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A pre-sale of custom lockpicks designed by a competitive lockpicker to bring "Open Locksport" to market.
Created by

Schuyler Towne

1,159 backers pledged $87,407 to help bring this project to life.

Recent updates

Photos

Quick Update - Test Picks

Hey, everyone. Just got word that the test picks are in, I should be receiving them this evening. I'm pretty stoked. I'll check the layouts, take photos, make adjustments to the layouts where necessary and send those out again to you guys ASAP.

I'll also spot weld the ones I get in and do some test picking. Actually...the layouts will be finalized after the test picking. Need to make sure I haven't introduced any problems to the picks themselves before I make the final etching plates. Big update tomorrow evening/Thursday morning with all of that!

CAD & Etching Layouts

Hey, Everyone,

The CAD files in DWG & DXF format can be found linked in the bottom of this post, as well as the layout for my first test etching. What you'll notice about the etching layout is that there is a variety of different arrangements. The goal is to test the tolerances of the etching process to see how well we can optimize the plate for the actual production run.

These are being sent along to the etcher, and when I actually get them back in hand, I'll let you know how the different layouts worked out and provide you all with the final production layout as well.

Also worth noting that in the production run the picks will be on a completely separate plate from the handles, as the pick material needs to be a high quality spring steel, but the handles can be a less expensive steel, so we'll do them on separate plates so as not to waste any of the higher quality metal, but for the purposes of the test etching it's just important to see all the components and figure out the spacing, etc.

you can download them from here: http://openlocksport.com/CAD_and_Etching.zip

I'm releasing these under the Creative Commons:

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.

Finances

Hey, folks. Today's update will be a rundown of the ways I've spent large chunks of the Kickstarter money. Toward the end of this fairly long post I also comment on the fact that I wish I hadn't spent money on the ancillary parts of the project (locks, cases, etc.) until the picks were completely made and in hand. That's been one of my biggest takeaways from the project.

I'll have another update coming with CAD files and examples of the current plate configurations for chemical etching, etc. but today's is long enough as is.

So, once the pick designs were solidified and I was headed toward prototyping, I felt comfortable spending money on all the other things I was going to need for the business. The first major purchases I made were locks. In total I bought 6000 locks door locks, primarily because the first batch of 3000 had a major flaw that I knew I would have to meticulously correct. Specifically, the #1 and #2 keypins, with their driver pins, managed to stack completely in the plug of the lock. What this means is that when you are picking the lock, if you manage to set some of the pins, but not actually lift a #1 or 2 keypin, the plug will rotate, trapping the spring between the plug and housing of the lock. This typically destroys the lock, as even if you can extricate the spring and remove the plug, the steel spring will have already cut into the softer metal of the housing, causing lasting damage. Unfortunately this batch of locks was sourced from multiple vendors by a third party as a favor to me, so there was no reasonable means of returning them. The problem is solvable, it's just that it would take a lot of time and effort to solve.


Things were moving quickly enough with the picks at that stage (I know...) that I didn't want the locks to hold me up. Especially because I didn't discover the flaw until I was running my first 2 major training, where many people were complaining of locks seizing up on them. I decided that I would purchase new driver pins and repin the first batch of locks over time, and would have them ready for future sales. With that plan in mind, I went ahead and sourced 3000 locks myself, getting samples ahead of time so that I could verify the same problem didn't persist. The new locks came in several weeks later and were perfect. They were also nearly a dollar less per lock than the initial batch. Aside from some issues that came up during the importing process, I loved every bit of the second transaction. Including fees, freight, etc. on both batches of locks, the total came up just under $19000.

There were a number of other, more expensive locks that I had to purchase to fill out the lock library contributions and to fill out my training materials. This cost another $3000 dollars, but some of the locks procured I'll be able to use in many trainings far into the future, which is nice. They aren't all "consumables".

T-Shirts, stickers, temporary tattoos, manual, etc. cost, total, around $2000

First prototype picks cost ~$500

Mini-mill to produce the cutaways cost ~$1200

Embarassingly, I've also had to purchase a large number of actual lockpicks, for trainings and workshops. The total amount I have spent on picks to date is $3200. Primarily via the fine folks at Southern Specialities, with a few small orders from SouthOrd when they were havings sales. While most of these are consumables, it also includes pick guns, tubular picks, etc. that I've needed for trainings and that I continue to use in workshops today.

The pick cases should have cost around $3000, though I'm not certain of the exact amount. I believe my Mother documented their production well, so I have access to better figures (I'm actually about to go through and update all my quickbooks info, so I'll have those numbers soon.)

Packing materials, which currently fill my basement storage unit, cost $900 - but that's only about a third to a half of what I will need to complete every order.

There were other miscellaneous expenses that I've lost track of, like cases for traveling with the locks, cases for the lock libraries, sandpaper, spot welder, metal samples etc. that I've lost track of, but probably don't amount to much more than a few hundred dollars. I would assume sub $1k anyway.

Travel and accomodations at various conferences, trainings and research, this includes trips by both car and plane. $2000 of it went directly to the Jetblue Bluepass, which allowed me to attend a number of conferences and small group events I wouldn't have been able to otherwise. There were an additional $2000 ($2009, to be exact, but as you can tell I'm rounding) in airfare for other events, trainings etc. I am not including personal travel in this, only locksport/physical security related talks, workshops and events.

Trips by car cost, in fuel and rental fees (had to rent twice, once because my car broke done, the other for convenience), $1375. This includes a trip to Chicago, 2 tours of business, schools and hackerspaces in Ohio, a trip to DC, 3 trips to NYC, and a rental in LA, though I'm not counting gas for that trip, because though it was bookended by a locksport related events, I used some of the time in between for personal driving.

Hotel stays I kept to a minimum whenever possible, often just sleeping in my car or with friends. Total hotel costs were $330.

I paid a third party $2000 for assistance in the production of the picks and there were some incidental costs in the process of working with him as well. Though that didn't work out very well, the larger cost of course was the time that I lost in the process. I should have bailed much earlier, but instead I stuck it out for many months. Each month I had other, non-locksport expenses.

My rent is $765 per month. I live in Central Square in Cambridge, MA. Our rents are notoriously high, but for my location & the space that I have, it's pretty good. I can and will be living in cheaper accomodations at the conclusion of my current lease.

My health insurance is $350 per month. My auto insurance isn't much, but the car did need a few significant repairs before I finally got rid of it a few months ago. Total repairs on the car came to a little over $3500.

I made 3 personal purchases (outside of meals, laundry detergent and all that normal getting by stuff). I bought a TV for $300, first TV I had purchased in years. I bought a $1200 laptop, as my prior computer had died. It was the most expensive laptop I've ever bought, but as I do a good amount of design work and video editing, and I had just recieved the initial deposit from Amazon, I decided to invest in a decent one. It has served me well and comes with me to every talk, workshop, etc. but for workshops I could have gotten by with a netbook or something, so I'm chalking this up to a personal purchase. I also took a vacation with my family that cost about $700.

There are innumerable small expenses that permeate anyone's life. Groceries, toilet paper, public transportation, etc. I don't keep good track of those things. I've also donated a lot of hardware to different hackerspaces, and all sorts of other stuff.

Anyway, all of this comes to an important point for this project and a piece of advice I can offer to anyone else undertaking something like this. As soon as I felt comfortable about the pick production I went ahead and spent a great deal of money on all of the ancillary parts of the project. At the time I thought of it in terms of timing an elaborate meal. That's not how it actually is. I wish I hadn't spent a dime on the locks, cases, anything, until I had the picks in hand. Primarily because everything else can be compromised on, but not the picks, because they are the crux of the project. Instead, when the production process ground to a halt and I had to start over with a new plan, I had spent a huge part of the investment, and while I had tangible goods from that (especially locks) they were just sitting on the floor of my apartment, which isn't the same as having enough money to change partners, vendors and cutting methods in one go. So, to make up for that I tried to get by with friends, family and hackerspaces, but couldn't quite make it work, and every time something didn't work, it was more time gone. Another rent check, another health insurance payment, etc. My old boss, who was a great guy, tried to instill in me that money has a time value to it. And in the case of non-essential stock sitting on my floor for a year, it's made me painfully aware of a lesson I wish I could have learned when he tried to teach it to me the first time.

Moving forward, though, things aren't as dire as they have felt. A good friend and professor at a college I did a lockpicking course at has been helping me get things back together. I've just sent metal and cutting plans to a chemical etcher. When I get the test batch back I should be in business. Turnaround time should be about 2 weeks, hopefully less. The plan as it stands is to simply produce as many picks as I can at a time and start distributing those small batches. A lot of people, my Father included, have asked if I'm going to get a job. The short answer is "yes, probably" the long answer is that I've set a deadline. If I'm still struggling and not making forward financial progress by September, which marks the end of my lease and some other more personal milestones, I'm going to get a job, and continuing putting whatever spare money I have into producing picks.

Additionally, in the intervening time I've fixed the first batch of locks, which means that I have a number of excess locks and I plan to sell those at some upcoming events and put the proceeds directly into pick production.

There are still plenty of uncertainties. And I hate that. But, the picks will get made.

Back in the saddle

Hey, everyone,

First, let me say: "I'm neither dead, nor a thief."

With that out of the way. The last 6 weeks have been a balancing act of gut-wrenching and optimistic moments. I'm not talking about this project, either. I mean in the rest of my life. The fact is, being an individual, I don't have a second in command that can pick up the communicative slack for me when I'm sidelined. I don't know that every one of you would agree that the reasons I've been away are justified, but I also have 0 interest in laying out the details of the last 6 weeks of my and my families lives. Suffice it to say that I am back on solid ground.

Over the last few weeks I've received updates from some of my favorite projects, and it hit me, that at least 4 of them that I am very excited for are entering their second year without fulfillment. 3 of them were super-funded, as well. I'm not saying that other projects taking longer than expected justifies my taking longer than planned, and I can't imagine a day when I won't feel apologetic for the way this has gone. I expect that when I'm 40 I'll still occasionally think "man, remember when I very publicly took on a project that I screwed up badly? Yeesh." However, the big difference between those projects, which I continue to love and look forward to, and my own, is that even when they don't have a solid idea of when their projects will be done, the people making them update with good, optimistic news about other work that they are doing. Adjacent projects that further their expertise, enthusiasm, community, etc. Whereas I think I have generally been on the spiraling retreat.

So, while I don't know when the picks will be done, I have some good news on that front and on some others. Here we go:

1: My Grampa has a punch press. When I was home tending to some family stuff I got to spend time with my grampa, which was a treat. He has a big quonset hut full of engines, lathes, scales, and other machinery and spends a lot of time restoring old cars. He's been a lot of things in his life. As we were walking through I asked offhand if he had a punch press. I think the reply was "of course." Turns out his neighbor is a die maker, too. I'll be home for Christmas in a week and will be staying for a week or so after to try to get the machine up and running and punch out a few test pieces. If everything works OK we'll start making the dies of the actual picks. I'll probably work in simple to advanced order, that way if there is any delay in manufacture of dies, I can at least start punching 5 or 10 piece sets while we wait for the rest to get made.

I'll update on progress with that in the days after Christmas. I think that having this project come to it's conclusion with my mom making the cases & my grampa punching the picks would be a fairly remarkable story. I'm hopeful.

2: I'm writing a book. I was signed to a contract with O'Reilly. The book will be an Almanac of locks and lockpicking. It will cover history, engineering, various locks, from their simplest to most complex forms, lockpicking, of course, and a lot of bits and pieces in between.

3: I'm working on a new video series tentatively called "the breakdown." The idea is simple. I'll take interesting locks, pull them apart, explain how they work, get some good macro photo/video on the various components and, if I have it, provide info on the company, inventors, etc.

4: For several reasons, from providing better training material, to making illustrations for my book, to complementing the new videos, I've been teaching myself 3D modeling & animation. I'm far from great, but I'm getting the hang of it. Here's an early test showing the internals of an Abus 88/50:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aShNJXZYLQM

I have more good on the horizon as well. Several small projects and trainings and so on.

Oh, and as it is said by some people everytime I update with a non-lockpick piece of news, let me say this as well: My working on other locksport-related things doesn't steal time from making lockpicks. If making the picks was merely an issue of time dedicated to the task, they would have been done a long time ago. I've screwed this project up. I didn't know what I was getting into or what I was doing once I got here, but I will make these picks.

Home

Hey, everyone,

I'm up in Vermont with my family taking care of family things. I'm going to be here for another few days and while I know some of you are restless, there are a couple things in life that have to supersede the picks. This is one of them.

Sorry. Family comes first.

-Schuyler