Here are at Lock Alchemy in lovely Cleveland we like to mix it up and do the unusual. The latest thing to come out of the Lab is a DIN rail for fast prototyping, experimenting, set up, and trouble shooting.

What is a DIN rail? A DIN rail is a metal rail of a standard type widely used for mounting circuit breakers and industrial control equipment inside equipment racks.” (Wikipedia).

They’re used for PLCs (programmable logic controller) and other industrial applications. They’re a convenient was to connect different devices, remove / modify connections, and allow for modular expansion. The also happen to look over cool, especially when they’re neat and have ferrule connectors (something many equipment manufacturers actually require).

They can be used for complex light and automation controls but are typically not seen in completed access control systems.

Learning and buying DIN rails can be confusing but it’s not so difficult. Amazon has a great kit that comes with 20 terminal blocks, ground blocks, ends, and a rail.

What’s the point of using a DIN rail? For my purpose it’s like a wire but, beanie, dolphin connector, wago connector etc. It’s a great way to easily connect components, switch them around, and disconnect them.

For example: I have a new reader and want to test it or I’d like to make a change in the settings before installation. I can hook up wires from the panel to the blocks. Then hook up the reader to the blocks. All this with no cutting or adding connectors. I can insert the wires and screw down the terminals. When I’m finished, I can just disconnect them.

Here at the Lab, we have lots of wired pre-cut door testing. For example, I have 22/6 wire with farrules on both sides of wire. I can run the from the panel to the terminal blocks and then swap out different readers.

It’s easy to experiment when you can easily switch things out. I can also clearly see which color wires are being connected. It’s not a mess of different color wires in a bundle.

This entire system has a lot of uses. I can bench test every reader, strike, sensor, etc before deploying it in an install. Manufacturer defects aren’t common but this would help identify any. Also, it eliminates a step in field troubleshooting. I know the product works and know there’s a different issue in the system.

This set-up also makes it very fast to program components like readers. If I need to change on board settings such as lockout time, turn off a buzzer, or change a light setting on 5 readers going in for installation I can program them on my test bench.

Sure, one can change these settings at a door but there are reasons not to if you don’t have to. The gain is in saving time. I’d much rather spend an hour programming at my test bench instead of at the door. One, I can program them during an off hour late night and use my day hours for something more productive – things that can only be done during the day. Two, standing at a door isn’t always fun. People see going in and out and you might not want to deal with the interuptions at the door. Three, if someonthing isn’t going go to to go smoothly – I’d rather figure it out on my own time not in view of a customer.

Professional titles help people understand very quickly what someone does. Doctor, lawyer, teacher. We know what they do. However, the term “locksmith” is quite ambiguous.

The term “Locksmith” is related to blacksmith because locks and keys were forged. Creating locks and keys required the ability to heat, shape, and manipulate metals. Today, keys are cut using various methods but the name remains.

Today, the term locksmith is simply bad branding. Locksmithing includes a myriad of different sub specialties: automotive, safes, door installation and repair, electronic access control etc. The term likely locksmith is a decent catch all but doesn’t articulate what most locksmiths actually do.

The term “locksmith” has created customer confusion. Many people are surprised that I frequently install / repair door closers, hinges, and strikes. I’ve even had customers that were surprised that I drill bores for new locks – thinking that this was in the realm if a carpenter. While many carpenters certainly can drill lock bores, locksmiths do this with much greater frequency.

The term doorsmith would be misleading. Many locksmiths don’t install doors but rather just fix issues with doors once they arise.

The term Security Specialist or Technician is a reasonable contender. However, it implies they cover all aspects of security: electronic access control, alarms, cameras – and most locksmiths don’t cover all of those areas.

Security Integrator is a commonly used specialised term. It conveys selecting, installing, servicing, and of course, integrsting those various components. However, most Security Integrators don’t touch keyed locks. Most don’t have key a machines or pin kit. They are very far from being “locksmiths.”

There may be no superior term that the generic “locksmith.” But it certainly is a generic term that doesn’t articulate everything they do. For LinkedIn and marketing purposes I’ve decided to call myself a “Locksmith & Security Integrator.”

If I could choose a title that would easily convey what I do – I would choose “Tech Smith.” Bringing technology into the physical world and bringing the physical world to technology. The term smith implies an understanding of physical infrastructure that impacts how technology works. An access control system won’t work if the door doesn’t work.

Running cable, mounting TVs, installing server racks are very physical. I sympathize with my fellow low voltage technicians that get lumped in with IT. There is a big difference between being at a computer desk doing system adminstration and being out in the mud doing a point to point internet connection. I’m not lumped into general IT because my primary profession is being a locksmith… or Security Integrator… or whatever I call myself now.

The term “Tech Smith” is probably just another confusing title that will puzzle the populous but I like it.

Whatever you call yourself or do – remember you are unique human being that is more than just a title and the work you do. But whatever you do – strive to be the best whatchamacallit you can.

A ferrule is a metal tube crimped over stranded wire to secure the strands within a screw terminal. Electric wire ferrules are also called  electric end terminals, or bootlace connectors/ ferrules.

Why am I such a fan?

  • They’re useful
  • They’re inexpensive
  • They are very cool

It’s very European. Call me old fashion but I think European stuff is neat. I think people would be well served by looking into how people do things in other countries and consider adopting them. Take the best of both worlds. Take the metric system for example, we should adopt it immediately. (Opinions expressed in this article are my own and are reflective of Lock Alchemy’s opinions). It’s my new personal mission to get people to use these. #ferrulegang will be showing up on Instagram very soon.

It’s a fairly straightforward solution to be pretty obvious problem. Copper cable strands get mashed under terminals, get cut and sometimes a loose strand can cause a fault. Connect, disconnect, reconnect – you have a mess on your hands. Ferrules allow you to remove the wire from the terminal block and easily move to another location on your board or in your control box without have to deal with flattened or damaged wire.

These are very common in automotive wiring and wiring PLCs (Programmable Logic Controller). In automotive their used to create a more secure connection that’s resistant to vibrations. In PLCs, they’re used for all the above reasons and for the ability to easily change wiring. Often times their required by PLC manufactures.

Weidmuller has a lot of technical data available available about the benefits of ferrules for creating good electrical connections. I’m not posting any links because they might change where they store this information.


I don’t see a huge downside to using ferrule connectors. They’re is the cost of the crimping tool(s) and the ferrules themselves. Past that it’s time.

Learning Curve

Actually crimping them is very easy. Learning how to buy ferrules is more difficult. Firstly, they’re in Metric, like everything else should be. (Getting that I like the metric system yet?) There is a color coding system for the gauge of wire used in a ferrule. Sounds really smart and easy right? Sort of. There’s a German system and a French system. I’m really not sure what’s used where and what’s preferred in different European countries. I’d love to hear feedback on this.

Great – German system and a French system. The colors are based on metric wire sizes. So your AWG (American Wire Gauge) cables aren’t going to fit into that system without doing some math. Sure you can order European ferrules online. After shipping they get kind of expensive. Enter Ferrules Direct. They have tons of, you guessed it, ferrules. They sell ferrules in standard packs of 500 and mini packs of 100.

The French color for the equivalent of 22 AWG is Pink in the French system and Turquoise in the German convention. I don’t know about you but I’d prefer not to use those colors. Ferrules Direct has a W, D, and T series that only vary in colors. So you can get 22 AWG ferrules in white, orange, pink, turquoise, or yellow. So you can select a color based on personal preference or brand colors. I chose white and some orange ones because it’s like of Lock Alchemy’s color. Along with width for wire size another specification for ordering ferrules is barrel length.


UL & Legal Stuff

I’m not a lawyer, I’m not giving you advice, I’m not responsible for anything you do. Use UL rated connectors. They’re some discussion about matching a brand of crimper with brand of ferrule. Do your own research. It’s your customer, your company, and your name on your work – be proud of it.

Crimper Selection

I like using good tools that work well and will hold up. It’s not easy looking for crimpers for a few reasons: they’re expensive, they’re hard to find, the technical information is a little confusing. I did a bit of research about crimpers before I made my selection. Some people on Facebook groups swear by cheap crimpers available on Amazon. Knipex, Weidmuller, and Mullex all make premium crimpers ($200+). I’m sure there are other brands available. If I’m missing something send me an email.

Hexagonal or Sqaure

In general, square crimps for square blocks and hexagonal for round blocks. I’ve actually used the opposite crimp on some terminal blocks because they were very tight and the other crimp style fit in better. I’d recommend cutting off the old ferrule, re-stripping the wire, and crimping on a new ferrule as opposed to just recrimping the same ferrule.



Square crimp for square blocks




Hexagonal for round blocks


Crimper Review

I got a cheap set of ferrule crimpers to justify myself why I bought premium ones. They came with some  presumably non UL listed ferrules. They actually are pretty decent. Of course I wouldn’t use these in the field but they’re good for testing and playing around with different sizes. That way you don’t have buy 100 packs of “real” ferrules of various sizes for your tests.

The crimpers work pretty well. The ratcheting function is not as smooth as premium crimpers. The odd thing about these is that they put a strange strain on your hand. The end of the crimp is a little difficult. For 10 or so crimps it would be fine. If you have 100 to do, I’d consider getting a real crimper.





These are the crimpers I went with. The Weidmuller PZ SQR and PZ HEX. I got a screaming deal on them. A lot of people on Facebook forums like the Knipex one. I’m assuming they went with them because they’re already familiar with the Knipex brand and quality. I saw a few people mention that they like the Weidmuller better than the Knipex ones.

These are amazing. They feel great in the hand. Ratchet very easily and put very little strain on the hand. The end of the crimp is butter smooth. 10/10.


Here are two 18 AWG wires with single wire ferrules I crimped on. Less than 1 cent for both and 10 seconds of time – a lifetime of connection :)

I plan on updating this article with pictures from panels and boards.


Join #FerruleGang on Instagram


There are a lot of different tools for stripping and cutting wire. You’re like alchemy locksmiths and security we are always looking for tools to make our jobs easier more efficient and produce a better end result. Our constant reinvestment has led us to purchase a number of different tools.

Our latest favorite tool, is the Irwin automatic cable stripper. This tool automatically adjusts to remove the jacket on a cable. It’s rated for removing 10-24 ga wire. It’s been the most useful for removing the jacket on thicker cables. We found it on cables 20 ga and above it does have a tendency to cut the cable instead of removing the jacket. However, this tool does incredibly well on cables that are often used for the installation of access control, alarms, and other low voltage applications.

This particular style of crimper, cutter, and stripper is seen in a lot of big box stores. However, the quality is often severely lacking making the tool almost unusable even after just a few uses. We decided to try the Knipex version of this tool, the Knipex 97 22 240. Unfortunately, this tool is not made in Germany, it’s made in Taiwan. It’s still a very high quality tool but it’s not German made. It’s fantastic for crimping a small butt connectors, beanies, and other connectors. It’s multifunction use also makes it a great addition to any field service kit.

Next up is the Knipex 16 95 01 SB ErgoStrip Universal Dismanting Tool. It’s small, easy to use, and is a great addition to any field toolkit. Unfortunately, the wire sizes are given in millimeters so it does take some knowledge to use. It is useful for making very clean exact strips if you want to be a little OCD about lengths.

Our last and favorite item is the Southwire Tools & Equipment S1020SOL-US 10-20 AWG SOL & 12-22 AWG STR Compact Handles Wire Stripper/Cutter. in my opinion, this is his hands down the best compact wire stripper available. It’s great for tight spaces and accurately stripping small wires. Many electricians typically strip heavier gauge wire so their tools aren’t the best fit for low voltage applications. This wire stripper seems like it was designed for low voltage.