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A DOM dimple lock.

A dimple lock is a pin-tumbler lock design that uses the flat side of the key blade as a bitting area. Cuts on the bitting area resemble dimples, hence the name. This contrasts traditional pin-tumblers that use the edge of the blade as the primary bitting area. Most dimple locks orient the keyway of the lock perpendicular to the pin stacks and allow the key to be inserted in any orientation.

Dimple locks are used in a wide variety of applications, and may vary from low to high security. A dimple lock is not more secure when compared to traditional pin tumbler locks, but the untraditional nature of the key makes many dimple locks appear sophisticated. Some of the most notable dimple lock manufacturers are KABA, Mul-T-Lock, DOM, LIPS, GOAL, and KESO.


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Principles of operation

A DOM dimple key.
See Pin-tumbler (Principles of operation)

Traditional dimple locks are functionally equivalent to pin-tumblers; the plug may rotate when dimples in the key properly position a number of pin-tumbler stacks at the shear line. The only difference is the orientation of the keyway and the location and style of the bitting cuts on the key blade. More advanced dimple locks use various high-security features like key profiling, side pins, telescoping pins, and axial rotation. Additional passive and active locking mechanisms are also common, such as sidebars and moving elements within the key itself.

The relationship between the keyway and the pins in a dimple lock limits the number of available depths for each pin (a function of the key thickness, pin design, and manufacturing tolerances). Where traditional pin-tumblers allow anywhere from six to twelve positions per pin, dimple locks generally allow two to six depths per pin. Regardless, modern dimple locks allow for pins positioned on all sides of the key, greatly increasing the number of pin positions available. This provides increasing key control and master keying capabilities when compared to traditional pin-tumblers. Traditional pin-tumblers have problems with increasing the number of pins because the key must be extended to accomodate the extra pins. Past a certain point (generally seven or eight pins) traditional pin-tumbler keys become too long and have problems with bending and breaking.


Dimple locks are vulnerable to all of the same attacks as traditional pin-tumbler locks:


  • Pick guns have limited effectiveness against dimple locks because of the poor range of motion allowed in the dimple keyway.



See also

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