I love picking locks, I don't love trying to hold the small KIK cylinders while I pick them. I like putting the lock in a vise to hold it while I pick BUT, I don't like how a standard vise head doesn't hold many of the lock cylinders securely.
So, I thought there has to be better way.
I came across a picture of the crab claw clamp and it looked like the answer. When I got it and started playing with it, I discovered that it IS the answer.
I had to figure out how to mount the clamp in a way that it keeps its functionality.
My portable vise has a removable head, so all I needed to do was fabricate an adapter that would allow me to mount the clamp in the vise base.
This is that fabrication.....
Step 1: Materials Needed
Crab claw clamp Amazon
2 thick walled steel spacers 5/8 outer diameter 5/16 inner diameter 1 inch long Amazon
A length of 3/8 diameter 16 thread per inch (tpi) threaded rod (also called all thread or ready rod) Amazon
A vise with a removable head that has a 5/8 shaft on it, such as any of the 300 series PanaVises Amazon
Some form of thread lock to secure the connections: Red holds the best but if you want to unscrew anything you will need to heat it up to break the bond; the blue on the other hand can usually be undone using just tools but doesn't hold as well.
I was able to find the spacers and threaded rod at my local hardware store (an Ace Hardware), look in the area where they have small parts and hardware.
Step 2: Tools Needed
A tap wrench
A 3/8 inch tap in 16 tpi
Thread cutting oil
Something to securely hold the spacer while you tap it, a sturdy vise is best but it can be done with a pair of locking pliers
A hacksaw or something to cut the threaded rod with if you want to make it shorter
Step 3: The Clamp
Search Ebay or Amazon for a "crab claw clamp" to find one like this, it is important that it has the threaded holes on the base for the rod to screw into. They sell for about $ 4.50 on Ebay and $ 7.00 on Amazon.
The body is anodized aluminum and the other parts appear to be steel. It clamps quite well and distributes the clamping force around the lock, holding it quite securely. It will hold a standard KIK cylinder without interfering with the rotation of the tailpiece. It will also open wide enough to hold mortice cylinders. When holding SFIC or LFIC locks the side locking lug is free to move as well. It also works well with euro cylinders.
One drawback to this clamp, is that it will not hold most padlocks well or at all. This clamp is designed to hold cylindrical objects.
I haven't tried impressioning a lock with this setup, so I don't know how the clamp would hold up to the extra forces. If it does break, it's inexpensive and easy to replace. If you try it, please let me know how well it works for you.
Step 4: The Rod and Spacers
The diameter of the vise mount is 5/8 inch so we have to increase the diameter of the rod to that size and make it smooth, so that it can be held securely.
I picked up a 6 inch long piece of 3/8 16 tpi threaded rod at my local hardware store for about $1.50. It is long enough to get 2 shafts out if you want.
I found these 5/8 OD 5/16 ID 1 inch long thick walled steel spacers at my local hardware store for about $2.50 each.
Step 5: Tapping the Spacers
You will need to use the thread tap to cut threads into the spacers so that they will screw on to the rod.
There are several things to remember when cutting threads
- Use thread cutting oil or similar lubricant on the tap
- Go slow and remember to back the out tap a quarter turn or more after each half revolution to break off the chips, don't force it; if you break a tap off it can be difficult (or impossible) to get out
- Do your best to screw the tap in line with (parallel) to the hole in the the spacer, if you don't, the threads may not be straight and the spacer will be crooked once you screw it on to the rod.
- Use a vise if you can, it will hold everything securely and give you the best control of the angle of the tap. If you don't have a vise it can be done with locking pliers, but it is more difficult to maintain the correct alignment
Once you have cut the threads in both spacers, clean the inner diameter to remove any metal chips that may be left. I just used hot soapy water that also removed the left over cutting oil.
Thread them on to the end of the rod to see how they fit. If the tap didn't cut straight threads the spacer will not sit straight.
Unless it is really out of alignment it will probably still work fine. Try it out in the vise base to see if it works.
If it doesn't or your OCD kicks in and you just need everything to line up, you can get more spacers and try again or use a file/sandpaper on the spacers to take down the high points until everything evens out.
I put the rod with spacers on it in my power drill and spun it against a fine cut file to even mine out.
Another way is to take the spacers to a mechanic's shop, auto shop or anywhere that works with metal or machines and see if they will do it for you. Remember to tell them you want it in 3/8 with 16 threads per inch (tpi).
Step 6: Fine Tuning and Final Assembly
Once the spacers are on the rod, screw the clamp on to the other end and mount it in the vise base to see how it looks.
I felt that the 6 inch length was too long so I cut the rod in two sections, one was just long enough to accommodate the spacers and clamp (about 2.5 inches), the other was a little longer (about 3.5 inches).
I used a hacksaw to cut the rod and reassembled it to see what length worked best for me. I ended up going with the 3.5 inch version.
Once you have decided on the rod length, it is time for final assembly. Which really is just putting some thread lock on the rod and screwing on the clamp and spacers.
Before I put the thread lock on, I washed all of the parts in hot soapy water to remove any oil and metal bits and dried them.
When putting on the thread lock, remember to shake it a bit before applying otherwise it may not hold as well.
The blue thread locker will set in about 10 minutes but takes about 24 hours to fully cure (depending on the temperature).
I opted to use the blue version so I can take it apart if I want to make changes.
Step 7: OPEN...
Once the thread locker has cured, mount your newly crafted claw clamp in the vise base and start picking...