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Copyright 2005 by Bill Phillips. Click here for terms of use.
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Figure 5.1 Notice the window on the cover of this lever tumbler lock.
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Figure 5.2 A lever tumbler lock in exploded view. This model has three tumblers; others might have a dozen or more.
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Figure 5.3 Lever tumbler nomenclature. The key bears against the saddle.
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Lever Tumbler Locks
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(or post) must pass through the gating from the rear to the front trap or vice versa, either unlocking or locking the lock.
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Lever tumblers
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The number of lever tumblers varies. Most locks have no more than five, although deposit box locks have more. The lever tumbler consists of six parts:
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Saddle (or belly) Pivot hole Spring Gating slot Front trap Rear trap
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Over the years, manufacturers have developed a variety of lever types (Fig. 5.4). The operating principle is the same for all of them. Each lever is a flat plate that is held in place by a pivot pin and a flat spring. Each lever has a gate cut into it. The gates are located at various heights with the saddle either aligned for all levers or staggered. The latter approach is antiquated. When the levers are raised to the proper position, the gates are open and the bolt post can shift from one trap to another, thus locking or unlocking the lock. Because the bolt post meets no resistance at the gating, the lock works properly. On some designs the edge of the lever has serrated notches. The bolt post has corresponding notches. The notches on the lever and the bolt jam together if an improperly cut key is used. This effectively stops the bolt from passing through the gating and keeps the lock secure. Only a perfectly and properly cut key will open this type of lock. This feature adds immensely to the security of the lock. The width of the gate is a critical factor in the operation of the lock. Some gates are just wide enough for the pin to pass through. A duplicate key, even slightly off on a single cut, will not work on the lock. The saddle of the lever is also important. Recall from Chap. 1 that staggered saddles make it possible to cut a key by observation. In the case of modern
Figure 5.4 Some lever tumblers have an open
gating.
Five
lever tumblers, the gate traps have different heights, which leaves the saddles in perfect alignment. There are two methods for making gating changes. The most common is to substitute a lever tumbler with a different gate dimension. Locksmith supply houses stock a variety of levers, so all you are required to do is change the original for one with a higher or lower gate. The second method is to alter the tumbler by filing the saddle. This approach is used with levers whose movement is restricted at the gate. Unless the tumbler gating varies greatly, the curvature of the saddle must vary with the shape of the key. When working on the lever tumbler lock, as on other types, it is best to have two available: one for disassembly to determine internal working parts and one for actual problem solving. The typical lever tumbler lock contains two, three, five, or six levers. Bank deposit-box locks can have as many as 14 levers. Lever tumbler locks can be keyed individually, alike (two or more with the same key), or master keyed, depending on the wishes of the buyer. Repairs General-purpose lever tumbler locks come in three styles. In order of popularity, these are the following:
Solid case, usually spot-welded or riveted Pressed form with the back and sides of the case one piece small tabs from the sides bend to hold the cover in place Cover plate secured by a screw
Riveted or spot-welded locks should be discarded when they fail. It is cheaper to purchase a new lock; the time required to drill out the rivets or chisel through the spot welds costs the customer more than the lock is worth. Locks secured by tabs can be disassembled and reassembled quite easily. To disassemble, insert a thin tool or small screwdriver under the flanges and pry upward. Remove the cover. Look for a small object jammed in the keyway; if you find something, remove it. At times like this you may wonder if being a locksmith is really worth it, but a locksmith must have patience with the small jobs as well as the big ones. Broken springs are another common problem with lever tumbler locks. If it is not the top lever, carefully remove each lever in turn, placing them in a logical order so you can reassemble them in the correct order. Remove the lever with the broken spring. Select a piece of spring steel from your inventory. Cut and bend it to shape. If you have purchased an assortment of ready-made springs, select the proper one, then replace the broken spring with the new one. Replace the levers and reassemble the lock.
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