This is version 2 of my Medeco write-up. I've decided to revise the entire article to make it much clearer and objective. I am going to assume you've had some experience picking locks already and that you have been exposed to and can handle various pin tumblers at this point in your picking career. I am also going to assume you're familiar with the Medeco locking mechanism. If you don't know how a Medeco lock works, please familiarize yourself with the inner workings before proceeding with this article. Medeco locks are extremely fun to pick once you get the hang of it... although nothing will ever top the fun provided by original American Lock padlocks
The most important thing you will need to know about picking Medeco locks is that they all obey these rules:
- Picking Clockwise engages shearline first (drivers)
- Picking Counterclockwise engages the sidebar's binding force (keypin rotation) first
- There are (3) different rotations for a keypin: Left, Right and Center
- Once either the drivers or the sidebar have been fully set with respect to your picking direction, then the other security elements will bind (either drivers or sidebar).
- There is no case that I have encountered, or that anyone else has reported where a Medeco lock has alternated between rotational binding and shearline binding.
All images courtesy of http://www.lockwiki.com/index.php/Medeco_Biaxial
A typical Medeco Keypin showing the true and false sidebar gates
A typical Medeco sidebar
Picking clockwise binds the drivers first. The lock wants you to lift all of the drivers to the shearline and will not provide any sidebar binding at this point. You will be dealing with standard drivers ( ) and potentially mushrooms ( ). Medeco tolerances are interesting. Medeco M3 locks generally have sloppier tolerances and I've encountered binding orders of 123456 or 654321 plenty of times. Medeco Classic and Biaxials have much tighter tolerances in my opinion. I recommend heavier tension than usual on these locks. It is very easy to overset drivers and heavy tension helps negate that.
So, once you've picked the drivers to shear you will notice the lock will go into what feels like a false set. What just happened? You have cleared the shearline and now the plug has turned to engage the sidebar. The sidebar is now pressing its fingers into the keypins. If you can visualize this you will be able to see that there are now 5 or 6 sidebar fingers sticking into the sides of the keypins and are wanting to press into the gates that are milled into the keypins. If you can visualize a horizontal binding force instead of the typical vertical binding force you're used to, you'll realize that what you have to do next is control how hard the sidebar is pushing into the keypins with your tension control and work through a binding order of rotation. Using hard tension, test each keypin by lifting it. You're hunting for a keypin that has the highest resistance as you lift it due to the sidebar pressing against the incorrect gate on the keypin. This means it is rotated incorrectly. You need to relieve just enough tension so the sidebar disengages from your keypin and allows you to rotate it to another position. How do you rotate a pin? The best method I've found is angling your pick left or right and pulling or pushing on the angled tip of the keypin. This will let you get left or right on the positioning. If you want to try for a center position, pull or push it to one side, then nudge it slightly to the opposite side so it's somewhere in the middle. Medeco rotational tolerances are sloppy enough to where there is some grey area and more often than not the keypin will just snap into the true gate. It will take some trial and error but you'll get the hang of it. Sometimes it may help to lift the keypin up and let it slide around on your pick before you let it back down again. Once you've changed the rotation, re-apply tension so the sidebar engages it again. If the keypin is now loose and flopping up and down, you're done and you move on to the next keypin that the sidebar does not like. Before moving on to the next keypin, you have to drop all of the keypins back down to the bottom of the plug. You do this by relieving tension so they disengage from the sidebar. This allows you to start lifting them again so you can find a binding keypin. That's all there is to it. The real trick here is tension control. You have to be able to control the tension level to where you can reduce it just enough that you don't drop the drivers that are set to the shearline and so that you can rotate a target keypin. There is another issue that can arise, and that is the issue of mushroom pins. If you can envision 5 out of 6 pinstacks picked to shearline, leaving one pinstack left containing a , this would essentially allow the plug to rotate enough to where it would engage the sidebar and you could begin feeling rotational binding and begin rotating keypins. However, you're still stuck on a mushroom pin and the lock will never open until you lift it. This is why you have to be absolutely sure before working on the sidebar that you've set all the pins to shear and that you're not caught on a mushroom driver.
There is another method for picking clockwise which involves simultaneously setting the rotation and shearline in the same lifting motion. This involves angling your pick different ways when lifting the pinstacks to shearline. With enough practice and attention to the feedback the lock provides you'll be able to determine whether or not a pinstack is rotationally correct upon lifting it to shear. Basically the method here is to repeatedly set and unset pinstacks while varying your pick angle until the lock opens. You're testing the keypin against the sidebar (as much as you can) after the pin is set to shear. This technique is a little less reliable and consistent in my opinion but it does and can work.
Picking counter-clockwise binds the sidebar first. Essentially what you're going to do is the complete opposite of picking clockwise. The technique for identifying rotationally incorrect keypins when the shearline has not been set is the same. You're testing for horizontal (rotational) and vertical (height) resistance on the keypin due to the sidebar pressing against it. Try wiggling each pin a bit. If you encounter a totally frozen stiff keypin, rotate it. Relieve tension completely and rotate it. You can completely relieve tension since there are no drivers set to shear you have to worry about. Just be very careful that you do not accidentally disrupt one of the other keypins. When withdrawing your pick or inserting your pick into the lock always have hard tension applied so you do not disturb your rotations. Once you have rotated each keypin to its correct position, you'll notice the plug will jolt a bit and you'll feel the lock turn to engage the shearline. In some locks when you are at this point and you wave tension on/off repeatedly you will hear a clicking noise. What you're hearing is the sidebar depressing into the housing. You are now golden! You should now be able to feel and set the pins to shear. Don't worry about screwing up the rotation at this point as the sidebar has locked all the rotations in as it has depressed into the housing and is grabbing and holding each keypin.
The Medeco M3
The Medeco M3 obeys all of the same rules and techniques you've learned so far. The only difference is you're dealing with a slider. The slider prevents the sidebar from engaging. How do we deal with this? Easy. Whenever you apply tension to the lock for the first time, regardless of the direction, take your pick and press in the slider. If you're picking clockwise, set all of the drivers to shear. Once you've done this, press in the slider again. You should feel it bind and press in and stay moderately in place. It may not sit 100% depressed in, it may sit around 50%. What you're doing is letting the sidebar engage. Now you can begin rotating pins. You'll need to keep pressing the slider in as you change rotations as the lock will not open until the slider is fully depressed. When you're picking counter-clockwise, the same thing will happen. The slider will need to be pressed each time you change a rotation and the shearline will never bind until the slider is fully depressed with all correct rotations. Think of the slider as a button that says "see if the sidebar is happy". That's all there is to it.
The Best Way to Learn
The best way to learn is to obtain a mortise or rim cylinder that has set screws on the top for easy reconfiguration. Start with two pinstacks and slowly work up to all six chambers. While you are going through this process it would be wise to switch up the keypins to different angles and change around the drivers from mushroom to regular so you can add as much variation as possible. I also recommend that before you start picking on a Medeco that you scrub/rake the keypins with no tension so you randomize the rotations of all the keypins. This reduces the chances of your keypins being already in the correct rotation thereby making the picking easier. You want difficult. Feel the pain! You want to practice targeting a specific pinstack and rotating it. You want to be able to identify an incorrectly rotated keypin.
Other Notes and Tips
- The absolute best tool for rotating is a Peterson DCAP Lifter. It has a notched tip that you can use to grab onto the keypins and rotate them like a dream. The second best tool is a Peterson Gem type pick, aka a medium hook. The gem is my go to. It is long enough to set a high cut and pointy enough to dig into a target keypin for rotation.
- My favorite tensioner for these locks is the prybar style. Try a Peterson Prybar (US) or a Technical Entry tensioner (EU).
- Mushroom drivers ( ) behave like spools, yet they will feel a little different when you set them on a false set. Just ride the plug rotation you get when lifting a mushroom and it will set into place like any other spool. Mushroom drivers actually provide a big clue to help the picker as if you get very very deep counter-rotation when setting a mushroom, you know that you've cleared the sidebar. Why is this the case? Well if the plug is allowed to rotate enough to give a full false set on a mushroom driver, you know the sidebar has been set perfectly and is depressed into the housing to allow this deep plug false set. Usually if you're picking out of a deep false set on a mushroom driver, you're about the open the lock.
The code is hidden in the tumblers. One position opens the lock, another position opens one of these doors...