For a few years now, there has been a new breed of cylinder on the market: the anti-everything cylinder. These are anti-pick, anti-snap, anti-bump and anti-drill cylinders that are extremely tricky to open. They’re the bane of a locksmith’s life, really, because if you’re locked out, it’s enormously time-consuming and challenging to let you back in!
Let’s go over some of the features of these cylinders.
There are many locks out there that are very hard to pick, but a skilled locksmith often stands a chance (the advantage is that a locksmith, unlike your common-or-garden burglar, knows what he’s doing).
A lock being pickable is both an advantage and a disadvantage, because picking is a non-invasive form of door entry. In other words, a locksmith can let you in without needing to break the lock.
But an anti-pick cylinder goes the extra mile. Not only is it hard to pick, it’s anti-pick, i.e. deliberately designed so that you can’t pick it.
To understand how this works, let me give you a (somewhat oversimplified) explanation of how normal picking works:
A locksmith puts the key-hole under tension and then puts a pick inside in order to move the locking pins out of the way. Doing this will allow the barrel to turn without a key, as the picking sort of simulates the effect of having a key in the lock.
Anti-pick cylinders have specially designed pins that make it very difficult, if not impossible, to ‘feel’ when you’ve succeeded. Normal picking is a proper skill that uses genuine locksmith knowhow. The anti-pick cylinder makes your attempt to pick pretty much a permanent stab in the dark.
The length of a cylinder is very important. If your cylinder is far too long for your door, it will stick out from the edge of the door far enough for somebody to snap it. If your cylinder truly is way, way too long, it’s usually possible to snap with a spanner of some sort.
But even if your cylinder is only a little bit too long, there’s a special snapping tool that’ll allow a lockie to open the door.
Once a cylinder snaps in half, you’ll be able to put a screwdriver into the centre of the cylinder – the part known as the cam, which is what makes that locking bolt go in and out – and turn the cam without needing a key.
Anti-snap cylinders have a sort of pre-made snapping point, i.e. a fulcrum where, if you try to snap, the cylinder will usually break at exactly that point. (Fun fact: there’s a word for this in German: Sollbruchstelle.)
Think of it like loo paper: there’s a perforated edge that makes it more likely for a whole sheet to come off at that specific point.
The cylinder is designed so that this fulcrum is at a point from which you can’t access the cam to turn the lock.
So technically you can snap the cylinder, but you can’t snap it in such a way as to open the door.
Bumping is a fun trick, but only really works on the cheapest and nastiest of cheap and nasty locks.
You put a key into the lock. Any old key that’ll fit, pretty much, ideally one where all cuts have a similar height, and then you whack (or bump) the lock with a mallet and turn the key immediately afterwards.
What this does is to jolt the cylinder so that all the pins just jump up from their position, while you ‘pull a fast one’ and turn the key while the pins aren’t looking, so to speak.
The anti-bump protection can be achieved through a number of different ways. One is simply to have more pins in the lock: the more pins there are, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to bump all of them.
Another is to use a ‘dual profile system’ using sidebars. This is a second set of pins elsewhere on that key that doesn’t normally respond to bumping.
To read more about our EVVA EPS sidebar locks, click here.
Lastly, the anti-drill mechanism is quite clever.
Attack a standard cylinder with a tough drill bit, and you’ll be able to drill through all the pins (often made of brass) and the rest of the plug (the bit of the barrel that actually spins when you put the key in). Once this has been drilled, you can take the plug out and use a screwdriver to turn the cam.
With anti-drill locks, firstly the pins are often made of hardened steel, but secondly there are often small hardened steel plates wedged between the pins, so that you’re confronted with numerous ‘walls’ of tough metal before you can get to the core.
In practice, it’s possible to drill an anti-drill cylinder open, but be prepared to spend over an hour doing so, making loads and loads of noise with a drill, ruining countless drill bits. No intruder would bother with that.
Anti-everything cylinders do a lot to prevent break-ins, that’s for sure, but if you reckon you’re likely to lock yourself out, it’s perhaps not so good to have quite such a good cylinder in there. They’re expensive to open, for sure.
Furthermore, they’re not a silver bullet. If it’s not possible to get in via the front door, a burglar might try the back door or a window.
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