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06-Keymaking And Rekeying

06-Keymaking And Rekeying

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Published by: api-3777781 on Oct 16, 2008
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A master key system is a system where individual keys will
open a certain lock and a special key will open all the locks
within a system. Hotels, motels, apartment buildings, univer-
sities and other such large establishments often will use a
master key system. This system allows individual access to
certain rooms or areas using specific keys and total access to
all areas by security personnel using master keys.

Let’s begin looking at master key systems by studying some
of the terms used in master keying.

Change Key. This is a key that will open only one specific
lock within the master key system.

Bitting. Bitting is the name used to define the types of pins
used in the master key system. For example, even bitting will
use pins numbered zero, two, four, six, and eight. Odd bit-
ting will use pins numbered one, three, five, seven, and nine.

Cross Keying. This term defines the ability of one change key
to intentionally open more than one lock. This is sometimes
abbreviated by an X.

Hardware Schedule. This is a paperwork procedure in which
you list all locking hardware and the keying schedule for all
locks in the system.

Master Key. The key that will open all locks within a master
key system.

Grand Master Key. The key that will open all locks in two
master key systems.

Great Grand Master Key. The key that will open all locks in
a three master key system.

Great Great Grand Master Key. The key that will open all
locks in a four or more master key system.

Sectional Master Keying. Asystemwherethemasterkeysys-

Keymaking and Rekeying


prevent access of similarly cut keys into cylinders that are
pinned alike within the system.

Now that you know a few important terms in the world of
master keying, let’s begin looking at the types of master key
systems available. These systems are categorized by level in
the locksmith trade.

Let’s begin with a level one system. Actually, a level one sys-
tem requires no master keying at all. Each lock is assigned a
key and only that key opens it. This is a typical system for
most homes and small businesses.

A level two system is the first level to have a single master
key. Any number of change keys may be available and each
change key will open its own lock. One master key is present
in the system that will open all locks. This type of system is
shown in Figure 43. A small apartment building might be one
example of a level two master key system.

A level three sys-
tem makes use of
two separate master
key systems. Within
the systems, each
change key will
only open the lock
for which it is in-
tended. Two master
keys are provided
in this system with
each master key
able to open only
the locks designed
for use with that
specific master key.
A grand master key
in this system is de-
signed to open all
locks within the system. A level three master key system is
suited to small motels where a housekeeper may receive a
master key for a certain group of rooms. A second house-
keeper will receive the other master key for the other group
of rooms. The front desk clerk, however, would have the
grand master key to open any room in an emergency. Such a
level three master key system is shown in Figure 44.


Keymaking and Rekeying

FIGURE 43—A level two
master key system
contains any number
of change keys and a
single master key.

A level four master key system will use four or more master
keys, two grand master keys, and a great grand master key.
In this system, the change, master, and grand master keys op-
erate in a similar manner as seen in a level three system. The
great grand master key will now be the key that will open all
locks within the master key system. Figure 45 displays the
level four system. This type of system may be used in a hotel
or school.

The final level we shall look at is the level five master key
system. In a level five system, the level four system is dupli-
cated and a great great grand master key has the ability to
open any lock within the system. As you can see in Figure 46,
the level five system has at least four zones of change keys
under its control. Universities, large hospitals, and large
industries may use this system.

Keymaking and Rekeying


FIGURE 44—A level
three system will have
a large number of
change keys, a few
master keys and a
grand master key.


Whenever any lock can be opened by two or more keys, the
security of the lock is in jeopardy. This is especially true in
extremely large systems where the number of keys becomes
so large that the pins within the locks become very small. It
may then be possible to “key pick” a lock. Key picking in-
volves inserting a change key into a lock and then moving
the key up and down within the plug while placing turning
pressure on the key. If the pins in the plug are small and the
change key is close in cut to the proper change key, the
chances of opening a lock are quite good. Newer locks will be
more difficult where older, worn locks are rather easy to “key
pick.” For this reason, it is always best to keep a master key
system to the smallest size possible while allowing for some
future expansion.


Keymaking and Rekeying

FIGURE 45—A level four
master key system
incorporates numerous
change keys and
master keys, two
grand master keys,
and a great grand
master key.


Almost every master key system in use today uses the pin
tumbler type lock as the basis for the system. By now, you are
very familiar with how pin tumbler locks operate by raising
the lower pin to the shearline. This action allows the plug to
turn in the shell or cylinder opening the lock. A master key
system will add more pins to the pin tumbler lock. These
master pins will create a second point where a key can cause
a pin to be level with the shearline, allowing the plug to turn.

The master pins are the heart of this keying system. Up to
this point in this course, you have seen a maximum of six key
cuts with five possible lower pin types. In a master key sys-
tem, there are normally six or seven cuts in the change key or
master key with an equal number of pin chambers in the
tumbler and shell. Also, and most importantly, there can be
up to nine different pin types allowing for a great number of
change keys in the system.

In some master key systems, the difference in height between
pins is 0.015 inches. In another system, the spacing is 0.023

Keymaking and Rekeying


FIGURE 46—A level five
master key system
performs like two
level four systems
side-by-side and has
a great great grand
master key.


Keymaking and Rekeying

FIGURE 47—These are the master pins that are available in a 0.015 inch master key system.

FIGURE 48—Here are
the keys and pins from
a single-pin chamber
lock we will master

inches. In the 0.015 system, there will be nine possible pin
sizes while in the 0.023 system, there are six pin sizes. A 0.015
system is shown in Figure 47.

Let’s begin master keying a lock that has one pin chamber.
Such a lock is shown in Figure 48.

This lock will use 0.015 inch type pins. Let’s give the master
key, MK, a number four cut and say we want the change key
to have a number 7 cut. These keys are shown in (a). Now
let’s set up the lock with shallower cut as shown in (b). Here
we insert the master key and insert a number four pin. The
pin reaches the shearline perfectly. Remove the master key
and insert the change key and replace the four pin with a
seven pin. Once again the lock works perfectly.

four lower pin. On the left side of the figure, the master key,
once again, will operate the lock. Now remove the master key

Keymaking and Rekeying


FIGURE 49—Here are the keys and pins from a two-pin chamber lock we will master key.

the pin chamber. Now the change key has its own shearline
made by the addition of the number four lower pin to the
number three master pin. Looking back to the left side dia-
gram of Figure 48(c), notice how the number three master pin
rides above the shearline when the master key is inserted into
this lock. The upper pins, UP, and springs are also shown in
(c). Now, either the change key cut to a number seven or a
master key cut to a number four will open this lock.

Let’s continue looking at master key systems by adding a sec-
ond pin chamber to our lock. This type of system is shown in
Figure 49.

In this system, the master key will be cut as a five and two, as
we will invert the change key to a two and five cut key as
shown in (a). In (b), the lock is pinned using standard pins.
Here, both keys will act as change keys, only opening the
locks for which they are intended. In figure (c), the lower pins
have been converted to a master pin system. With the master
key inserted into the plug, the number two pin along with
the number three master pin allow the plug to turn. Note
how the number three master pin rides above the shearline of
the second pin chamber when this key is inserted. On the
right side of figure (c), the change key has been inserted into
the lock. Now, since the change key is cut opposite to the
master key, the number three master pin rides above the
shearline at the first cut in the change key.

This system of master keying looks rather simple, doesn’t it?
All you are really doing is creating a lock with multiple pins
that, in turn, create multiple shearlines within the lock. To
make sure you understand this master keying process, let’s
look at one more example.

Figure 50 gives us another example of a two-pin chamber
master key system. In this system, we will dedicate the mas-
ter key as having a two-eight cut while the change key will
have a three-five cut in its blank.

In the (a) portion of the figures, you see the two precut keys.
would make either key a change key for this lock. Remember
one of the keys would work in the plug. In figure (c), we have
placed a number two pin in the first chamber and a number
one master pin above it. Now, either the master key or the


Keymaking and Rekeying

change key would raise the lower pin combination to one of
the two possible shearline points. In the second chamber, we
have installed a number five pin and a number three master
pin. Again, either the master key or the change key will now
raise the pin combination to one of the two
possible shearlines. It’s that easy!

Of course, the locks you’ll be master keying will not be two-
chamber pin tumbler locks. Most master key systems will use
a standard key system that has six pin chambers and a key
with six spacings for the cuts.

A six-chamber pin tumbler master key system is not as
difficult as it may seem. To keep it simple, let’s look at an

Keymaking and Rekeying


FIGURE 50—Another example of keys and pins from a two-pin chamber lock is given here.

In (a), you can see a visual display of what the three keys
with these cuts would look like. We have selected the two
change keys to be greatly different in cut depths so that you
can see the extreme ends of a master key system without
looking at all of the keys in the middle of the system.

In (b), we begin loading the pin chambers with the necessary
bottom pin. You will note that the smallest cut in any key is
the first position to receive a bottom pin. This is an important
rule in master keying. The smallest bitting, or pin, is always
loaded into the plug or pin chamber first.

In (c), we have completed the loading of the pin chambers.
Notice how the change key with the deepest cuts has all of
the lower pins and master pins below the shearline. The sec-
ond change key with the most shallow cuts has the most
master pins above the shearline. Look also at the last cut in
the master key and the same cut in the second change key.
This is the only location where the number of master pins
above the shearline of the master key is greater than those
above the shearline of the second change key.


Keymaking and Rekeying

FIGURE 51—This illustration shows two change keys and a master key for a large six-pin
chamber master key system.


• The types of locks to be used

• The number of locks and change keys

• The number of master keys, grand master keys, great
grand master keys and so forth

The lock manufacturer will then supply you with the locks
and precut keys for the system you are working on.


In the event that you design and build a master key system
for a customer, there are a few methods and rules to follow to
make system planning easier and more efficient. First let’s
look at some of the rules.

Rule 1. In a very large system, no cut in any change key
should match the cut in a master key in the position on the
key. For example, the master and change keys we just
worked with are listed here.

MK 342442
CK 455654
CK 201023

Note how the master key and the change keys do not have a
similar cut in any one position. Now, let’s look at another
example. Let’s say we have the following master and change
key cuts.

MK (3)4244(4)
CK (3)5565(4)
CK 20102(4)

since they have the same number as a master key in the same
position. Change keys may duplicate two or more numbers
without a problem.

Rule 2. The depths between the successive cuts on a key
should be no greater than seven for a 0.015-inch master pin
system and five on a 0.023-inch system. This rule prevents a

Keymaking and Rekeying


very deep cut next to a shallow cut that can cause problems
during keymaking. For example, a key with a code number


would have an excessive depth change between the third and
fourth cut and the fifth and sixth cut.

Rule 3. On a 0.015-inch system, there should be at least two
cut sizes between successive cuts. (A 0.023-inch system is de-
signed to allow single number changes.)

Rule 4. There should be no locks in the system set up with
the same number pattern.

spacingofthekeycutsisoftentermeddouble step progression.

Locks that use master pins of 0.023 inch difference in dimen-
sion can have keys with cut numbers just one value in
difference. This method of keying a system is called single
step progression.

In developing a master key chart for a customer, you will
often use a pin chart to define the chamber pinning of the
locks and the cutting of the master keys. Let’s use a two-
chamber lock to look at a simple example of a pinning chart.

Looking back at Figure 49, the master key had a cut of five
and two. We will use these numbers as the base numbers in
the chart shown here.

Now we can begin


Keymaking and Rekeying














Let’s first take the four in the left-hand column and combine
it with the seven in the right-hand column to give us a
change key of 4, 7. Next, let’s take the four of the first column
and combine it with the nine of the second column giving us
a change key with the cuts 4, 9. If we continue using this
method, your change keys with a four first cut would give us

4, 7
4, 9
4, 1
4, 3

Now we can begin combining the six cut with the numbers in
the second column to give us

6, 7
6, 9
6, 1
6, 3

Next, using the eight with the numbers in the right column
we get

8, 7
8, 9
8, 1
8, 3

And finally, combining the zero with the numbers in the
right column we get

0, 7
0, 9
0, 1
0, 3

Putting all these tables together gives us

4, 7 6, 7

8, 7

0, 7

4, 9 6, 9

8, 9

0, 9

4, 1 6, 1

8, 1

0, 1

4, 3 6, 3

8, 3

0, 3

But are all of these keys legal keys? According to our rules,
especially Rule 2, there can be no more than seven cut depths
between successive key cuts. Therefore, the key 0, 9 is an ille-
gal key and should be eliminated from the system.

Keymaking and Rekeying



To show how one master pin per chamber would work, let’s
look at a lock coded 4, 5, 3, 1, 4, 2. By adding a number one
master pin to the first chamber, we get a master key and
change key codes 4, 5, 3, 1, 4, 2 and 5, 5, 3, 1, 4, 2. Now let’s
add a number two master pin to the second chamber of same
lock. Our list of possible keys becomes

4, 5, 3, 1, 4, 2
5, 5, 3, 1, 4, 2
4, 7, 3, 1, 4, 2
5, 7, 3, 1, 4, 2


4, 5, 3, 1, 4, 2
5, 5, 3, 1, 4, 2
4, 7, 3, 1, 4, 2
5, 7, 3, 1, 4, 2
4, 5, 6, 1, 4, 2
4, 7, 6, 1, 4, 2
5, 5, 6, 1, 4, 2
5, 7, 6, 1, 4, 2

This gives us eight possible combinations for three simple
master pins. Note how the number of keys is doubling each
time we add a new master pin. If we were to continue to the
sixth chamber, we would have 64 keys and 63 different locks.
However, our system with 63 locks and 64 keys has two
problems. First, some of the change keys will have a cut the
same as the master key in at least one position. Often, this


Keymaking and Rekeying

with a 0.015-inch master pin system, is to not use a number
one master pin in any chamber of a small master key system.


Now, you can set up the 60 rooms on the first floor with 60 of
the best pin combinations and key codes and a master key.
You can then reuse these 60 pin combinations and key codes
on the second and third floors. But wouldn’t this system al-
low a first floor key to open a second and third floor lock? It
would unless you change the keying of the locks from floor
to floor. If the keyway changes, then the keys will not enter
the locks, rendering them useless except on the floor and for
the room they are intended.

The master key for all rooms would need to enter all of these
different keyway grooves. Special master blanks are available
for this purpose. In fact, it can be possible to create a level
three or four system using locks with different keyways. In
these systems, a master key can be created to fit only the key-
way on one floor. A series of grand master keys can then be
created to open the locks on the first and second or second
and third floors. A great grand master key can be made to
open all locks in the entire hotel. All these keys can be made
using the proper master blanks.


A master key system will basically sell itself to your cus-
tomer. Your customer will need such a system and you will
have the equipment to fill that need.

To create a master key system for a customer, the first step is
to ask your customer a series of questions.

1. How many locks will be included in the system?

2. What type of lock is to be used?

3. Does the architect, owner, or builder have any prefer-
ence to the manufacturer of the locking system?

4. How many change, master, grand master keys, and so
forth will be required in the system?

Keymaking and Rekeying


5. Does the customer require duplicate change keys?

The answers to these questions will identify the exact size of
the master key system to be put into place. It would now be a
simple process to go into the manufacturer’s master key sys-
tem books and price sheets to develop a hardware schedule
and estimated price for the job. If you have any problems in
setting up the system, the manufacturer’s sales engineers can
be contacted for assistance.

less.Thisfeatureisperformedbyaddingpressedcarbon or
graphite master pins into one or more chambers of the lock.
The special key crushes these pins, rendering the construc-
tion keys useless after the carbon or graphite pins are broken.


Keymaking and Rekeying

Keymaking and Rekeying


Locking It Up! 4

1. How many master keys are available in a level two master key




2. Why should there be at least two cut sizes between successive cuts

on all change keys in a master key system?



3. What type of step progression system is used with a master key

system using 0.023 inch master pins?



4. What type of pin can be used in a lock so that a construction

change key can be rendered useless after construction is complete?



Check your answers with those on page 69.

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