Home LockLab University LP203: Advanced Spools

LP203: Advanced Spools

You’ve come a long way already, but there’s still plenty to learn!  This is the “sweet spot” of lock picking, with many different lock choices particularly for the European pickers.  In Europe the basic, entry-level lock is a 5-pinner containing spools.  The most prolific manufacturer in Europe, Abus, pins almost all of their padlocks like that so there are plenty of potential training locks to choose from.

Still, there are incremental steps that will speed up your learning process.  There are variables in the quality of pins, precision of manufacture, and type of core – spring loaded or not.  Each generate different feedback and present various levels of difficulty.

In the photo above, from left to right are the Brinks 161-50001, Abus Titalium, Master #570, Master #532, and Master 911.

The first lock I’d like you to use is either the Master #150 or the Brinks 161-50001.  The Master #150 has the same keyway as the #140 and both locks contain five pins, one standard and four spools.  Of the two, the 150 is lower quality than the Brinks, but either will increase the level of complexity and give you experience picking multiple spools pins.  You’ll dominate these locks in only a couple of days, then it’s time to move to the next level:  The Abus Titalium or the Master #570.  Given the choice, opt for the Abus as it is a nicer lock, priced a bit cheaper than the Master, yet is manufactured to a much higher quality standard.

Until now I’ve not had many good things to say about Master Locks, but this is where that changes.  The Master #570 is still a pretty good lock, contains spool pins and can be a challenge to open.  It has a completely different personality than any lock you’ve picked thus far and will take some time to get accustomed to.  It has the same M1 keyway as the #3, #17, #140 and #150, but is made to a higher level of quality, the pins tighter fitting, and has a “dead” core, in that it has no spring counter-rotation.  The pins are more difficult to locate with your pick than in the previous locks and will require more precise pick placement – you’ll have to begin taking great care to position your pick on the tip of the key pin otherwise you’ll overset the adjoining pins.  The dead core is the single forgiving element of this lock, allowing you to detect the lock’s feedback without having to worry about tension too much.  This is your first true high security lock, so take your time to learn the nuances of precision spool pin picking.  You will need every bit of skill you can absorb before moving to the next lock, the Master 532.

The larger steel bodied Master 532 has the same pinning as the 570, but contains a spring tensioned core.  Tensioning this lock can be a challenge because you have to balance your tension against the core’s spring resistance.  This can be a REAL task because over-tensioning the core mutes the feedback you feel from the pins.  In addition, over-tensioning causes the core to seize up, making it impossible to determine which pin needs to be picked.  Variable tensioning skills are a must with the 532.  It will teach you how to vary your tension, release only enough to set a spool, and will insist on using a specific binding order.  Your days of randomly setting a pin are over, welcome to high security locks!

There are lots of different locks out there, each with different keyways and personalities.

A step up from the 532 is the Master 911, also containing spool pins.  The 911 is a removable core lock, so you can disassemble it, reshuffle the pins into any order you like, and re-pick it.  Your goal here is to practice your spool-beating technique.  Continue training with your 150, 570, 532, and 911 until you find it easy to detect spools and beat them.

As a note, the 911 actually has a 6-pin core but, for some insane reason, Master only installs 5 pins.  For additional practice you can add another pin to the core (key pin, driver and a spring) to fit the 6th cylinder and still retain your original 5-pin key.  To do that simply choose a key pin long enough to rest on the tip of the original key.  Now you have a 6-pin lock using a 5-pin key.

You’ve passed through some significant hurtles to get this far, so it’s time for a little break.  There are lots of different locks out there, each with different keyways and personalities.  Let’s explore some of the most common locks that you’ll encounter and build up some experience whipping them in LP301!

 

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