I was presented with the above by a customer who had bought it at a garage sale and wanted a working key made for it. Picking open the lock was the work of a minute, given that it was a wafer style lock with sloppy tolerances. Finding the proper key blank for it, however, was another matter.
One of the least profitable things I do (but enjoyable nonetheless) is find oddball keys for people. Usually customers present me with a key that they want copied, but sometimes, like in this case, I only have the lock itself to work with. My go-to resource for both of these problems is the ILCO company’s index to keys. ILCO makes key blanks for most every pin and wafer tumbler lock ever manufactured.
Below is a sample of their publically available index.
Image taken with permission from the Ilco Key Blank Directory Section 2 - North American Cylinder
As you can imagine, having the key makes it easier to find the key blank because not only do you have the groove pattern of the key, but you can usually match the bow (top) of the key also. The ILCO catalog gives an image of the key and a silhouette of the different grooving patterns associated with it. The grooving silhouette is essentially a representation of what the keyway looks like (and, the same, what looking down the length of the key looks like). So this was the keyway I had:
…and I only had about 80 pages of North American keyways to look through. There were a few good candidates but I took a leap of intuition and ordered the blank shown below – Chicago’s 1041N
A week later, it arrived. Jackpot! It was the right blank! But, wait a minute, this is a very strange lock.
It’s a wafer lock, which isn’t unusual, but what is odd is that part of the lock mechanism (the shell) is built into the body of the machine. The slots on the photo above are what the wafers fit into when locked. Most every lock in existence has these two parts together as a single unit that somehow attaches into whatever it is you’re locking up. With further research, I found that this is specifically a double bitted cam lock manufactured by the Chicago Lock Company.
Another strange feature of this lock is that the blank won’t fit into the keyway completely until it’s already been cut. Usually on a lock like this you would make the cuts based on putting the blank into the keyway and then filing it to adjust the wafer position. My conundrum: need to insert blank to make proper cuts, key needs proper cuts to be inserted.
What did I do? Cursed, tried some online searches, cursed some more, tried to make my best guess as to what the finished key should look like and then I started filing.
It’s a good thing I ordered about 6 keys because my first few attempts were failures. Finally I ended up with this wavy thing:
What the key ended up being is a reverse of the “wave” pattern of the wafers. Given the sloppy tolerances of the lock, however, I’m guessing that my customer could probably now open most toy-n-joy machines.
Thanks Matt L for permission to post your awesome gumball machine!
Sandy Eisele is owner of Peninsula Locksmiths and loves to talk and write about all things lock related.