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From One Locksmith to Another – A Reply - April 14, 2014 by admin

By T.F. Stern, GSP

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There’s an open letter From One Locksmith to Another in the April issue of Locked-In, by C.D. Siems, president of the Greater Houston Locksmith Association (GHLA), of which I’m currently a member in good standing.  It starts off reminding us that we’ve been licensed by the State of Texas for quite some time, as if we were unaware of our status as subjects of the state; but it goes down hill from there.

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Apparently the president of the GHLA consider ‘scammers’ as a priority focus item when dealing with legislative issues placed before the membership, enough to request each member to donate $ 200.00 toward paying a lobbyist to take our ‘cause’ to Austin.

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“…Scammers crawled into the picture and the State did little but collect their fees from our businesses and each locksmith with nothing in return. Nothing in return includes doing a very poor job inspecting The Licensed Locksmith, doing even less than that when it comes to arresting the scammers we hear so much about and finally our State Representatives not seeming to give a rats behind about the security of the Great State of Texas and its Citizens.”

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First off, define ‘scammers’.  Are they unqualified tradesman who goes about pretending to be locksmiths or are they locksmiths who conduct business but aren’t licensed here in the State of Texas?

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That last part about the security of the Great State of Texas assumes that we, that is all of us have ‘voluntarily’ traded individual liberty for security; a dangerous path to travel, as once liberty has been relinquished it seldom if ever is returned.  The truth is that licensing of the locksmith industry, the DPS/PSB overseers, mandated continuing education in order to maintain a license…all violate the principles of American citizenship.

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This is really a free trade issue, something which needs to be left up to the consumer under the antiquated notion, “Let the Buyer Beware”.  It has been a mistake from day one to license the locksmith industry; yet another step toward pure communism where the state controls all aspects of life.

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Somewhere along the way far too many of our fellow citizens have taken the approach that it’s up to the state to protect us from making poor decisions, or in the case of communism, any decisions.   We have defined and boxed the world in a neat little package, identified what a locksmith is and does just short of inventorying each key on the rack in order to convince the public that the world is now secure.  In the words of an old partner, “Pure male bovine excrement”!

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Consumers have the responsibility to investigate the credentials of those who perform work; but somehow that aspect of individual responsibility been delegated to some state agency; we no longer have to worry about it, isn’t that what America has transformed itself into?

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H. Verlan Andersen in his book, Many Are Call But Few Are Chosen, explained this principle of living in a free market society as well as anyone.

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“If we desire for ourselves the freedom to enter a trade or occupation when and where we choose, we should allow our fellow men this same right. If we believe we should be left free to purchase goods or services from any person who offers them for sale, how can we forcibly restrict the freedom of other members of the buying public and still live the Golden Rule?”

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Andersen goes on to destroy the supposed justification for overseers or governing boards which limit competition via licensing restrictions and which dictate who is qualified and who isn’t, “…there are not two groups of men—the qualified (*) and the unqualified; there is only one group and every member of it is unqualified to some extent.”

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Siems pointed out that the board which oversees the entire locksmith industry doesn’t have a qualified (*) locksmith sitting among that distinguished group.

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“We have also managed to get a Locksmith on the Private Security Board, (PSB), but as yet have not been seated.”

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While they may not recognize their guilt, the board members of the GHLA, and other large locksmith associations are proponents of the very system which has enslaved the locksmith industry.

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For crying out loud, we don’t need a total sycophant sitting on the PSB to lend an air of legitimacy to their usurpation of powers, …powers never intended under our constitutional republican form of government.

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Ezra Taft Benson explained The Proper Role of Government in a talk given many years ago.  It’s available for anyone interested in understanding how our representative form of government is intended to work; but clearly, those involved in making sure the security of the Great State of Texas is managed as if we lived in communist Russia don’t give a ‘rat’s behind’ about individual liberty.

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“The important thing to keep in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form? A hypothetical question? Yes, indeed! But, it is a question which is vital to an understanding of the principles which underlie the proper function of government.”

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Instead of working to further erode individual rights of locksmiths whose only desire is to conduct business in the free market system to the best of their abilities, the GHLA and all other professional locksmith associations should be doing all that is within their power to restore the sacred values of America; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to our now corrupted market place.

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“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficient… The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”   Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

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Count me out when looking for a $ 200.00 donation for a lobbyist to further enslave the locksmith industry.

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T. F. Stern

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GHLA Membership # 577

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This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.  It was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.

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Outer Limits Locksmith Job - December 19, 2013 by admin

Outer Limits Locksmith Job

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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This morning I got a call from one of my regular customers, a ‘note lot’ where I fit keys for vehicles purchased at auction or make duplicates so they can have a ‘repo key’.  I’d been there the day before and, according to what I was hearing over the phone, a key which had started a Ford Taurus yesterday seemed to have ‘lost’ its programming.

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Rather than ask a bunch of questions I told them I’d be right down; warranty work with a smile makes for long term customers.

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Their porter greeted me when I pulled my service truck behind the building where the 2001 Taurus was parked.  He’d gone into the file folder to retrieve the ‘repo key’ which he knew worked; but it no longer started the car.  It turned in the ignition; but the ‘theft’ light was blinking to indicate it wasn’t programmed.

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I looked at the key and remembered that the day before the manager handed me an ignition key and asked for a duplicate; but that the vehicle needed a door and trunk key since the ignition switch had been changed out at one time.  The key ring he handed me only had one key on it; where was the door key I’d cut the day before.

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In the ignition switch was another key with a second key hanging from the ring.  It didn’t turn in the ignition switch but the door key, the key I’d cut the day before, that key matched the cuts of the file folder key.  I began to suspect something odd was going on.

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I checked the cuts against the notes I’d taken and that’s when the first major clue sprang up; yesterday’s Taurus had been a 2003, this vehicle was a spot on look a-like, same color and body style but made in 2001.  The cuts on the door key were identical except the other vehicle had a different ignition switch key.

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Somebody had moved the 2003 Taurus to the other side of the car lot and then the second Taurus, the 2001 Taurus got driven in for final detailing so the customer would have it all cleaned and polished.  The porter hadn’t noticed and assumed it was the same car.  That’s when the comedy of errors began to play out.

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They’d handed the customer the keys I’d made for the 2003 Taurus and for some odd reason they wouldn’t work in the 2001 Taurus ignition switch, worked in the door just fine, just not in the ignition.  Nobody bothered to check the VIN; hey, it’s the same color and shape so it must be the right car.

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My job was pretty clear; program the customer’s key and be on my way, laugh and be glad for keeping good notes.

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This article was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.

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Locksmith Industry Run like a Police State - October 4, 2013 by admin

Locksmith Industry Run like a Police State

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BY T.F. STERN, GSP

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Locksmiths around Texas are getting used to being herded, branded and then put out to pasture at the beck and call of the Department of Public Safety/Private Security Board (DPS/PSB).  Ever since the State mandated licensing of the locksmith industry with all powers being handed to a select board of overseers, none of whom are locksmiths.  There has been a steady amount of pressure applied to individuals to remind them that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not guaranteed to all individuals;  you have to get permission from a licensing board, not exactly the America envisioned by our founders.

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Over the years locksmiths have been instructed on how to jump rope, balance on beams and properly bow before our masters, the DPS/PSB.  We’ve been treated to mandated continuing education regardless of how absurd the requirement relates to journeymen locksmiths, followed a couple of years later with additional mandated hours of this same meaningless exercise simply because members of the board thought it was a good idea; never mind that an individual’s license to compete in the market place hinges on well meaning but delusional ‘do gooders’ forcing others to bend to their desires without regard for rhyme or reason.

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This morning an email from the Texas Locksmith Association (TLA) arrived in my email box advising me of an Emergency PSB Meeting to be held in Austin, Texas, on October 8th, that’s four days from now; not exactly a timely message for anyone trying to schedule an event.

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What constitutes a reason for an Emergency Meeting of the DPS/PSB?  Is there something so important it can’t wait until the regular quarterly meeting scheduled for the end of October?  Quarterly meeting are when locksmiths are normally ignored and told to sit there and shut up so this is an extra opportunity to run rough shod over individual rights and destroy the free market a little bit more.

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I remember the local news media interrupted a ball game with an
Emergency Alert Screen to tell everyone the President has signed an Executive Order prohibiting ICE from deporting illegal aliens – Now back to your regularly scheduled program.  I suppose anything constitutes an emergency now; like that couldn’t have waited until the regular news hour.

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The request which requires this Emergency Meeting (translate request to mean firm instructions from our Masters), is intended to mandate all locksmiths submit a new set of fingerprints to the DPS/PSB when ever they wish to renew their locksmith licenses.

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“35.187 deals with Renewal Applications.  Under current rule, all security company employees only have to submit fingerprint cards to the DPS when first hired.  The DPS wants a new fingerprint card to be submitted upon each renewal of pocket cards.

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The Rules Committee has been working on a solution for a few months and will report their findings at the Oct. 8 meeting.”

Excuse me while I barf in the trash can; but the Rules Committee has been working on a solution for a few months?  How hard is it to tell the DPS/PSB to shove this one where the ‘sun don’t shine’?  (I worked very hard to word that without swearing by the way)

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Did the DPS misplace everyone’s fingerprint files or do they think we all go around altering those little lines and indentions on our finger tips just to throw the authorities off when they’re looking for a specific locksmith?

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There’s another rule somewhere in the DPS/PSB system requiring locksmith’s fingerprints be recorded and submitted only at specific ‘authorized’ locations.  The charge for this ‘service’ (that’s the same term prostitutes use when they do the same thing to their customers) is around $30 (give or take); but that’s not the point.

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Fingerprint file cards don’t change over the years and this is one more example of the Police State Mentality of the DPS/PSB as they pull the puppet strings of everyone they have been given authority over.

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The original reason for licensing locksmiths supposedly was to protect the public from unscrupulous fly by night crooks posing as locksmiths.  If that really was the case, and I seriously doubt that, then it would appear the DPS/PSB is going after folks who are already licensed.  Honest law abiding locksmiths who have already proven they are not a threat to society are being treated as if they were unscrupulous fly by night crooks.

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The real threat to our society, or so it seems, is the DPS/PSB.

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This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.  It was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.

Pure Dumb Luck - January 19, 2013 by admin

Pure Dumb Luck

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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Harry Potter fans will remember a line from the Sorcerer’s Stone when the boys brought down an Ogre in the rest room.  They were awarded five points each, “for sheer dumb luck”, whereas they might just have easily been killed.

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Yesterday I ran into a job in which I was awarded my five points for “pure dumb luck”.

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I was to go across town and make keys for a 2008 Dodge Ram truck and program the keys.  There had been no mention the door lock had been attacked by a screwdriver or that it was impossible for a key to enter the driver side door lock.  Dodge, like so many other manufacturers, has seen fit to limit exterior door locks as a cost cutting measure so if the driver’s door lock is damaged you’re options are limited to how to make an ignition key.

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After studying the damage I decided to remove what was left of the weather guard to see how much deeper the damage went.  That took almost no time and, before doing anything else, sprayed the lock with a good lubricant.  I grabbed a key from the discard box to check the lock to make sure the wafers moved up and down, “So far so good”; isn’t that what the secretary on the 30th floor heard from the man as he sailed past her window on his way toward the sidewalk below?

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Not only did the key enter smoothly, the lock seemed to give a little to each side as if it wanted to turn.  Without forcing it; but guessing it had been quite some time since the lock had been used, I applied a little extra pressure and the lock actually operated as if it had the proper key.

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Having seen this before I figured the tumblers had all been crushed from the screwdriver attack and anything would turn the lock; but the lock turned more easily each successive time and the key didn’t seem to be bound up.

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I wondered…could it be?

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I put the key into the ignition, an ignition switch that had not been damaged; it turned effortlessly.  Pure dumb luck; I’d picked up a key from the discard box which had the exact combination.  This would be a good time to purchase a Lottery ticket.

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This article can also be found at TFStern’s Rantings, a personal blog that has been up and running since January of 2005.

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A Cooling Down Period - November 2, 2012 by admin

A Cooling Down Period

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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Early last July I wrote an open letter to anyone involved in the locksmith industry and followed that up by sending a copy of the letter to the Department of Public Safety/Private Security Bureau (DPS/PSB).  It was sent certified mail so I’d have a signature proving they’d received it; which they signed for on July 13th, a full 10 days to read my letter and plenty of time before the quarterly meeting on the 23rd of July.

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I wanted the DPS/PSB board to address my concerns regarding journeymen locksmiths being required to take basic remedial courses to obtain the mandated State Continuing Education hours to secure their licensing requirements.   According to a letter I got back, a letter dated July 29th, the board didn’t get a chance to review that letter in time for the July 23rd meeting.  John E. Chism, Presiding Officer, Texas Private Security Board, claimed they couldn’t act; but let me quote directly from his letter:

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“I will furnish copies of your letter to the two locksmith associations that attended this meeting for their information.  In order for the Private Security Board to consider changes to Board Rules concerning licensing fees, continuing education, or any other Board Rule, the proposed changes must appear on the Board Agenda.  Any proposed Board Rule changes must be discussed publically with input from the regulated industries and the citizens of the State of Texas.”

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I started to write my thoughts down immediately after receiving this artfully crafted line of crap; but remembered some advice from long ago, “Take a deep breath and cool off before you say something you’ll regret later”.  While that’s good advice, and certainly worth following; it doesn’t fit my personality most of the time, I like to jump right in with both feet securely in my mouth.  (I was once suspended from the Houston Police Department for 40 days, insubordination; but that’s a whole other story)

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So here I am, several months later writing down my thoughts on why the DPS/PSB should stay out of the free market system.  I don’t think I’ve cooled off enough; but here goes…

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Mr. Chisum mentioned he’d given a copy of my original letter/proposal to two locksmith associations; but I’d already sent them copies well in advance of the July 23rd Quarterly meeting.  My suggestions were ignored; gee I wonder why?

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The two locksmith associations mentioned in Mr. Chisum’s letter are the Texas Locksmith Association (TLA) and the Greater Houston Locksmith Association (GHLA).

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The TLA established the original locksmith industry legislative package and sent it off to Austin, legislation which mandated locksmith licenses in order to protect the public from unscrupulous fly by night operators.  The package sent to Austin was not the same legislation which locksmiths had been shown and worked on; instead it was a package which the Alarm Industry had suggested in order to regulate locksmiths, a long standing economic feud which the Alarm Industry eventually won; not exactly water under the bridge.

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I happen to be a member of GHLA and find it interesting they are listed as one of the few recognized official schools which locksmiths may attend to obtain State mandated Continuing Education hours in order to remain licensed.  Remarkable that GHLA wouldn’t propose a rules change that would affect a cash cow like mandated Continuing Education, even for journeyman locksmiths who could easily teach courses in basic locksmith work.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for this topic to come up in front of the DPS/PSB.

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I found a copy of Ronald Reagan’s speech, A Time for Choosing, given while he was supporting Barry Goldwater’s bid for the presidency.  Reagan expressed the principles of self governance clearly and succinctly; a reminder and a warning that is timeless.

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“This idea — that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power — is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

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You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream–the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, “The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.”

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The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.”

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Those serving on the DPS/PSB board have little or no understanding of the American concept of a nation ruled by self governance.  God given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are just words on a piece of paper waiting to be sorted out and issued to the people via some sort of mandated entitlement which must first be earned by jumping over fences, through hoops and landing on the indicated mark as set down in a manual created to provide a safety net for the uninformed, easily fooled public.
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The DPS/PSB board needs no permission to alter their own arbitrarily mandated rules; they write them with or without the consent of the governed.

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My dad used to tell a joke which ended with the line, “…and that goes for the horse you came in on”.  Some folks might think I wasn’t joking so I won’t include that line while addressing the DPS/PSB.  I wonder what the time frame is for a cooling off period.

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This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.  It was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.

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Did You Lose Your Key? - July 3, 2012 by admin

Did You Lose Your Key?

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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The phone rang a while ago and I answered, “T. F. Stern & Company, Locksmith, Good Morning”.  The woman on the other end could have cared less what had just been shared as she began introducing her company as some kind of media outlet intent on finding out what kind of toilet paper we use, what kind of breakfast cereal we purchase or some other waste of my time.

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Before she could get started I asked, “Did you lose your key?”

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“Huh?”  You could tell she wasn’t prepared to answer my question.

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“I asked, did you lose your key?  Most folks who call a locksmith need a key made; so, did you lose your key?”  There were a few moments of silence followed by the funny sound our phone makes when the caller abruptly ends a conversation, a little digital gurgling noise like a musical note drowning in a pool of water.

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I used to get annoyed and say ugly things into the phone when unsolicited callers would interrupt my solitude; but that showed a lack of character on my part.  I learned from listening to others how to deal with “spam callers”; waste their time asking them questions, it seems to work.

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The best one I heard was a recording made by a fellow who’d become quite adept at “jerking the chain” of unsolicited callers.  He’d spent hours upon hours developing various replies that would stop unwanted callers in their tracks and put the intruding caller on the defense.

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He’d waited for the introduction to be completed and then announce that he was Detective Soandso from the police department investigating a homicide.  He then went straight for the jugular, “How well did you know the deceased?”

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There would be silence on the other end of the phone, a clearing of the throat as the pollster attempted to extricate himself from the conversation.

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“Please don’t hang up, the call has already been traced and it would further implicate your involvement in the crime.”  This line of attack would go on for several minutes, “We’ve learned that the victim was a homosexual; were you his lover or just someone he picked up at the local gay bar?”

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I’m going Google search this to see if there’s a copy of that somewhere.  In the mean time, if you’re planning to call my locksmith business phone, try to remember, I cut keys; I don’t like to waste my time doing interviews about what brand of soap my family uses.

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This article was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.

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A Career Vehicle - June 26, 2012 by admin

A Career Vehicle

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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Every now and again certain vehicles make their way into my life; for lack of a better description they might be called “Career Vehicles” since the cash register never seems to stop ringing due to repeated “issues”.  Sometimes it involves an individual who misplaces his/her keys regularly, has a poor memory or too many irons in the fire and can’t keep up; what ever the reason I get to make second, third or even fourth time service calls to replace the same key.  I’ve learned to keep good notes so the second time around is much easier; just click my computer on.

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A long time back I ran a lock out call for a fellow and used a fancy tool made just for that model; had his vehicle open in quick order.  I jotted down the key cuts and asked if he’d like a spare key to keep in his wallet to prevent his being locked out again; but he was in a hurry and declined.  An hour later the same fellow called, sheepishly he explained how he’d locked his only key in the car.  This time he was a mile further down the street.  I did cut him that spare key and used it to open the car.  Life supplies interesting moments, doesn’t it?

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This morning had one of those interesting moments.  A small car lot that specializes in repossession sales called to have me make a door key to an Impala.  I’d made keys for an Impala at that same lot about a month or so earlier and recorded the information; a good thing since the door key was different than the ignition which had been changed out in a rather crude and unprofessional manner.

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Going back on the calendar to a week ago; the door key information came up on my computer and worked perfectly; but the ignition switch had been changed out yet again so the information I had wasn’t any good.  Their mechanic decided to take out the ignition switch and replace it one more time with one from the local auto parts store.  I offered to change the combination of the new ignition switch so that it would match with the door key; basically it would be the way it was when it came from the factory, one key fits all.

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I didn’t charge them for the extra labor and handed the ignition switch to the car lot owner and explained how much simpler it would be having to keep up with only one key instead of two.  I’d already made keys for that unit a couple of times as it was and a little “good will” with a regular customer never hurts.  He would later give that ignition switch to his mechanic to put it all back together since the dashboard looked like a bomb had exploded.

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That gets us back to the present when I got called out to make a door key for an Impala.  I asked a couple of questions before heading over thinking it must be the same car, it was; but they insisted the key they had didn’t work in the door.  I pulled up the information on my computer and cut the door key which worked perfectly; but was not only different than the ignition key which they handed me, it was also different than any “old” ignition keys I’d recorded.

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It turns out the mechanic didn’t want to “waste” money on the new ignition switch which had already been purchased and matched to the door.  He decided to take that switch back for a refund; but he left the only key for that car in the returned ignition switch.

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He then took the beat up ignition switch, the one left over from the bomb detonation, and took it to some locksmith shop down the road where a key was fashioned for it.  That key worked; but didn’t spring back from the Start position the way it should and so I looked at the way the key had been cut hoping it might enlighten me as to why.

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There’s a “maximum adjacent cut” rule for General Motor keys which states there are not supposed to be more than 2 cut differences on adjacent cuts because the shallow cut’s landing surface will be narrowed to a point where it becomes non-existent.  The key which had been fashioned for this ignition appeared to violate that rule in a couple of places.  In the middle of the key were a pair of One Cuts (same a No cuts) adjacent to a pair of Four Cuts on either side.

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One of two things had happened; either the key machine used to cut the key was way out of adjustment and the Four Cuts were actually Three’s or some interesting things were going on inside that ignition switch.  I cut a replacement key with my hand cutter, which cuts a near perfect factory key based on probabilities and it worked; but still did not spring back from the Start position.  My guess is the cuts to match the wafers had not been “read” properly and one or more of the cuts were off; but it did work, not great, so the ignition switch would not be removed from the dash board.

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I handed the secretary my bill along with an explanation so she could justify one more locksmith expense to an already long list of repairs for that unit.  When the owner signed the check I gave him an explanation of what was going on as well.  This is when I found out the mechanic had returned the brand new ignition, the one I had matched to the door at no charge.  He just shook his head and accepted the fact that he had a minimum wage mechanic; you really can’t fix stupid.

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I added the latest key information to my existing list of keys that have at one time worked on that vehicle.  After all, this Impala has become a career vehicle and will eventually find its way onto another work order.

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This article was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.

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Society of Professional Locksmiths - April 17, 2012 by admin

Society of Professional Locksmiths

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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About a month ago I had a chance to talk with a fellow locksmith from up north in Yankee land, Tom Lynch.  He’d come across some articles posted on Fiercely Independent Locksmiths of America’s web site and wanted to know more about us.  Mostly he wanted permission to re-print some articles as they fit in with the philosophy of his organization, the Society of Professional Locksmiths.

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A week or so later he called and asked me to take a look at their on line magazine, SecuritySentinel (April 2012 edition), where he’d posted one of my articles.  I have to say the ego trip was worth having to buy a larger hat size; their publication matches or exceeds that of ALOA’s magazine, Keynotes.

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Interestingly, the article Tom Lynch selected had been offered for publication in other locksmith trade magazines, to include Keynotes; but was rejected without explanation.   Could my Open letter to all locksmiths have been turned down because the article questioned the motives of locksmith licensing and never ending bureaucracy which now has taken over the locksmith industry, the very agenda pushed by ALOA.  These trade organizations claim to be open minded; yea, right…that and seventy five cents might get a cold can of soda out of the nearest machine.

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I’ve butted heads with national and local trade organizations for years and been ignored for holding a different opinion regarding licensing of our industry.  That’s why Fiercely Independent Locksmiths of America was started in the first place.  It’s refreshing to find a well organized and professional group of like minded locksmiths up and running; one which I can refer fellow locksmith to as an alternative.

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You don’t have to throw your ALOA membership in the trash as an act of defiance as I did.  After paying dues to ALOA for over 30 years they don’t even acknowledge my long standing “RL” status; as if they were the only authority in the industry.

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You might have noticed the letters “GSP” after my name when articles were published.  That started off as a joke, something to take the place of “RL”.   Not too many folks know what “GSP” stands for; well you’re fixin’ to find out as they say around these parts.

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When I was starting out as an apprentice I worked for free, obtaining only knowledge and skills as payment for labors at the shop.  Jim Reed, the locksmith who took me under his wing, would throw me a “bone” at the end of my Saturday training; a job he knew I could handle as incentive.  Reed’s daughter Patty, also an accomplished locksmith, would chide me for taking the “easy jobs” and, since I was still employed as a police officer for the City of Houston, she called me a Gravy Sucking Pig and waited to see if it would offend my delicate nature.  It did not; actually her words sounded like a compliment to my warped cop sense of humor.

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I recommend individual locksmiths get behind and support the Society of Professional Locksmiths; become a member, pay your dues or contribute in some way to build up this association.   In the not too distant future, as in the past, being a member of a large well funded organization will mean the difference between being able to apply your skills as an independent locksmith or finding you’re no longer permitted because some lobbyist manipulated a bureaucrat and regulated you out of business.  It’s your choice.

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This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.  It was originally posted to T F Stern’s Rantings, a blog which has been up and running since January of 2005.

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Trick of the Trade for GM Tele/Tilt Column - March 16, 2012 by admin

Trick of the Trade for GM Tele/Tilt Column

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By T.F. Stern, GSP

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This morning started out with an antique; got to make replacement keys for a 1989 Cadillac that had a telescoping/tilt steering column.  The car was in reasonably good shape considering its age; still had the original ignition switch while the glove box lock also matched the door and trunk lock.  These vehicles use a variation of the standard “Saginaw” column and require additional skills and tools; not recommended for beginners or “shade tree” mechanics.

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Something worth knowing about this particular steering column is the way the horn makes contact via a rather clumsy looking spring assembly on the back of the steering wheel.  The base of the assembly which holds the steering wheel lock plate is covered by a plastic insulator which must be removed.  Unfortunately this piece of plastic becomes brittle with age and often breaks into pieces upon removal.  Most times it will come out in two or three large chunks.  Don’t despair, keep all the broken pieces; they can be salvaged.

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“This insulator was used on vehicles with telescopic steering column from 1976 through 1990. The plastic star shaped horn insulator protects the spring contact from touching anything metal in the column, allowing the horn contact in the steering wheel to ground properly.”

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The ideal solution would be to have a brand new spare horn insulator and replace the old one; the part sells for about $ 30.00 depending on availability.   Availability, now that’s the kicker; try to find one locally and listen to the parts counter representative’s standard line, “We show to be out of stock on that item; but can have one in a couple of days”.

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Here’s an old trick that works most of the time and saves you $30.00.  As you start to tear down the steering column, start chewing a piece of gum.  You’ll want to chew until the flavor has lost its appeal which means most of the sugar has been removed.  At that point the gum becomes very sticky, enough that it will adhere to the broken plastic pieces of the horn insulator.

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While putting the steering column back together, having already fit the key to the ignition switch, secured the turn signal assembly, telescoping column shaft, locking plate and managed to return all these parts to their working position and locked them into place with the “U” clip; carefully place the horn insulator pieces around the steering column post as if it were one piece.  Now take the chewing gum and mash it around so that it holds the broken pieces together.

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When you place the steering wheel back onto the shaft, carefully guide the horn activation spring into position.  The base of the spring will hold all the pieces of the horn insulator together and the horn will function as it was intended.  This might not be “kosher” or “by the book”; however, it does work and will continue to work for many years.   When you explain to the customer that he/she won’t have to wait a couple of days for the part, which you will mark up to cover shipping and handling; also mention how your work is guaranteed for ten thousand miles or ten minutes, which ever comes first.   Make sure you wink and grin at the same time or this joke falls flat.

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In all seriousness, I’ve had to perform this trick many times over the years and have never had to go back and replace a chewing gum repaired horn insulator.  You can try Super Glue; but it doesn’t work as good as chewing gum, go figure.

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This article can also be found at TFStern’s Rantings, a personal blog that has been up and running since January of 2005.

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GM Six Cut Door/Trunk Locks - January 10, 2012 by admin

GM Six Cut Door/Trunk Locks

By T.F. Stern, GSP

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Being an “Old timer” I sometimes forget how the newer generation automotive locksmiths might not run across the Six Cut GM Door/Trunk lock all that often.  This morning I was reminded of this when I had a chance to show a fellow locksmith how to generate a key for a 1995 Camaro door lock that he’d already pulled out of the door cavity.

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He asked what was the best way to generate a door key so I explained how there is a storage compartment in the back of the car, much like a glove box.  The lock is easily removed and has 4 of the 6 wafers from which to get started.  Once those cuts are known the last 2 cuts can be determined via a simple progression series which eliminates the remaining cuts; no more than 3 key blanks are used and it is time efficient.

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Since the lock had already been pulled and the car was not readily available the next best way to generate a key would be to field strip the door lock.  I use a  Gator Tool ® to remove the cap so it can be re-used rather than have to use a replacement cap; if done properly it looks more professional and fits better.  Once the cap has been removed make sure to keep track of the weather guard and two small springs which keep the weather guard in place; put them off to the side until the lock is ready to be reassembled.

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The GM door lock is a side bar lock and requires “mild” pressure on the side bar while picking for the wafers to remain in the picked position.  I recommend inserting a blank key prior to picking, glancing at the relative position of all six wafers when they are at the “no cut/one cut” position within their respective slots.  By doing this a comparison can be made once they have been picked.  Another “trick” to reading these wafers is to lightly “score” the top of each wafer with a sharp instrument so it reflects light more easily; often times these locks have considerable oxidation which makes it more difficult to see them, especially on deeper cuts.  Rake the wafers until the side bar drops and then read the depths of each wafer to determine the cuts.

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There is a simple rule to remember on the older GM Six cut keys; “The sum total of all the cuts will add up to an EVEN number”.  This rule makes it a bit easier in figuring out those cuts which are hard to see.  If the first 5 cuts are fairly certain; add up the cuts you already know, if they add up to an even number then the unknown cut will also be an even cut so that the total will come out even.   If the first 5 cuts add up to an odd number then the unknown cut should be an odd number as well.  This rule, while not written in stone, applies to 99 % of GM Six cut locks.  (There are a few odd balls out there; most notably after market replacement locks made in South America.

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There are several ways to cut the GM Six cut key; but I prefer using the  Pak-a-Punch hand held cutter.  For years I used Curtis’ “14 Cutter”, then their “15 Cutter”; but the Pak-a Punch has become my favorite.  Other locksmiths use electric code machines and there are some very nice ones out there; Framon and HPC come to mind as quality machines that are popular.  Which ever machine you pick it should fit the type of business you are most comfortable with.

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As I mentioned earlier; the first choice would have been to figure out the cuts to the “auxiliary” lock or glove box lock.  Once the first 4 cuts are known and have been placed on the proper key blank then finding the last 2 cuts is a “piece of cake”; just don’t say that too loud or the “Billy Crystal Curse” might rare up and bite you in the butt.  The principle behind elimination of the last 2 cuts is dependent on these locks being Original; if at any time these locks have been replaced then they likely won’t have been matched up to each other.  I use a hand held cutter because it is the most efficient way to eliminate those last two cuts in the field.  I’ve heard others praise the use of electric code machines, that they are just as efficient; each to his own.

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I’ll take a moment to include the GM Six cut trunk lock at this time.  While it is basically the same as the door lock; the trunk lock requires the plug to be turned in order to disassemble.  There are a couple of ways to accomplish this; drilling an access hole directly over the side bar has worked well and does no significant damage to the housing so it can be reused rather than thrown away.  (Use a small drill bit, 1/8th or smaller)

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Once the drill bit clears the lock housing it is important not to keep on drilling into the side bar; a gentle hand is required.  This is all done after the face cap has already been removed so you can feel the plug move without being “pinched” while being clamped in your vice.  Insert a small nail set or wire into the newly drilled access hole in order to apply “mild” pressure on the side bar while picking.  Once the side bar drops, and you can feel it drop with just a little practice, then turn the plug and remove it from the housing.  Fit the key as explained above under GM door lock.

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One last item on the GM Six cut trunk lock.  You will want to clean up the side bar channel from any burrs created by drilling the access hole.  This is accomplished by pushing the blade of a small flat blade screw driver along the channel until it glides without resistance.  If this is not done the side bar may not drop sufficiently and the lock will not function properly.

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The wafers on GM Six cut locks sometimes refuse to glide up and down the way they did when they left the factory.  Any number of reasons, age, dirt, abuse or attempted force can damage the wafer of the slots in which they ride.  If the lock requires a complete tear down; remove the spring cover cap, springs and wafers as needed.  These can be replaced; but if you were unable to figure out the combination it is important to carefully remove and note the position of each wafer so as to determine the combination.

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It has been recommended that a new spring cover cap be used when putting the lock back together.  This rule could easily be extended to the springs; replace all the springs and know the job was done properly.

There are some “professional” locksmiths who believe that any alteration of the original lock design constitutes a lapse in National Security.  The Russians and Chinese armies are waiting at our borders waiting for some locksmith to throw away one of the six wafers setting off alarms and whistles in a bunker deep inside a mountain where Norad monitors lock assemblies.  Then again, do what is called for “under the circumstances”, your eternal soul hangs in the balance, in all probability you won’t spend the eternities in outer darkness.  (Hope you can read between the lines).

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Replace the weather guard, springs and face cap; keeping everything in place with a screw driver gently placed on the weather guard until the face cap is seated.  When putting the face cap on place the entire assembly against something sturdy like the base of your shop vice.  Use a small ball peen hammer to gently push the edges of the face cap back into their original shape; avoid getting in a hurry and most folks couldn’t tell the cap had ever been removed as it will appear “round”; not like the replacement caps which tend to look like “stop signs” with an angular appearance.

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Most of the information shared here can be applied to other locks which use a side bar; GM Ignitions, Ford Ignitions and some Dodge Chrysler locks as well.  Believe it or not, GM actually stamped code numbers on door locks until about 1971; times were simpler then.

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