The Truth About Padlocks

It was Friday afternoon and the week had been tiring. I was dirty, sweaty and eager to go home. In my hurry to get the job site buttoned up for the weekend, I had put my car keys in my toolbags, which I’d put inside the Knaack box moments earlier. In case you are not familiar with these burly chests, they have clever locking systems that work in tandem with either one or two concealed padlocks. The chest I refer to in this story has two locks, one on each side. I had closed the first padlock, and, as my hand moved to secure the other, it suddenly occurred to me where my keys were! After berating myself for having been so clumsy, I started thinking about ways to open the box. Thankfully we were working on a large renovation project, and there were at least 10 people on site every day. I scoured the surroundings and found a cordless drill someone had left behind; I also scored a small drill bit. To my surprise and horror, I was able to open the box and retrieve my keys in under thirty seconds! What was wrong with this picture? (you see that tiny hole at the top of the cylinder, don’t you?)

Tough Under Fire

That is an advertising slogan of the Master Lock Company. A picture showed how even a bullet could not violate the lock’s casing. What the company didn’t say, however, is that the brass core which accepts the key is quite soft, and a small hole drilled in the right place can open it almost without effort. In other words, airing a commercial showing someone shooting at Master Lock padlock is just a tactic to divert your attention from its Archilles Heel: the brass core. Knaack boxes are built so that padlocks are completely inaccessible except for the bottom where the keys is inserted. As such, there is no way to either cut the shackle or fire bullets at the casing, should one feel like Dirty Harry. To be fair, it should be mentioned that all major padlock manufacturers use brass cores for most locks. Knaack recommends the Master brand because their locks have the dimensions that fit Knaack’s locking systems, and not because of superior security. I then decided to install different locks. My favorite now are combination locks: no keys to bother with, and the numbers can be easily changed. The only trick is to remember to move the numbers upon unlocking, so that the specific combination does not remain visible to prying eyes. I also have locks with steel tubular cores, similar to many bike locks. Surely none of these reflect the Holy Grail of security, but they sure beat their vulnerable brass-cored counterparts.

My Challenge To Manufacturers

There are a number of storage chest manufacturers, such as Greenlee, Jobox and Knaack. Greenlee has a slightly better design than the other two in that access to the bottom of the padlock is restricted. Still, a small right-angle drill is likely to reach the core. Some might find the notion of thieves using right angle drills far fetched; however, cordless tools have proliferated to such a degree that they’ve become an essential part of many criminals’ arsenal.

It is puzzling to me that a company such as Knaack does not make better suggestions about the type of padlock that should be installed, or at least warn of potential weaknesses such as the brass core. Knaack mentions the Master brand because their locks have the dimensions that best fit Knaack’s locking systems, and not because of superior security. However, the latter should unequivocally be part of the equation.

Although I was happy to be able to head home that Friday afternoon, I was deeply disappointed in the false sense of security instilled by Knaack LLC and Master Lock. Both companies would score major points if they designed a padlock and locking system combination of far better quality. Needless to say, their customers would finally gain the benefits they were expecting in the first place.

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