Impressioning: making a key for a lock with only a file and a key blank

Sometimes the easiest way to make a key for a lock is to impression it. You take a key blank and wiggle it around and then look carefully for any indentations on the key blank. These marks you file down and repeat the process until the key turns. This allows you to replace lost keys for locks that either can’t be taken apart or might be difficult to take apart. Take this old Ford from the 60’s. Who knows what rusted out parts might not go back in under the dashboard if I took it off! It took only ten minutes to impression this key.

The customer had a very worn out original key. The impressioned key looked nothing like the customer’s key at all!

Schlage NDE80 errors, flaky firmware or flaky bluetooth drivers?

Most locksmiths don’t care for adding technology to locks because with increased complexity comes increased number of vulnerabilities. Making a lock that works with your phone could be really cool if it works well and the security features prevent other android apps from stealing your password. The featureset for this lock is incredible and it is attractive.

Schlage’s NDE80 promises to revolutionize electronic access control. They look slick, they’re built well, they use the same hole pattern as a non electronic lever with no extra holes, etc. Trying to install one in the real world though, you come up against the brick wall of reality.

The device is not responding. If you continue to experience problems, please toggle your bluetooth on and off and try again.

Using my patched and updated vanilla android phone, I figured out last night (late last night, it took hours) that the only way to get this lock to work correctly is to constantly reboot your phone’s bluetooth app or driver or whatever.

Whenever you see the error to the left, you have to turn off bluetooth and turn it back on. Maybe multiple times. My success was intermittent. I could never add more than one credential without rebooting bluetooth at least twice. Sometimes it took as many as five times. You may also have luck by pushing the inside lever down every once in awhile. I could not figure out a sweet spot to hold my phone at. Took off all phone covers, disconnected other bluetooth devices and turned them off, did a little dance and spilled the blood of a frog on the face of the lock but nothing worked. Occasionally the lock would blink red over and over for a minute or two. Rebooting? BSOD? I don’t know. What I do know is I’m charging a lot more to install one of these next time. It takes five minutes for me to enroll fifty prox cards for an Alarm Lock DL3500. It takes roughly two hours to enroll fifteen prox cards for a Schlage NDE80.

I am adding this post here because I found no information on how to resolve this error on the internet. Schlage’s tech support number is 888-805-9837. I called them and followed the prompts for an electronic lock and waited on hold for probably 45 minutes until I finally got through and the lady told me that this was for residential locks, not commercial and she couldn’t help me. I couldn’t find the error message from the Engage app anywhere. The error message would be much more helpful if it added that you have to toggle bluetooth on and off multiple times and also wait an indeterminate amount of time before trying again.

Schlage, if you are reading this you need to fix your phone menu so poor locksmiths don’t waste their time waiting for residential electronic lock tech support to answer. Fix your firmware so that regular old android bluetooth phones can connect to your locks the first time. Fix your error message so that it accurately explains that you have to toggle your bluetooth off and on multiple times. Also take back this stupid NDE80 that I never want to see again.

Unlocking an old Scandinavian steamer trunk with a warded lock

This is an antique Scandinavian steamer trunk whose key was lost decades ago.

Today I unlocked this old steamer trunk. It had a warded lock with a spring latch. Once I got it open I removed the lock so that the owner could shut the lid without it locking again.

The trunk is an old Scandinavian one dated 1925. The design reminds me of family heirlooms from my Danish grandparents.

This is an antique Scandinavian steamer trunk lock I picked open today. It was full of dead spiders and other bugs.