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What Is a Dimple Lock

Updated: 06/26/2024
A Dimple Key

What Is a Dimple Lock

A dimple lock is a type of pin-tumbler lock design named after the cuts on the key’s bitting area, which resemble dimples. Unlike traditional pin-tumbler locks that use the edge of the key blade as the primary bitting area, dimple locks utilize the flat side of the key blade for this purpose.

Dimple locks differ from conventional pin-tumbler locks in their keyway design and orientation. Most dimple locks allow the key to be inserted in any orientation, providing added convenience for users. The keyway of a dimple lock contains small, concave depressions or dimples that correspond to the position and depth of the pins within the lock cylinder.

Dimple locks typically have shallower tumbler depths compared to conventional locks but contain more pins. They are available in both cylinder and profile configurations. In profile design, the pins and springs may not be located at the top of the keyway as expected, and the drivers are often attached to the springs.

Dimple Key

Dimple keys have both warding (grooves) and biting (cuts) on the side of the key. This design does not provide any additional security but actually aids in picking the lock, as the warding can serve as picking guides. Dimple locks are essentially standard pin-tumbler locks with larger pins and the key turned 90 degrees. The keyway is also turned 90 degrees to accommodate the key.

How Dimple Locks Work

Each pin set in a dimple lock consists of a spring, a driver pin (top pin), and a key pin (the pin that makes contact with the key). The key’s role is to raise or lower the pins to ensure they do not obstruct the shearline, allowing the barrel to turn. Despite the apparent complexity of dimple keys with their combination of grooves and dimples, they function similarly to standard pin-tumbler locks.

When a properly cut dimple key is inserted into the lock, the dimples align with the pins inside the lock cylinder. This alignment allows the plug, which is the rotating part of the lock, to turn. The plug rotates when the dimples in the key are properly positioned in a variety of pin tumbler stacks simultaneously. Higher security dimple locks may incorporate additional features such as telescoping pins, axial rotation, and side pins to enhance their resistance against picking and manipulation.

Picking Dimple Locks

Dimple locks are known for their enhanced security compared to conventional pin-tumbler locks. The unique keyway design and the use of dimples make dimple locks more challenging to pick or bypass without the correct key. They are commonly used in high-security applications, including commercial buildings, government facilities, and residential properties where advanced protection is required.

While it is possible to pick dimple locks with standard lock picks, it can be more challenging due to the turning of the key blade, which leaves less room for the picks. To simplify the process, specialized sets of dimple picks have been developed specifically for picking dimple locks. These picks follow the warding in the dimple lock and are twisted or lifted to manipulate the pins. Rakes can also be useful for setting a few pins before starting single pin picking.

Key Duplication for Dimple Locks

When it comes to duplicating dimple keys, it can be more challenging compared to duplicating traditional keys. Some dimple locks come with a card or a code, and duplicate keys need to be ordered using this number. This ensures that only authorized individuals can obtain duplicate keys, reducing the risk of unauthorized access. Specialized machines like the Silca SLX are recommended for accurately duplicating dimple keys.

Dimple key systems are not completely immune to picking or impressioning techniques. Skilled individuals with the right tools and knowledge may still be able to manipulate these locks. However, the unique design and added security features of dimple key systems make them a more secure option compared to traditional pin tumbler locks.

Master Keying

Dimple key systems also provide increased key control and master keying capabilities compared to traditional pin tumbler locks. The relationship between the keyway and the pins in a dimple lock limits the number of available depths for each pin, allowing for more precise control over key access. This makes dimple key systems suitable for applications where key control and restricted access are crucial.

Types and Brands

There are different types and brands of dimple keys available in the market. Some popular brands include Ultion, ABS, Yale, and Mul-T-Lock. These brands offer a range of dimple keys that are cut to code and can be obtained from licensed key centers. Prices for dimple keys can vary, ranging from $5.00 to $15.00 each.

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