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how master keys work

How do Master Keys Work?

A master key system is a great way to organise your keys and have control over the security of your property. A master key system creates a hierarchy where you can have a master key for all locks and some keys which are only capable of opening their specific lock.

There can be many examples where a master key system can be super beneficial. Imagine a building with multiple occupants, such as an apartment complex. In this building, the owner will want a single master key for all locks in the building. However, for those individual occupants, their key must open only their room or apartment. The same can be true for businesses, schools, or any organisation.

With a master key system, some keys can open all locks in the system, some can open a select few, and some keys that can only open one lock.



master key

How do Master keys work?

Despite the name, in a master key system, there is often nothing special about the key itself, instead, it is the lock that has the unique mechanism.

Master key systems are often pin-tumbler locks. A pin-tumbler lock has several little pins, all of which need to be pushed up into their shear point to allow the lock to open. The pins are pushed up to their shear point by the grooves and bumps on a key. The key needs the correct shape to push each pin exactly to its shear point, allowing the lock to open.

In a master key system, additional small cylinders are placed alongside the pin, giving each pin an extra shear point. These extra shear points create more ways in which each lock can be opened. These additional ways for a lock to be opened means you can create a system where some keys can open only one specific lock, while others can open many.

More ways to open each lock provide the ability to create a more complex system of hierarchy in the master key system. However, it is important to note that the more ways that a lock can be unlocked, the easier the lock is to pick. Therefore, creating a more complex master key system can decrease the overall security of the lock.


Levels of hierarchy in a master key system.

Within a master key system, there is a hierarchy of keys. The lowest key in the hierarchy is a differ key. A differ key is a simple key that can only open its specific lock. The next level of the key hierarchy is a sub-master key, followed then by a master key. Beyond a master key, there are grandmaster and great grandmaster keys. Each of these can open more and more locks in the system. A great grandmaster key will be able to unlock all locks within the system.

If you are interested in how a Master Key system could work for you, get in touch with Armstrong security. Armstrong Security is recognized as an industry leader in master key systems. If you are interested in installing a Master Key system, get in touch with Armstrong Security today, and see how we can help you.