swings a door and for this mechanical reason, the centre line of the hinge is the natural reference point. Every measurement should be from it. This is a counter example for the engineering drawing class I once took on positioning dimension lines. At site, it also drives you to either add up the numbers or serially measure. Either method introduces errors.  The five mounting holes never repeat spacing and they really could.

Am I done commenting on the instuctions from the box. Not even close.

  • The fastener hardware supplied posed a few mysteries. There are clearly items to be used. Some are for applications I can tell are not needed here.  And then there are other screws. 
  • The cover is held by 3 screws when 5 holes are available. The cover sits square if you put the top screws in and would be less subject to vandals taking the two lower bolts or them being lost from vibration. Yet, without the screws in the bottom, it looks unfinished.
  • The arm is put on with a big bolt over a washer. Two with the right threading are provided and yet the diagram shows a third type and a very clearly different washer. 
  • Like many closers, this has a closing force adjustment nut on the end of the barrel. The instructions say it is shipped at a middle setting of the power range. There is no table given for turns should you have a wider or heavier door. 
  • You have to dismount the closer from the mounting plate to get access to one of the screws. This step is never said.
  • They claim to provide hex keys to adjust two different items. Only one was there. However, if planned better, both could have been that one size.  The needed hex wrenches were side by side on my tool kit.
  • The instructions given refer you to do the wiring as per another document which was not in the box. 

Some will read this and think the locksmith is grumbling again. If that were all it was, I should not be writing. Poor quality instructions slowed me down. You recheck measurements. You ponder over which bolt to use where.  You test out the mounting locations with the hardware as template before you drill.  One thing I learned is that I should be careful turning this item over to a less experienced coworker.

Another thought also came back to me.  Ease of installation affects product sales at times.  If two competing products step into the marketplace and one takes more time to install, that can quickly eat up the price difference. I am reminded of some of the stand-alone push button locks which had multiple wires running thru the door so were hard to install and hard to service. Human hands had to hold peices on both sides of the door at once as you found where the bolts connected them and you could never see then if you were pinching a wire. When one company found a way to do this without wires, it came in at a higher price and still sold well.

Some products will not sell if the right person does not name them to the client. If you knew how hard some piece of hardware was to install and how much reading between the lines you had to do, you skip it.  Very few products can not be substituted by other makers.

I am pushing a phrase from computers at this point. User interface. The instructions are the user interface for the product. Are the instructions as carefully planned as the product?

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The contents of this post are released for non-profit or educational use in whole or in part provided this statement and the attribution below are kept attached. And remember, keep your follower on the plug.

Laux Myth ... Thoughts From a Locksmith
By MartinB, Found @

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Diving Deep Into Pi

There are many creative ways to generate key, safe and alarm codes.  Some are trivial and generate repetitive or patterned codes.  I am going to cover a few of these to avoid followed by a few to get you stronger codes.

Birthdays & Other Dates
During setting safe codes, you learn from the client the code you just set the safe to was derivative of some birth date or other anniversary. In one case, the safe code was always pulled from one date or other.  The problem is this generates a very small set of safe codes.  A past employee who knows the last code was derivative of a date, can guess the new code is too. (If you tell me, then you probably tell some of the staff too.) Another problem is this code is drawn from a small set since it will over choose numbers under 12, under 30 and even the year is not truly random.

Phone Numbers
See everything I said above. I should add that if you were to derive a code from two different phone numbers of people who most of the staff do not know AND never tell anybody you were pulling the code from phone numbers, you could do this sometimes.  If you repeat it often, you will fall into patterns regardless.  A fact of life, we run out of friends at times.

Address Numbers
See everything I said above.

Time for some better methods.

Internet Random Number Generators
Many of these give pseudorandom numbers in that they repeat -- eventually. Some give truly random numbers by sampling real world noise.  Either way, to make this work for you, get the web page to print a few hundred at a time. When you need the alarm or safe code, you can pick six digits from the page and you could read down or at some angle too.

This link will give you 1000 numbers between one and 999 999 into ten columns. (It does not pad zeros to the front of shorter numbers so 15346 is 015346.  To a minor degree, you are decreasing the randomness to add the zero at the end.)

Let's assume you are the head cashier and you told even one staff this was your method to get safe codes. Or somebody may have snooped at the computer, the printer or the connection. You want the code you finally use to be well hidden.  Part of this is pulling 1000 codes from the server but you could also pull 5000 codes and print all of them too.  Any reload of the page will do no good as it will give a different set of codes.  However, the computer and printer may cache the pages you are using.  Again, print a page or two and then pick one code.

Diving Into Pi
Modern mathematics gives up several decimal numbers which never repeat nor terminate.  One such number is the number Pi from geometry as the ratio of a circle circumference to diameter. It is now calculated to billions of digit but you only need find a web pages with a few million digits and dive down.  Like the random numbers above, you can get a printer to spit out pages and pages of digits.  You print and then pick the six digits you need either by standard reading or backwards or vertically or some other sampling.

Again, if you are a had cashier, save these pages in a secure place.  Provided you did not circle the code you used nobody could find the code from them.  However, a week later you could since you picked the sample the first time.

To get you started, here is a link to get the first million digits of Pi.
There are many other similar sites on the web.

There are also similar numbers to use in much the same way.
Square root of 2 or the roots of many other numbers.
Looking on the web, I found this great link page from NASA.  It gives several numbers to many decimal digits.

Something Approximating a Summary
One can use simple methods and faithfully do two things to get secured codes.  Mix up your methods and do not tell anybody how you derived a code.

The better system is to use a method which does not matter if they know.  Find a source for thousands of random codes and pick one. Next time around, you generate a few thousand more. I could learn your method and you still not 'guess' the code.

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The contents of this post are released for non-profit or educational use in whole or in part provided this statement and the attribution below are kept attached. And remember, keep your follower on the plug.

Laux Myth ... Thoughts From a Locksmith
By MartinB, Found @ 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Master Key Exceptions

I have been building master key systems lately and mostly they have been simple tree structures.  There are times when you should vary from this. Some are statutory and some simply more practical. (I am not going to cite laws of my province or nation, since the net is bigger than that.  Get to know your local laws.)

A room or group of rooms should be outside the basic master key system if any of the following apply.

1. Cash storage or high value inventory.  If you ask staff to sign for the contents of a room or safe or till drawer, then you should isolate key access very strongly. If many staff travel about casually with keys, then cash or product shortages can not be traced.

2. Explosives. Lets keep these in the hands of only the licensed people.

3. Drugs. You may need to distinguish between OTC, prescription and narcotic type drugs. These are often treated differently in the laws which govern who has control for these.  Often the drug storage in a hostipal ward is under the control of only one pharmacist or a senior nurse.  Some drugs have street value and then during the day issues of armed robbery need be addressed and at night issues of forced entry need be addressed.

4. Forensic evidence. Police agencies collect objects which may have to later be used in court. However, accounting firms and others gather information which they may later pass to the police to generate charges.  For this to be useable in court, you need to show you have had continuous custody of the artifacts.  If not, the police can not lever your information into a search warrant and certainly not as evidence in court. Hence, private investigators need to have control of the keys to rooms holding records and artifacts.

5. Radioactive material. Workplace safety issues requires you keep untrained staff safely away from radiation.  Additionally, there are often federal regualation.

6. Personnel records. Employment records are best isolated from general access. Since you often have a janitor with a partial masterkey, this room will often get cleaned during the days. (Now that I get to it, many of the rooms above get cleaned during the day and often by the staff responsible and not the general janitorial staff.)

7. Accounting records in a server room. Your financial files are expected to be secured at the same level as paper records. The server room needs keying restricting it to only those who need access. (Regulations which derive from the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 in the USA may affect you and it is your responsibility to know it.)

8. Fire arms and munitions. Much like explosives and radioactive material, if you have these to store in a room, you know you have regulations governing their storage.

There are several ways to key rooms outside the master key system.  The worst is to simply pick a random key and pin the cylinder to that. Now you have to keep that as a record should you need to cut more keys. Often these rooms have very small sets of people with keys even having only ONE key in circulation which passes at shift change to the person on duty. If you pick a random key, you have to manually read through the pages of key records to assure there is no cross-over with any other room.

The better way is to plan for a small number of rooms to have master key exceptions and block them. All the keys are close together and the relationship to other key groups is clear.

These exceptions can be done in one of two ways.  The first is to have the key below the Top Master Key (TMK) with no intermediate master keys at all.  In a crisis, only the most senior staff can get access to the room. This might be how personnel records are kept. The other way is to set the lock as Single Key Different (SKD) with no master keys functioning at all. This is possibly better for drug and narcotic storage.

No list like this could be complete and the keys have to react to how the organization is structured. If you think I should add more categories, feel free to toss me a line.

And remember, keep your follower on the plug.

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The contents of this post are released for non-profit or educational use in whole or in part provided this statement and the attribution below are kept attached.

Laux Myth ... Thoughts From a Locksmith
By MartinB, Found @