Key Cutting with a CNC Mill

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Keys cost like what, $2 to copy at a locksmith? But where’s the fun in that? Here’s an easy way to cut your own keys using a CNC mill!

[Bolsterman] now “works” for a real estate company that rents out various properties. Whenever someone moves out, the locks need to be changed ASAP. They use Schlage locks, which can be re-keyed to any pin combination. New keys are typically cut with a punch or a key cutting machine — he actually had one years ago, but got rid of it. Not wanting to buy a new one for his new job at the real estate company, he decided to see how hard it would be to turn his small desktop CNC into his own personal key cutting machine.

All it took for [Bolsterman] to turn his mill into a key cutting machine was a 3/8th 90° countersink bit with the end ground to a flat approximately 0.055″ across (0.035″ is the width of a factory key, but a bit of leeway makes it easier to make the key). Then you simply zero the mill off of the shoulder of the key, and using the handy Schlage pin chart (included in the original link), cut the grooves!

To automate all of this, [Torrie Fischer] created a python script for generating the GCode  for keys based on [Bolsterman's] technique — it’s hosted over at Noisebridge’s Wiki – check it out!

But if all that seems like too much effort, you could just print a new key instead…

Hack some Picks

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You know you can make your own lock picks out of cheapo carbon steel hacksaw blades, right? So what if you’ve tripped over this hack on every website that also tells you to read and worship the MIT Guide to Lock Picking; ’tis the season to pick up a new hobby now that many of us have some extra holiday free time. Unlike the authentic hand-crafted macrame indoor hanging vertical tomato garden you bought for that girl you’re trying to impress, hacksaw blades won’t cut into your purchasing power. Also, believe it or not, although we have thirteen picking hacks that are sitting in the “lockpicking” category, this isn’t one of them.

Though the guide chose to use existing picks as a template, there are plenty you can find online. After tracing the pick, the next step is to secure the hacksaw blade and carve out the excess with a rotary tool, then grind down the edges to remove any sharp bits. We recommend that you’re careful not to get the blade too hot here or you’ll alter its crystalline structure: perhaps one of our blacksmith-savvy readers can better explain what you should aim for and avoid when working with carbon steel. As usual, wear the necessary safety headgear: your eyes are valuable and you’ll need them to watch the video after the break.

What do you think? Should we make an effort at reviving the Lock Picking category? We know a lot of hackerspaces have lock picking events if you want to get into the dark art. Help us get things rolling by sending in tips recapping those events, as well as anything else that fits this theme.

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Making keys after the apocalypse

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Making keys is an amazing art with a lot of skill and technique involved. For those of you living in a post-apocalyptic world, [Dan] has a much simpler solution to the problems of having one too few keys for your locks and deadbolts – just cast them out of scrap with the power of the sun.

To make the mold of the key, [Dan] is using a two-piece plaster of paris mold. First, a thick layer of plaster is laid down in a small container and the key floated on the surface. After drying, sprues are put in with clay and the key embedded in a curing plaster block. After a few hours, a proper mold is created ready to receive molten metal.

The casting material is zinc – not as hard as the original steel key, but more than strong enough to turn a lock. This zinc is melted in a steel and plaster crucible with a gigantic fresnel lens.

As for the utility of this method of copying keys after the apocalypse, we’ll have to wonder how practical this method is. A giant fresnel lens isn’t just something you randomly find unless you’re going house to house looking for projection TVs, and finding a can of mold release after the end of the world is beyond credulity. That said, it’s a cool demonstration of metal casting that can be easily accomplished at home or at any hackerspace.

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Ask Hackaday: Can you steal a car with a mini tesla coil?

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Last week we caught wind of a piece from the Today Show that shows very technically minded thieves stealing cars with a small device. Cops don’t know how they’re doing it, and of course the Today show (and the Hackaday comments) were full of speculation. The top three theories for how these thieves are unlocking car doors are jamming a keyless entry’s ‘lock signal’, a radio transmitter to send an ‘unlock’ code, or a small EMP device touched to the passenger side door to make it unlock.

That last theory – using a small EMP device to unlock a car’s door – got the attention of someone who builds mini EMP devices and has used them to get credits on slot machines. He emailed us under a condition of anonymity, but he says it’s highly unlikely a mini EMP device would be able to activate the solenoid on a car door.

This anonymous electromagnetic wizard would like to open up a challenge to Hackaday readers, though: demonstrate a miniature EMP device able to unlock an unmodified car door, and you’ll earn the respect of high voltage tinkerers the world over. If you’re successful you could always sell your device to a few criminal interests, but let’s keep things above board here.

Picking locks with Toool

What Maker Faire would be complete without teaching children the joys of jiggling and twisting locks until they’ve opened? Toool, the open organisation of lockpickers made their way to New York this weekend to show off their bumping skills and get the kids interested in manipulating small mechanical devices.

The guys from Toool had a very cool setup – just a bunch of tables and chairs with a few picks and torsion wrenches. There were a few classic Master Locks on the table, but also a series of six tumbler locks each labeled with a number 1 through 6 signifying how many pins were in the lock. The idea is to get someone started on a one-pin lock, and eventually have them work their way up to the full six pins.

In the video after the break, one of the more animated guys from Toool explains why they were there, and also shows off picking a Master Lock twice in under 30 seconds. Seriously, people: educate yourself on locks before buying one.

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Picking handcuffs with laser cut keys

At this year’s HOPE conference, German competitive lockpicker and security researcher [Ray] gave a talk about escaping high security handcuffs that are probably being used by your local police and other LEOs. He’s doing this with 3D printed and laser cut keys because, you know, security through obscurity never works.

Two years ago, [Ray] gave a talk at HOPE on 3D printing Dutch handcuff keys (you can listen to his conference as an .MP3 here). This time around, [Ray] copied the keys of Bonowi and Chubb handcuffs, very popular brands for American police. After obtaining a key from each of the two brands, [Ray] broke out the calipers and micrometer and designed his own versions that can be printed on a RepRap or Makerbot, or just laser cut from a piece of plastic; the perfect material for sneaking one through a metal detector.

The .DXF and .STL files for the handcuff keys will be available on Thingiverse shortly. We’d suggest watching this Thingiverse account (nevermind), as they have the files for [Ray]‘s earlier Dutch handcuff key.

Knock lock with logic chips

[Eric] needed a project for his digital logic design class, and decided on a lock that open in response to a specific pattern of knocks. This is a fairly common project that we’ve seen a few builds with ‘knock locks,’ but this one doesn’t use a microcontroller. Instead, it uses individual logic chips.

The lock senses the knocks with a piezo, just like every other build we’ve seen. Unlike the other builds, the knock pattern is then digitized and stored in an EEPROM. [Eric] only used 12 chip for this build, a feat he could accomplish with a few digital tricks, like making an inverter by tying one XOR input high.

We’ve seen a 555-based knock lock before, but getting the timing right with that seems a little maddening. [Eric]‘s build seems much more user-friendly, and has the added bonus of being programmed by knocking instead of turning potentiometers. Check out [Eric]‘s knock lock after the break.

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