Posted tagged ‘thru-the-lock’

Modified Rex Tool Video


Here is a short clip of my modified Rex Tool being used to go through the lock on a storefront door with a mortise cylinder. I have been carrying this modified Rex for almost 5 years now and have to say it is probably the most versatile through the lock tool you can have. I don’t carry it all the time but it goes in my pocket for fires, service calls, investigations, etc. Through the lock is a great Plan A on a good majority of Aluminum Stile Doors with Mortise Cylinders. However, it will never happen if you’re not carrying your Rex, this helps you in that complication. 

Thru-The-Lock Time Trial (storefront doors)



Need a new years resolution. Here it is, prove to yourself and others how effective Thru-The-Lock is on storefront doors. It is hard to argue with this video. Time to quit ignoring that Rex or K-tool everyday as you check the trucks and start dedicating yourself to completely understanding it uses.


Rex Tool 101. (Thru-The-Lock on Mortise Locks)


Finally got around to editing about 3 hours of forcible entry video we have into short training sessions. We will start off with Thru-The-Lock tactics on mortise locks using the Rex Tool. Hope it is useful.

Mortise Cylinders V.S. Rim Cylinders


There are a wide variety of different types of mortise locks and rim locks, found on both residential and commercial doors. It would be impossible to cover all of the different types of these locks and their variations in one article. 

 However these locks have something in common. They are very routinely mistaken for each other when someone is practicing size up on these doors. Now there are many key features that can be studied and identified from the outside that would allow you to identify them far before you pull the cylinder. It does take some practice and attention to detail to pick up on these, so that you can efficiently identify them a majority of the time. We may make that an article for another day, for now we feel it is important to cover the bottom line of what needs to be identified to get in these locks.

The above picture is a good example where we may run across these types of locks. This door has a mortise cylinder and a rim cylinder. The top cylinder is a dummy lock that does not operate anything. Since we have the luxury of glass and no conditions behind it, we can easily identify these locks. We see the bars across the door behind the glass which line up with the bottom cylinder. That is our indicator that this will be a rim cylinder operating a panic bar (rim lock). When we look at the cylinder above we can expect this to be our mortise cylinder which is more than likely set in a adams rite mortise lock with a deadlatch. This is the most common lock found in these doors, and if you only have one cylinder showing it is probably this type of lock.

If we decide thru-the-lock is the tactic of choice and we decide to pull the cylinder, there are a few things for us to look at. If we did not know what type of lock we were dealing with before we pulled the cylinder, we can immediately identify it after it is removed. By taking a quick look at the cylinder it will inform us of the type of lock we are going to trip and what end of our tool we will need to use (Either the angled end or the straight end).

Pictured above are the two types of cylinders, the mortise is the dark colored cylinder and the rim is the gold cylinder. Even though these looked almost identical from the outside, you can now see significant differences. The mortise cylinder has the threaded body which holds it in place with a set screw whereas the rim cylinder has the two mounting bolts which connects to a thin metal plate on the back of the door. More importantly we can see the differences in their mechanisms. The mortise cylinder has the cam on the backside which rotates around as the key is turned allowing the small point on the cam to activate the lock. Next when you look at the rim cylinder you can see it has a stem which looks similar to the flat blade of a screw driver. This also turns and activates the lock. The main characteristic to remember from these above pictures is where the action of the lock is taking place. The mortise is activated downward and inside the door. The rim is activated straight back and on the backside of the door.

Here is a break down of each cylinder and lock by themselves.

You can see the mortise cylinder next to the commonly found Adams Rite Mortise Lock. By recognizing the previously discuss parts of this lock like the cam, we know we will be using the angled end of our tool to activate the pin below where the cylinder sat.
This picture is a good view of the mechanism behind mortise cylinders. A good landmark to remember is the open cutout on that arm that resembles a lightbulb. If you remember that cutout looks exactly like the shape of the cam on the back of the lock, and it also points to the exact spot we should place our tool to activate the button that can be seen in this picture. Once the button is depressed we will move the mechanism towards the jamb side of the door to release the latch. Not all mortise locks activate with the exact motion but a large majority of the do have a pin that needs depressed before the action can be made.

Next you can see the rim cylinder as if it had just been pulled.

The key points that we see here are the mounting bolts and the long stem. This reminds us that our lock will be activated straight in on the backside of the door. You can see the tell-tale plus sign on the lock, this is where the stem fits in to activate the lock. Many of these are simple quarter turn locks that is easily done with a flat screw driver.

These locks can be easy to over think, and sometimes you try and use too much force due to the small simple action that typically throws these locks. After you give the lock a quarter turn or until you meet resistance, try the thumb latch if it has one, or pull on the door to make sure you haven’t just unlocked the door but forgot to pull it open before the latch went back into place. This will tend to happen on panic hardware as the latch is more than likely spring-loaded in the locked position.

The bottom line out of all of this is: Rim = Stem= Straight end of the tool
                                                                        Mortise=Cam= Angled end of the tool

To wrap up we have a couple pictures showing you some different ways that mortise cylinders and rim cylinders may present themselves in the commercial setting.

Thru-The-Lock Pliers (Modified Channelocks)


By  R. Royal

Here is a thought on one way to make your own pair of modified pliers. They save room in your pockets and are actually much easier to use then the commercially made “key tools”. They provide you with more control and more leverage when tripping locks after removing the cylinders. Obviously making these pliers is not a science but I have had a chance to make 35 or so pairs of these pliers and each time learned a few little specifics that improve them. I have had quite a few people email the website in the last few weeks asking for a post about fabricating these pliers.

Above is  a before and after picture of the pliers we are going to make. I only use the # 420 Channellock Brand 9 1/2 inch slip joint pliers. It makes a difference to spend the 12 bucks and buy the quality brand pliers that will last forever. They are made with quality steel  and do not use a nut to hold together the handles. After you get your pliers we start our process by cutting off the blue rubber handles with a utility knife .

 Now you want to mark the end of the handle that you are going to bend. I have found that the best handle to bend is the longer (what i would call the inside ) handle. It fits better in your hand this way if you are unscrewing a cylinder and also improves the grip on the handle. Plus it keeps the handles pretty close to the same lengths when you are done. I mark the handle at 7/8 of an inch, anywhere within 3/4 to 1 inch should be fine but this has seemed to fit in the mortise locks the best for me. You want to mark the handle on a few sides so that you can see the marks when you are heating and bending the handle. 

Now we want to heat the handle. I am writing this based off of a small propane torch because it can be found in the firehouse. If you have an Oxy Acetylene torch you will make quick work of this step in about 5 seconds, but for everyone else we will go this route with the propane. The mark you made with the knife will be your vise mark. This is where we want to concentrate the heating. This process of heating the handle will take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes depending on how efficiently you hold the torch. It is important to adjust the propane to a good flame and use the hottest part of the flame. Do not hold the torch to close, it will add a lot of time to your heating. You will see the coating burn off in the first few minutes and then eventually you should start to see a faint glow around your mark. Dont bend it right away, heat it for a  another minute or two to ensure it is hot enough.

Adjust your vise so that you do not have to turn it very far once you have your handle heated, you lose precious heat if you do not bend the handle very quickly after the heating. As you can see in the picture below the mark we scratched is not where the bend is, I line the teeth of the vise up on both sides of this mark, the bend should occur above the mark. It is important to bend the handle to the outwards position. If you look at the first picture you can see which way it bends. I have bent them inwards to make them more compact, the problem is it will prevent you from closing the pliers all the way and the jaws will not be able to grab many materials. It also makes it more difficult in the open position to use the bent end while tripping mortise locks. When you think you have enough heat stick the handle in the vise, line up your mark and then attempt to bend it to about a right angle. This should not be terribly hard to bend, if it is you have not heated it enough and may crack the steel. You will feel some resistence when it is heat properly but you should not have to put your weight into it.  

Next I like to take the two ends and  grind them roughly into shape, make sure you don’t go to thin because it is easier to clean them up and fine tune them with the angle grinder. It is hard to describe the size you want to make these end pieces, look closely at the next pictures for a design, but more importantly trying them in some common locks to make sure they fit all of them is important. I will do my best to give you some dimensions and the reasoning behind it.

You can see below the rough shapes we are going for. The straight end is more specific than the angled end. If you roughly make the angled end about 1/8 inch thick at the end and tapered to about 1/8 inch wide you will be in pretty good shape. Just try the sizes in a standard storefront mortise lock. The straight end however has a lot of different locks it needs to fit into. If you make it the right size you can trip all of these locks with ease.  If you grind the end of the straight handle to 1/16 thick and 3/16 wide you will have the best all around size. This allows you to trip rim locks with few problems but also allows you to trip your most common tubular deadbolt throws. Many of these deadbolts have plus signs, stars, half moons and other odd shapes. The half moons can be the most difficult. The size that I gave you will fit all of these. The other lock that this thin straight handle will fit into is the “jimmy proof vertical deadbolt rim lock”. These have the self closing shutter that closes when you pull the cylinder. It is important that your handle can not only trip the shutter but also fit in the lock behind it and turn the bolt. Granted that is another story for another day.

These finishing touches and measurements are best done with an angle grinder that has a sandpaper wheel on it. They allow you good control over the material you take off and puts a nice shine on the metal. When that is done I like to take a quality roll of  friction tape and wrap a couple passes on both handles.

Now that you have a nice new set of pliers, you need to give them a try. There is no use making them if you don’t put them to work. Any other questions, let me know in the comments section and we will try to answer them.

Thru-The-Lock Tool Review


You can find a variety of thru-the-lock tools out there, they come any many different sizes, names, prices, and most importantly quality. This is a quick review on the differences in the tools and their limitations. We thought this would be a good way to start before we post some thru-the-lock articles later on down the line. Some of these tools differences are so slight they are hard to spot until you take a close look at them. To start you can see the first picture that gives us a look at the most common thru-the-lock tools.


We will start with some of the oldest generation of commercially sold lock pulling tools. The K-Tool was invented in the 1960’s when thru-the-lock entry was just becoming an option. Many of the oldest thru-the-lock tools were homemade out of modified pry bars. The increased security features being installed on doors is what drove the original thru-the-lock tools. The K-tool is still an effective tool but has a limited use which is making it outdated. This is due to tubular deadbolts becoming very common and the invention of newer lock pullers that can pull all cylinders. The K-Tool is limited to rim and mortise cylinders however it is very effective  and portable which has allowed it to perform for many years on these types of locks. The body of the K-tool is too shallow to fit over the common tubular deadbolts found today. That is where the R-tool comes in, the R-tool is essentially a bigger version of the K-tool. It has the same design and pulls cylinders in the same way. However with the larger body it can fit over the tubular deadbolts also. The biggest drawback of this tool is the size. It is very bulky and is difficult to get around cylinders when they are close to the jamb or covered by handles.  They are also much less portable due to their size. If you look below you can see the difference in the depth of the tools body.

Below you see the Rex Tool and the Modified Rex Tool. These are some of the newest generation of lock pulling tools and in my opinion are the best ones you can use today. Because of their design you can pull any type of cylinder and also pull door knobs. Its slim design lets you reach locks that are under door handles or close to jambs.  The Rex-Tool is a great design and very effective tool however to take it one step further is the Modified Rex Tool.  The Modified Rex Tool is simply the cut off head of a Rex-Tool that has had a band welded on it. The band is made to fit a Halligan and is used in a similar fashion as the K-Tool. This makes it very portable and just as effective. It is simple to make and will be used much more because of having it with you and not having to go back to the truck. We have used it numerous times and had great success with this modified tool.

It is important to note that although the Rex-tool looks like the A-tool or O-tool (which we do not have pictures of) there is a big difference in their construction and how effective they are. You must look closely to tell the difference in the Rex-tool and the A-tool. Here are the main differences. The A-tool came out first, and they look like the Rex-tool having a handle that is connected to a head in the shape of a claw. The heads are smaller than the Rex-tool and have much less material that goes around the lock cylinders. The A-tool tends to slip easier when pulling cylinders and is difficult to use on tubular deadbolts compared to the Rex tool. The Rex tool  is  more expensive than the A-tool at almost double the price, but worth it for the way it performs. The easiest way to identify which tool you are buying or already have is by the shape in between the forks. The A-tool is like its name in the shape of an A. If you look at the picture above of the Modified Rex Tool you will see its signature shape is the U. This tapered U shape is a big reason the Rex-tool seats in locks so well and holds on while you pull. There are many other features that make one or the other better which we wont get into right now, this post was mainly to make it easier to identify the names and features of these tools. A quick note on the key tools and modified pliers. These perform the same functions of tripping the locks after we have pulled the cylinders. The advantage of the pliers is that you always have them with you. Many times the key tools will disappear out of the factory case they come in. The pliers are easy to make (which we will cover in another article) and work very well.

You can get into a lot more depth about these tools but that’s easier to do when explaining how to use them. This is just a way to get your terminology straight and recognize some of the differences between the tools. There are many other thru the lock tools available out there, but these are the most common. All of these were made by guys that ran into problems and came up with a better way to do things.

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