Mechanical keys are the most fundamental, albeit unsophisticated, form of access control. Like access control, Master Keying allows large scale use by segmenting access. But unlike access control, it requires no electricity, no network, and uses regular door locks.
While Master Keys have been around for decades, how they work is not widely understood. In this tutorial, we explain how they function, plus how they should be used, and how much they cost compared to electronic access control. The sections inside include:
- How Door Locks Work
- Explain the 'Codes' of Each Key
- Why Shear Lines Are So Important
- How Master Key Systems Are Organized
- Losing Keys Is A Huge Risk
- Typical Master Key Costs
Finally, after reading, take our 6 question quiz.
Basic Lock Function
The design of 'pin tumbler' style locks has not changed since the original patents filed in the 1850s.
Not only are they widely used globally, they all have the same basic elements. The animated GIF below offers a good explanation on how the key interacts and physically opens a lock:
The principle is simple: the lock contains several (usually between 5 - 7) internal pins of different lengths. A key is only able to turn the lock if the 'bitted combination' of key cuts matches the length of the pins.