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Over the years, we have made some substantial updates to our Progressive Lock hardware. With the latest shift to a new supplier and a great upgrade to their quality and packaging, we wanted to tell the story of these terrific practice and training locks...

The Original Progressive Locks

TOOOL was not the first outfit to produce "progressive" locks in this fashion. Other vendors like Southern Ordinance and various police supply companies have created such hardware before, but these saw rather limited use. Matt Blaze, the noted UPenn professor and security enthusiast, would often appear at hacker cons with his lab mates and students sporting "lock boards" which were well-mounted assortments of locks featuring varying degrees of difficulty. Inspired by this, Deviant Ollam started to repin and label a number of his hardware items while crafting early versions of the TOOOL road kit...

...those worked rather well, and they made appearances at events around the country and even around the world, but clearly these featured some limitations. Most of the lock cores were pulled from recycled/scrapped door knob and handle sets and the labels were hand-cut and affixed with glue and clear tape. It was a start.

 

Mass Produced, Matching Cylinders

When Babak Javadi moved out to the East Coast and he and Deviant began growing TOOOL-US in new ways, his best and most welcome contribution tp this particular project came with the suggestion that we contract with a single supplier and attempt volume pricing on our parts. He had made a number of great contacts while attending ALOA shows over the years, and reached out to All 5 North American Spring Tool. This company's lock division was willing to offer us wonderful volume pricing, and the first TOOOL-produced set of progressive locks appeared...

... While these locks were all uniform and built to our specifications, there was still the fact that our membership (usually just our core leadership) would sit and repin them by hand in order to create the "progressive" style of the kits.

...this manual disassembly of every single lock inspired Deviant to start spray-painting the tail caps his driveway, in order to better distinguish Easy, Medium, and Hard difficulties as these locks spread out on tables at conferences and TOOOL meetings. The labels were still hand-cut and taped-on, too.

 

All 5 Does the Pinning, TOOOL Makes New Labels

As our relationship with our suppliers grew, and TOOOL's buying power increased through greater quantity, we were eventually able to have all the pinning work done at the All 5 Lock factory, eliminating the need for Deviant to disassemble every lock in-house once they shipped to us. Babak used his design skill to craft new and improved labels. Since the tail pieces were not coming off anymore when these locks reached TOOOL HQ, we needed to find another way to color-code things...

 

...after some tweaking and fine-tuning, eventually we were producing all of our labels on a Roland VersaCamm at nearby NextFab Studio, which has a great relationship with TOOOL...

...the system of "colored stripe along the top" became our standard, and the sides of the lock bible (that's the portion of the housing that contains the pin stacks) featured our logo and the lock's description...

...these quickly became one of our most popular items in the TOOOL shop, both online and at conferences.

 

The Padlock Experiment

Some of you may have heard tales of progressive-difficulty padlocks produced by TOOOL. Well, there's no need to check Snopes because this is not some urban legend. In advance of DEFCON 18, Babak worked with Pacific Lock to oversee a limited run of anodized and laser-marked aluminum-body padlocks in a galaxy of colors and difficulty levels...

... these were immediately popular and impressed everyone who saw them, but unfortunately these locks proved too difficult for most beginners to pick and too costly for us to produce and sell at a reasonable price at the current time. We have not forgotten them, however, and hope to offer them again at some point in the future. There really is no comparison for the satisfaction and elation that occurs with the loud CLICK of a padlock shackle snapping open, after all!

 

Enter Kaba Ilco

In August of 2012, TOOOL was informed of some very shocking and distressing news. The small, family business of All 5 North American Spring Tool was being sold off (the owners were looking to retire, having managed the firm until their late years) and portions of the business were not going to survive the transition. The lock shop was one such area, that the new owners planned to simply let fall by the wayside. It was a shame, and very sad for us. TOOOL had been working with the same handful of people for the past three years in the production of a great array of progressive kits. From the Basic Six and Advanced Four (with spool pins) we had now been creating locks for teaching Impressioning (which featured some extra-hardened nickel-silver pins) and locks to teach field stripping and re-assembly, among much else. Thankfully, our main contact at All 5 put us in touch with good folk at Kaba Ilco, the nation's premiere supplier of lock parts and lock servicing equipment. After months and months of Deviant fine-tuning this new relationship (it was amazing to us just how slowly the wheels turn the further you go up the food chain of big business) we finally started to see new product coming in...

To say that these new locks are a step up barely hints at the quality and care that has gone into them. As with nearly all of our TOOOL equipment, we are still proudly able to say that our Progressive Locks are made in the USA. But these are truly a step above all that came before. They are manufactured to tighter tolerances and incorporate more graceful, eased corners and smoother cylinder edges which feel great in one's hands.

The colored stripes are still there, and our varying difficulties are all still appearing, with newer designs on the horizon.

If you are curious about what generation of TOOOL Progressive Locks you ever encounter, look to the tail side. The newest ones from Kaba Ilco feature a crosshatched checker pattern as opposed to the array of straight-line serrations from the All 5 Locks. This is a fitting way to end this little summary page, actually... we've sure come a long way from spray-painting tail caps in Deviant's driveway.   ;-)