Working with SFIC locks requires learning a new skill set and terminology. It’s a different way to think about locks. One point of confusion is the difference between machine and stamped caps. The LAB pinning kit comes with both machined and stamped caps and both types are readily available from suppliers. So which ones should you use and why? If you don’t care for the details – machined caps win.

How do you cap SFIC cores?

First, we need to understand how caps are placed in the chamber. They are either pressed in or struck lightly with a soft mallet. When I use a mallet (for mobile SFIC core production) I use a raw hide 2 oz mallet made by Garland. It’s around $20, works well, and reduces the risk of damaging anything. At the shop, I use an arbor press and a LAB SFIC Annex. A-1 made a press that would cap 7 at a time, however they’ve gone out of business. There have been rumors going on that someone has/will purchase the company and resume production. That remains to be seen. Aside from buying a used press the only other option right now it buy a BEST original capping system which is around $2,000.

So what is actually the difference between the machined and stamped caps?

They’re the same in diameter, the machined ones are flat on the top and bottom, the stamped ones have a slight taper on one side. The taper allows them to enter the chamber easier when using a hammer. Machined stamps can also be hammered into place but might be slightly more difficult – but it works.

Does the Brand of the Core Make a Difference?

Yes, no, and it depends. I try to use BEST original cores when possible. One, it’s a quality product that I can trust. Two, it costs me money and reputation having to return to fix something. However, the cost is more than double then “aftermarket” cores. This can add up to a lot more money and make a big difference to the customer. I always offer the option of BEST original or aftermarket explaining the difference. There are lot of aftermarket SFIC core manufactures.  GMS, KSP, Medeco and others just to name a few. When ordering from suppliers you often don’t have a choice in what you receive, they send what they have in stock. I’ve had bad luck using stamped caps with GMS cores. It’s almost impossible to get them to seat correctly.

The Verdict

It’s fairly inexpensive to try both out with your cores and see what works for you. In my experience, the stamped cores go in slightly unevenly and provides a less polished look. There also seems to be a little brass half oval that’s created when pressing them down due to them not being completely parallel. Machined stamps seem to win hands down.


Here in the lab, we capped used BEST SFIC 7 pin cores using all machined caps on one and all stamped caps on another. It’s difficult to get clear pictures of them so close. An overhead and side view of each core was taken.


machined SFIC cap


machined SFIC cap


stamped SFIC cap


stamped SFIC cap


Our businesses has been deemed essential (security and network infrastructure). In order to promote the safety of our workers and the general public we are still in minimal operation in the field. We are only taking high priority service calls: lockouts, lock and key issues for essential businesses, fixing hazardous door issues, fixing security cameras etc. We are not taking service calls for projects that can feasibly wait until after the shut down has been lifted.

The Corona virus has resulted in the temporary shut down of many buildings and businesses. We are available to secure buildings during this time. We are able to change exterior keys to prevent employees from entering the building during the shut down. We can also install additional security upgrades to minimize potential break-ins and vandalism during the shut down.

The shut down provides a unique opportunity for businesses to address issues with their lock and door hardware. We are also able to address issues on exterior and interior doors that may not be typically easily accessible due to a high volume of foot traffic.

Many business owners don’t typically have time to sit down, plan, and discuss their building’s security. We are meeting with business owners online to discuss locks, door hardware, electronic access control, alarms, and security cameras.  In some instances, such as a building being closed, we can complete larger jobs. This is different than completing non-essential work in areas that are currently occupied by people.

We’ve always taken personal safety very seriously. We are using protective gloves, masks, and using appropriate cleaning products.

On a personal note, we’d like to thank you all of the essential employees still operating as normal to reduce the amount of disruption in our life, provide us utilities, and keep us safe. I hope this all ends very soon but that we don’t lose the valuable insights we gain during this difficult time.


The founder of Lock Alchemy is now an IPVM certified Video Surveillance Installer. The 6 week course consists of bi-weekly online classes, reading assignments, homework, and a final exam.  This thorough class and certification will help consumers understand that we are not just a company that “can do cameras.” Rather, we are passionate about professional design, installation, and maintenance of systems. Security cameras are more complicated than most people would imagine. We want our customers to be satisfied knowing that they are choosing to do business with a company that won’t settle for “good enough,” and seeks constant education and training.

IPVM is an independent testing and review company for security cameras, video analytics, VMS, IP networking, and access control. IPVM does not accept money for advertisements or reviews. Rather, the businesses model is providing real value to people who pay for membership.

SFIC cores are a type of interchangeable lock. An operating key opens the door and a special key called a control key removes the lock core from the the lock itself – without needing to disassemble the lock.

The ability to remove the new old lock and put a new one in has several advantages. 1) a property owner can rekey their on locks instantly. 2) the locks are high quality and very hard to pick 3) the keys are not easily to duplicate. 4) it takes a lot less time to switch over a large facility, say, 30 plus doors.

Some people find it hard to understand how SFIC locks work. That makes sense until you demonstrate it. It almost looks like magic.

While thinking about SFIC systems I realized something interesting. Traditional keys offer savings but you need a locksmith to change them. Electronic Access control is more expensive but users can add and eliminate users quickly. SFIC systems are really the middle ground between these two systems.

“Please submit a proposal”

“Could you provide an estimate?”

“How much will it be?”

We’re asked all the time by our Cleveland neighbors to provide pricing information for locksmithing, access control, and security cameras. There are a few reasons why it’s often times complicated to provide an exact price. We’re not trying to be obtuse and hide pricing – it’s just more complicated than most would imagine and there are several reasons why.

Pricing Approach – materials versus labor: Some people will charge $100 for a part and $100 for labor. Some will charge $200 for the part installed. The result is the same price. There is some psychology involved. Some people don’t mind paying for materials with a manufacturer warranty and installer gaurentee but don’t like paying for labor. Some people don’t want to pay more for a part than they can get it online for and don’t mind paying for labor. It’s tricky to make everyone happy. But we strive to provide competitive pricing that’s fair and transparent.

It costs $100 on Amazon: Yes it does. However, ordering the product, doing the invoicin, accounting, opening up the package, disposing of the packaging materials and preparing to install it can easily take half an hour. That’s not including actually installing it, testing it, and putting our name on it with a warranty.

Apples to Oranges: The other company was $200 cheaper. Maybe. Are all the products exactly the same? Do they have the specialized tools and training to install it correctly? What kind of warranty are they providing? If they find something needs a 5 minute fix or adjustment will that do it and bill extra for it? Are all of the consumable products (wire, connectors, cat5 cables etc) quality UL rated products?

Just Come and Look at It: At Lock Alchemy Locksmiths & Security we love doing site visits. It’s great to come out and meet people in person. Get an in-person view of what we are qouting out. Unfortunately, some people have ruined it for everyone. Some people like having service workers come out to give specific product information and try and buy them and install them on their own. Part of our service is designing a system. We won’t come out and qoute smaller jobs. It’s just not time or cost effective. We will provide over the phone/email/text qoutes though. We qoute it and we stick to it. This often time doesn’t work in our favor and we do an extra hour of labor. We’re okay with this because it’s the best way to fairly and efficiently take care of customers. Of course we do site visits for larger projects at no cost. We’ve found that this balance works for us and our customers.

Hourly versus per Job: At Lock Alchemy we are a results based company. Opening a door may take 5 minutes and installing a difficult cameras may take 5 hours. Either way we price things out by the job / result. This transparency allows us to know what we’re getting into and for the customer to know. No surprises!

Tiers: Option A, B, & C. We try to provide various options and price points for our clients and educate them about the differences between different options.

How to Evaluate Qoutes: The other company was cheaper so we’re going with that. Look at the cost, the quality of products, the level of professionalism, and the total cost of ownership. A difference of $200 in a qoute can easily be eclipsed by additional work costs, frustration of call backs, and total cost of ownership (contact fees, licensing fees, replacement parts etc.)

Harder than we thought? We agree. Pricing out work is a necessary part of our company and we strive to make it as painless, transparent, and fair as possible. Reach out to us for any proposals or bids you’d like for your next locksmith, door, security camera, or electronic access control project!

The proliferation of smart locks, DIY, alarms, Wi-Fi Cameras, and DIY home automation kits have had a huge impact on the industry. Many people think that The DIY market is cripplingly traditional manufacturers and installation companies. It has impacted some but it’s actually been a help for most. Many customers see items like smartlocks or cameras and want them. They might do a little research and find out it’s harder to install than they thought or the products don’t have the features they want it need.

Product selection fatigue is real. There are more products every day that have different models, price points, features, and limitations. Researching the perfect product can be extremely time consuming. Online retail reviews can be fake, positive because they meet their needs, negative because they didn’t meet their needs, or negative because the person installed the product incorrectly. Online reviews are helpful but real world experience with the same product in different applications is something you aren’t likely to find online.

Manufacturers are smart and have huge advertising budgets. Professional video editing and sped up installation can set consumer expectations high. Anyone who’s watched online tutorial videos knows installing things is never a easy as it seems. “Simple” repairs can become frustrating and time consuming if one it two things are different.

If a consumer product is $100 and a commercial product is $500, do you really think they are the same in durability, function, and reliability? Are companies really just that dumb? Nope. Not everyone needs commercial grade equipment but believing they are comparable isn’t wise.

Here’s some example. A consumer grade smart lock is $50-200. The door must be prepped appropriately for the lock to work. Most of the times, especially in newer homes, there aren’t major issues. A standalone trilogy alarm lock unit retails for about $300-400 and requires fairly extensive installation which includes drilling additional holes in the door. Holding a consumer smartlock and a trilogy lock you’ll notice a huge difference. First off, the trilogy weights a lot more, everything is metal, and the quality and finish are noticable even to a novice.

Another example would be a ring doorbell versus a skybell or even a Hikvision smart doorbell. There’s only a $50 price difference or so but they’re do much better. Why aren’t the skybell and other professional doorbells more popular then? A lot of that is marketing. Nest and Ring have huge advertising budgets. Many people still call us to n install them. Especially if they have an usual door set up. Knowing exactly how and where to set up a doorbell is also something that comes with practice.

Here’s yet another example. Arlo security cameras. Battery powered sand WiFi. Sounds great until you realize you need to go in a ladder 3 times a year to grab the battery to charge it for 6 hours. Also, many home networks aren’t set up to provide a good WiFi signal to the exterior of the home. NEST cameras have the same WiFi issues. However, they do have AC power adapters. Getting an AC power adapter in an attic and our of the house to a security camera while maintaining water proofing is not something most home owners are interested in. Upgradable, rugged, quality, reliable, and brand agnostic IP cameras seem more appealing even considering the higher initial cost.

We here at Lock Alchemy always believe in people’s ability to complete work. We’re not saying it’s impossible for the average home by owner to make a passable installation and save money. We are saying we know what to purchase, where to get it, how to install it, maintain it, and service it – correctly.

DIY systems have done a lot of advertising for us. They’ve also done a lot of consumer mis-education. Many people think that they can buy off the shelf camera systems and everything is going to work out with an easy installation – so why would I pay that much money for someone else to do it. Call, email, or text us and we’d be more than happy to give you a run down if options for smart locks, electronic access control, security cameras, and home security systems.

The 2019 holiday season is full of discounts on DIY home camera systems. We recommend that everyone strongly consider using IP cameras with PoE (power over Ethernet). However, budget considerations and the inability to return a kit may result in a home owner sticking with a coax Security camera system.

Here at Lock Alchemy Locksmiths & Security Integrators we do install and service coax cameras with BNC connectors.

We can install your complete system from mounting the cameras, running wire, terminating connections, setting up WiFi, changing settings and configuring remote access.

Many of these kits come with long coax wires pre terminated for an easy install. However, a cable might be considerably too long or too short for your application. You may have one or two cameras that are especially difficult to mount.

Coax cable is not the easiest cable to work with. It’s think, there are two keys that need stripped, the jacket leaves sharp burs behind, and getting the correct length if cut is not easy. Not professional tools are available online but the cost trying to terminate the cable yourself might increase after you use several connectors trying to get an accurate crimp.

There is a proliferation of new DIY alarm and security systems. Tech companies are hungry to offer yet another device and subscription service. Privacy concerns aside, there are some issues with DIY security and alarm systems.

Before delving into potential issues, I’d like to state that DIY is okay. There’s nothing wrong with someone taking charge of their own security or doing a gone project. In fact, I like the idea of democratizing security. I don’t think security should be something only the rich have access to.

DIY alarm systems typically use all one brand. There’s not a lot of cross product compatibility like there is in professional systems. This limits a customer’s options and may force them into choosing less than ideal products.

There is a balance between complexity and funny function, between security and ease of use. If these systems are so easy where do they fall on the security spectrum? If these products are do great at they being used to safeguard their corporate headquarters? The CEO’s home? I doubt it.

The biggest issue with any DIY project is you don’t know what you don’t know. A person may think they have everything installed properly and everything works. There’s nothing else to do. However, they don’t have the knowledge of a professional helping them assess the system.

One major issue DIY alarm devices face is support. There is no team of techs they can send out. Only online or over the phone tech support and product replacement. No real alarm installer would be interested in servicing a DIY install.

These issues aside, I think the alarm industry will come to an impasse with the proliferation of these DIY systems. There have been ongoing issues with how municipalities deal with alarms. Not every police department dispatches immediately to a residential alarm. Professional installers set up systems and train customers to avoid false alarms but they still happen.

As the number of systems increases the number of false alarms will also increase. Poor WiFi, cell service, app issues, phone issues, and just plain but having your phone on you can result in a false alarm but being cancelled. It’s my contention that the number of false alarms will skyrocket. Emergency response, 911 dispatch and police, will be inundated with calls. It’s not fair that the financial and time burden will be placed on these critical services.

I believe the end result will be that police will take any residential alarm a lot less seriously or even adopt policies to not respond to them. Google search for “police response time to alarm” and you’ll find a lot of information about police departments that have adopted a no response policy.

What’s the solution? No one gets an alarm? Only the wealthy sound have alarm systems to keep the numbers down? Open the floodgates and see show things shake out?

I don’t know what the solution is. But I think companies that manufacture and support DIY alarm systems need to be involved in reducing false alarms and in part be held responsible for them. It’s not right to shift the burden to a public service and keep your profits. I think municipalities should focus on charging door false alarms instead of not responding to them.

This needs to happen quickly, like yesterday. If not the 2019 Black Friday and holiday DIY alarm systems soon to be installed will be just the start to a sharp increase in the number of DIY systems which will inevetibly lead to more false alarms.

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.


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