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Picking ASSA 700

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Patrick Star

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Post Sat Jan 14, 2017 11:22 pm

Picking ASSA 700

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When starting out picking ASSA 700 and the related locks, I noticed that there is absolutely nothing written about picking these works of evil. Now that I've picked quite a few, I feel cocky enough to write a little guide for those starting out, detailing the things I'd have wanted to know when first trying (and failing) to pick them.
I'm not sure I'm even remotely qualified to be writing this - I am more stubborn than good at this - but at least noone should be worse off after reading this guide than before.


For the past 40 years or so, the ASSA 700 has been the standard medium security offering from ASSA. In Sweden, they are probably the single most common cylinder. While there are some older locks originally sold as ASSA 700, as well as various custom pinned things with varying security levels, what I'm going to focus here is the most common variant, which is both the single most common one as well as what you can expect if you buy a factory pinned ASSA 700 today.

They come with the characteristic driver pins I call "mushroom cloud pins" (otherwise known as "christmas tree pins"), sometimes mixed with the "half spools" or "gin bottle pins". What all these pins have in common is that they have one or several sharp lips. Picking these on their own is somewhat trickier than normal spools, but what really makes ASSA 700 stand out - or rather stay locked - is the deep counter-milling in the plug chambers for them to get stuck in.
The ASSA 700 also has torpedo key pins that help complicate both picking and impressioning.
Typically in a factory pinned 700 you will have 3-4 security pins, both key and driver.
Link to cutaway lock showing security pins: https://blackbag.toool.nl/wp-content/up ... sa-700.jpg
On top of this, they are manufactured to very tight tolerances.

Together, this makes ASSA 700 potentially one of the most challenging mass produced pin tumblers, although the actual difficulty level varies a lot even with factory pinned locks. Some locks have seemingly similar pinning and bitting yet differ a lot in pickability.


This guide also applies to certain other ASSA locks (eg. the top pins of older Twins) as well as similar locks from other manufacturers, like the outright clone DCS DC500 by DORMA. Some of the older ASSA locks lack the torpedo key pins but commonly have nothing but security drivers.
I'm going to assume that you are picking a lock with the most common profile, as pictured above, or a similar profile - like the second most common one, that's basically a mirror image. The basic principles obviously apply regardless.

Stage 1: Getting a false set.
Some locks, especially those with many security pins, you can either rake into a false set or kinda poke around in half-heartedly and then fire up the pick-fu. Not the ASSA 700. You not only have the tight tolerances, but also the torpedo pins. They have a natural tendency to rise under tension - this is what makes them prevent impressioning, but also mean that they overset very easily.
As you are aware, normal pins will naturally tend to stay at the shear line and there will be a noticeable differential in the force needed to move them past it. Torpedo pins however, with their rounded heads, will happily keep travelling. Once you get past a certain, surprisingly early, point, the head and neck will "set" at the shear line and stay there. To make matters worse, this often feels very much like an actual set.
You need to be gentle with the lifting, stopping instantly when you feel the pin set, and above all disturb neighboring pins as little as possible. Typically what will happen if you approach it in the wrong way and/or with the wrong tools is that you will poke around for a bit and perhaps feel like you set a couple of pins, only to end up with a single overset torpedo pin and nothing else.
With the standard profile, you will typically want to start poking the pins from the very bottom of the keyway using a long sharp hook or deforest diamond. The little "ledge" right below the pins looks like a nice place to insert a pick (and this works perfectly fine with some other locks that share the same profile, such as the Biltema "ASSA light"), but this will not work very well with most bittings unless you get really lucky with the pick choice.

Stage 2: False set.
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After finishing stage 1, you will get a false set, often accompanied by a loud "thunk!". It will be significantly shallower than what you'd expect from normal spools, and as you can tell from the picture it might not even be visually obvious without a frame of reference, but there is no mistaking it when it actually happens during picking.
The false set can be one of two different kinds; one is shallower and one is deeper (note that this is very relative - what's pictured above is in fact the deeper one).
The shallow one means that the wide lip of a pin is above the countermilling but below shear. This is remedied by simply pushing the pin up and the lock will go into the deep false set, without any drama but possibly with a little bit of counter-rotation. Since there is no danger of oversetting pins at this point, you can just give all pins a poke when it happens.
Also, if the lock returns to the shallow false set later during this stage, it means you either underset the current pin or partially dropped a pin. In either case, the remedy is simple - just give the pins a good poke each, starting with the one you were just working on, until the deep false set returns.

Now, before we get to the fun part, it might be worth mentioning that unlike regular spools, having "set" a pin during the first stage is no guarantee that it isn't a security pin. You will want to test all pins - again, there is no danger of overset at this point.

From this point on, you may want to tension the lock in a way that gives you bi-directional control. This means either using two wrenches as pictured here, or a single wrench that fits snugly in the keyway. This is not strictly speaking needed with most 700's, but it's certainly helpful.
With very light tension, test each pin for counter-rotation.
If the chamber is not counter-milled, it will set following the same basic principles as a normal spool or mushroom pin albeit with somewhat more difficulty.
If the chamber is counter-milled, you will get a bit of counter-rotation and then it will come to a stop. If you just keep lifting at this point chances are higher
that you will bend the pick than that the pin will get out of the counter-milling and set.
Regardless of which, you will want really stable contact with the pin - use the widest and/or thickest pick possible.
Now, there are two different techniques to use here, and the best one to use for a specific pin in a specific lock will vary.
The first one is to rock or vibrate the pin out of the countermilling. You basically give it a series of small pushes under light tension, letting the core counter-rotate slightly each time until it's worked loose.
The second one is to apply a bit of counter-rotation manually. You don't want to actually rotate it a lot - then you will not set the pin and potentially drop stuff - but rather apply a small pulse of counter-rotation to give it a nudge. You want to be applying regular tension again as soon as its starting to lift. If you are using two wrenches, under no circumstances should you let off the regular tension completely. Instead you should work against it with small bursts of counter-tension.
The pins will have a tendency to fall back down at this point. You will have to hunt for the proper order to set them in, although this isn't fundamentally different from locks with tricky spools. If a pin consistently causes you to drop stuff when using the first method, you should consider applying the second. Even if it's getting out of the counter-milling without help, you may have difficulties controlling the rotation while lifting it otherwise.
If a pin has a high cut and you are pivoting from the bottom, you may have to lift the pick off the bottom to lift the pin all the way. If this is the case, it will typically surface as the lock entering a shallow false set after you think you have set the pin.
If no pin gives you any counter-rotation whatsoever, it means they are all hopelessly jammed up in the countermilling. Give it a bit of counter-rotation - basically as much as you can without dropping pins.
Whether or not to actually hold both tension wrenches when hunting for the next false set is a matter of personal preference. On one hand, it can give you more feedback. On the other hand, it can also give you feedback that feels very different.

Repeat above until open. Then pick it again. Then pick some more!

Comments?


PS. If you are Swedish, brand new ASSA 700s can be found online at http://www.laskompaniet.se/product/cylinder-701-assa Or in your neighborhood lock store, at a slightly higher cost.
PS2. I should give credit to asdfkoas on YouTube for being the first one to publicly demonstrate using two wrenches like this.
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madsamurai

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Post Sun Jan 15, 2017 3:26 am

Re: Picking ASSA 700

Nice write-up. Those sound nasty... I think I need one ;)
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Petrolhead

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Post Sun Jan 15, 2017 3:45 am

Re: Picking ASSA 700

Nice work =)
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Oldfast

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OldddffAASSTT the Spin Master Extraordinaire and American Lock Slayer
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Post Sun Jan 15, 2017 6:11 am

Re: Picking ASSA 700

Patrick Star wrote:.....Comments?

Yeah. This kinda stuff is very difficult to put into words. You've done a splendid job of that!
" Enjoy the journey AS MUCH as the destination."
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Werewolf

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Post Sun Jan 15, 2017 11:50 am

Re: Picking ASSA 700

Very nice write-up.
I picked up one of these locks last time i was in Sweden , but have never picked it with more than 4 pin stacks. They are just nasty.
Trust me , I'm a locksmith
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Patrick Star

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Post Sun Jan 15, 2017 9:55 pm

Re: Picking ASSA 700

Oldfast wrote:
Patrick Star wrote:.....Comments?

Yeah. This kinda stuff is very difficult to put into words. You've done a splendid job of that!

Many thanks! Though I suppose the big question is, can someone follow these instructions and eventually end up with a picked lock? :-)
Basically, the hope is to give a sort of outline of the process - even though they are just pin tumblers and Hobbs' Principle applies perfectly, you still can't expect to pick them without a plan accounting for all their quirks.
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tumbl3r

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Post Mon Jan 16, 2017 7:22 am

Re: Picking ASSA 700

Really great writeup, Patrick! Really nice indeed! I really like your idea for picking those deep gin bottles or graduated spools out of the countermilling. The only time I've done it was on a Twin 6000 with gin bottles in it and I ended up using the counter rotational force provided by the sidebar springs to turn the core backwards, but I think your idea of two tension wrenches is better. Not just because it works on locks with no sidebar, but because it fundamentally gives you more control over the lock. In my experience, ASSA has done a better job of making a standard pin tumbler design pick resistant than any other lock company out there. I really admire their design! Thanks so much for taking the time to write this up!
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Patrick Star

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Post Mon Jan 16, 2017 7:55 am

Re: Picking ASSA 700

I have picked a Twin 6000 where the top and side pins take turns binding, so you can't use either method (no sidebar springiness, can't counter-rotate since it'd drop side pins). So clearly it's possible to do without - for some value of possible, I am far from sure I could do it again... I suspect this case is a bit easier than picking the pins on their own however since the side bar binding prevents them from going all the way into the counter-milling.
And you should credit asdfkoas for the 2 wrenches idea - though before seeing that I had realized it'd probably be a good idea to do something similar, but he proved it actually works.
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DroppedTensionWrench

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Post Sat Feb 11, 2017 7:49 pm

Re: Picking ASSA 700

Excellent writeup. I received an Assa Ruko 2 from Asdfkoas quite some time ago. The countermilling and drivers are nasty. First time encountering these Assa pins too. Great description on feedback and what to feel for in those nightmare false sets!
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Patrick Star

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Post Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:40 pm

Re: Picking ASSA 700

Many thanks... hope my advice helped (or atleast didn't hinder :)).
OK if I add that pin photo to the post? I didn't have a gutted cylinder handy (or desire to gut one... I hate doing it with cylinders that lack a way to remove the pins from the top) when I wrote it.
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mrdeus

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Post Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:54 am

Re: Picking ASSA 700

Thanks for the write-up! Gave me some new ideas on how to approach locks in general as well.
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Patrick Star

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Post Sat Feb 18, 2017 9:42 pm

Re: Picking ASSA 700

One point I forgot but which I figure is worth adding after yet some more 700 battling: Exactly how hard the pins jam up in the countermilling depend on the state of the other pins. So if you find one completely impossible to set and/or stuff inevitably drops when setting it, consider trying a different order.
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macavity

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Post Sun Feb 19, 2017 12:40 pm

Re: Picking ASSA 700

Thanks for the writeup! You managed to articulate quite a bit of what I've been feeling.

My first non-Chinese-mash-mellow-padlock-lock was the Biltema "ASSA Light" as you call it. Man.. I almost thought I was to stupid to pick locks! The Biltema version doesn't have counter milling in the plug, but it sure gave me a run for my money. Somewhere in the hood of 10 hours before my first open. Yesterday I slammed it in 3:27!

I must say that for $20 the Biltema discount version is an incredible deal for any newb picker who lives in Scandinavia.

I also had to come up with a double tension wrench approach, albeit I opted for a TOK wrench in both top and bottom. The short end of a .050" in the top, slightly pulled down so it fills the zigzag, and then just slide the long end of a .030" in the bottom as far as it will go. Incidentally this yields a quite comfy working position. It also solves the problem with reaching up from the bottom, which is a real chore on pin 2 and 1 if they are high cut.

The picking order on mine is: 7-6-7-5-7-6-4-6-3-7-6-4-2-7-6-4-1-7-6-4-2
Pin arangement is:
Keypins: all standards.
Drivers: 7: standard tapered. 6,4,2: Christmas trees as shown in photo above. 5,3,1: Spools with nasty sharp edges.

Someone is kind enough to send me a Ruko 7 pin, which supposedly should be the exact same product at the ASSA 700, but I will obviously have to order an ASSA 700 too for comparison. This is obviously for purely scientific reasons and has nothing to do with my compulsion to get my hands on every lock in the world. I swear.

From what you describe the ASSA 700 snags up even worse than the discount version, so I think this advice applies equally to both:
Be weary of gem-style hooks - they WILL eat at the pins.
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Patrick Star

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Post Sun Feb 19, 2017 9:15 pm

Re: Picking ASSA 700

Interesting - I had experimented a bit with using a wrench in BOK to get a better working position but didn't work very well with any of my wrenches.

Biltema doesn't sell the ASSA locks anymore :(
However they sell a DORMA lock for the same price that's even more fun! See viewtopic.php?p=109733#p109733 for the guts.

And yes, it snags up hard...
assa_sinated.png

Wasn't kidding when I say it bends the picks if you just keep lifting :)
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macavity

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Post Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:07 pm

Re: Picking ASSA 700

The Biltema "ASSA Light" I presume is this one: http://www.biltema.dk/da/Byggeri/Lase/Lasecylinder/Lasecylinder-2000019716/?artId=86867

Bosnian Bill cracks it here, with a rather unusual outburst of victory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k3Eg4Hr_Ls

It is still being sold here in Denmark, but by the looks of it, i should get a bucket full of those nasty little 6 pinners too... Didn't they used to have "Elite" stamped on the front? They look like this now: http://www.biltema.dk/da/Byggeri/Lase/Lasecylinder/Lasecylinder-2000024027/?artId=88246

Unfortunately laskompaniet.se doesn't ship to Denmark, so I'll have to find other means of obtaining a real ASSA 700 to compare to the Ruko 7 pin that I have in the mail.
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