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An Introduction to Paracentric Keyways

The Paracentric Keyway
Last Updated on May 3, 2023
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Radically insane paracentric keyways can be a clown-infested nightmare for even the most experienced lock pickers.

Trying to squeeze your pick around extreme warding while praying to every god you can think of with the hope of not breaking a lock pick is not a fun approach to lock picking.

In this guide, we'll define exactly what a paracentric keyway is and look at some examples to drive the concept home. Then we'll take a look at two different techniques that will help you more skillfully approach those more profoundly paracentric keyways.

Picking challenging paracentric keyways can have a significant impact on your overall lock picking skill—specifically, your ability to maneuver your pick through tight warding.

Let's get to it!

What Are Paracentric Keyways

The term "paracentric keyway" gets thrown around a lot in the lock picking world and is often used to describe extremely radical and squiggly keyways, which has sadly given the term an equally extreme meaning to most beginners.

However, paracentric keyways are not always radical.

What if I told you a Master Lock #3—which is known for its wide open and accessible keyway—has a paracentric keyway?

So let's take a step back and put a strong definition to the term "paracentric keyway" and then look at a couple of examples.

A paracentric keyway is a security feature in which one or more of the side wards protrudes past the vertical centerline of the keyway. The purpose of a paracentric keyway is to make it more difficult to maneuver a lock pick and reach pins.

Let's break that definition down by dividing a Yale keyway in half vertically.

paracentric keyway centerline

With our vertical centerline drawn (red), all we need to do is determine if the warding—the sides of the keyway— protrude past the centerline.

In this case, it passes our centerline on three occasions—one on the right and two on the left. This keyway would be defined as paracentric.

Easy enough, right?

But let's look at two examples of radically different keyways that both fall under this definition of paracentric, and then we'll discuss two common methods lock pickers use to get around nasty warding.

Master Lock #3

Now if you told most lock pickers that the Master Lock #3 had a paracentric keyway, they'd likely throw you in the trunk of their car and drive you straight to the nuthouse.

After all, Master Lock—with its massively wide keyway—is the practice lock that most beginners are recommended to start with.

But if we take a closer look, we can see that the warding just barely extrudes past the vertical centerline of the keyway.

master lock paracentric keyway

So while just barely paracentric, the myth of "paracentric equals challenging" has been busted.

EVVA Euro Cylinder

Alright, now let's look at something on the other side of the rainbow. The EVVA euro cylinder.

evva core paracentric

Now, this is radically paracentric and will leave most lock pickers in tears with a pile of broken lock picks at their feet.

But one thing to note about this example is when implemented correctly. Radical paracentric keyways can do more to hinder a lock picker than other, more expensive, security features.

Or that is unless you know the secrets to bypass them.

How to Pick Heavy Paracentric Keyways

Heavy paracentric keyways can make even the most experienced lock picker's life a living hell. Many times, the best part of picking these locks isn't successfully opening them but rather knowing that the nightmare is over.

There are two ways that paracentric keyways make locks harder to bypass.

  1. They create a unique keyway design, making it harder to source or create a duplicate key or bump key.
  2. The radical warding makes it difficult to move a lock pick in the keyway.

So what weapons do we, as lock pickers, have in our arsenal? How can we best fight and defeat these radical paracentric keyways?

Let's look at two different methodologies that work well and can help you conquer these squiggly monsters.

Technique 1: Use Thinner Lock Picks

The first and more obvious method of picking tight paracentric keyways is using thinner gauge picks—such as euro lock picks.

Thinner picks will allow you to bend through the warding and manipulate pins. However, the downside of this method, and why you should consider using method 2, is it is very easy to break lock picks.

Trying to bend thinner picks through tight and snarly warding is only asking for trouble.

I like to think of paracentric warding as a form of cookie monster. But instead of cookies, this monster craves the life and soul of your lock pick. The monster is hungry, and it has nasty teeth designed to shred your tools to pieces.

Additionally, paracentric keyways can also make raking much harder as rakes have much more surface area to bend through the warding than hooks.

Technique 2: Use Deeper Lock Picks

This second method of picking tight paracentric keyways was first popularized by the LockPickingLawyer in 2015.

He argued that pick shape mattered more than pick thickness and dropped a short but exceptional video that revolutionized how many pickers—myself included—approach restrictive keyways.

I've embedded that video below, as it really is invaluable for every lock picker to watch.

In a nutshell, this method utilizes deeper reaching lock picks, such as a deep hook, to fully lift and set pins without ever having to touch the warding.

This is accomplished by feeding the tip of your hook up the pin chamber holes in the core—which have no warding and are super wide and open.

bypass paracentric warding

Not only does this mean we no longer have to wiggle our picks through annoying warding, but we're no longer feeding the pick monster.

Two of the best lock picks for picking paracentric keyways using this method are the Peterson Hook 5 and the Peterson Hook 7.

And as promised, here is that LockPickingLawyer video.

Paracentric Key

So what about paracentric keys, and what are their purpose?

A paracentric key is a key blank that has been specifically manufactured to match a specific paracentric keyway.

Said another way, paracentric keys are just keys made for paracentric keyways.

Naturally, the crazier the keyway, the crazier the key.

Wrapping it Up

Throughout this guide, we learned the true definition of the paracentric keyway, debunked the myth that paracentric innately means challenging, and discovered the two most common ways to approach tight paracentric warding.

I truly hope this guide helped you out, and if you would like to learn more about lock picking, check out my free Academy for more guides. Or visit my online shop to fulfill all your lock picking tool needs!

Also, if you have any questions or have any requests for future content, always feel free to throw me an email.

Have a wonderful day and happy picking!

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