Thank heavens for Decoders, writes one advocate...otherwise it'd be Curtains for us all. Geraint Jones of GJ Locks explains why he thinks Decoders can help save the average locksmith's family world by reducing the amount of time spent out on the road
There are a lot of locksmiths who sit on the fence and can’t decide if it’s worth investing in a range of decoders or locking yourself away for weeks and practicing with a curtain pick. So lets have a look at the pros and cons of both.
Curtain picking is a skill that a lot of locksmiths are not blessed with. It requires a lot of practice to understand your target lock. Lets take a Union 2134E for an example. First you have to figure out the high lifts from the low lifts which is done by lifting the levers to see which go into anti pick and which ones don’t.
Then you can work out which levers need to be lifted high and which ones low. Then you have to carefully nudge each lever to what you think is the correct height while keeping a balanced amount of tension on the curtain, enough to keep the levers slightly binding to keep them up but not too much that they jam solid and not too little that they drop back down and you have to start all over again. Then practice this until your fingers bleed. And if you lose the feel of the lock over time due to not opening one for a while then you’re back to trying to remember the sequence, method and feel of the lock.
Decoders on the other hand go like this.
1. Open the box
2. Take the pre prepared impression key out
3. Stick it in the lock, turn fully in the locking direction
4. Remove the key and compare the marks with those on the supplied chart
5. Construct the make up key
6. Open the lock and throw the decoder back in the box until needed again.
So very minimal skill required, a working set of eyes is the bare minimum. No guess work or special feel required, its as simple and straight forward as it gets. And what’s more it’s consistent and endlessly repeatable.
Decoders cost around £220 each and Curtain picks around £180.
Now it’s unlikely that one curtain pick will open everything as for example some locks need massive amounts of tension like the Union 2101, this could easily bend a CB pick so an LTC pick would be better suited as it’s a chunkier tool and can handle lots of torque without damage. Locksmiths usually find they get better results from having a variety of curtain picks each suited to particular locks. It’s the same with decoders. You only need decoders for locks you are regularly coming up against, in some areas that’s two or three types.
Myself as a warrant locksmith I want the door open as fast as possible and I need consistency. So if I look through the key hole and see a Union 2134E or any of the variants Union 2134, 2234, 2134E, 2234E, Chubb 3U114, Yale old BS PM550, PM552, or the Union 2101, 2201 and the Yale and Chubb versions of the same lock, then I know my one decoder will open them all in very short order. So why would I bother learning the skills needed to curtain pick all of these locks? And there is no guarantee that I will be able to open them all with the curtain pick. Especially when it’s raining and cold. Easier to walk up to the door, stick in the impression key and sit back in the warm van to build the key. Walk back to the door and open it.
If time isn’t an issues for you and you can happily spend 30 minutes to an hour opening a lock with no pressure on you and you have the spare time to put in learning and honing your curtain picking skills then good for you. But for those of us where time is a big issue and family life means there is little or no free time to practice, then decoders could be the answer.