Is August the Lock Shop’s busiest month? “Oh yeah.”
That’s Travis Holcomb’s assessment. “Everyone asking for keys at the same time,” he said last week at the campus’ Lock Shop. “Give us two weeks, it’ll be crazy.”
Holcomb supervises the shop. Scott Cline, Gary Rager and Mert McGuire – who’s the point person for the “card reader” system – also work in the shop, located at the Sink Building near the Steam Plant. They all are licensed by the state.
All residence halls have a swipe card exterior system. The Lock Shop is in the process of installing the Millenium brand swipe card system in exterior doors in most other buildings on campus. Moore Nursing was having them installed last week, he said. Sullivan Science is having them installed early this month. Your UNCG ID card is your swipe card, after hours, with this system.
When you swipe it, your name and time and location pops up on a screen in the shop as it’s recorded for security.
Most interior doors in residence halls and other buildings use keys. A few buildings, such as Curry Building, have intellikeys for offices. These keys have a computer chip that keeps a record of when the key was used, for extra security. Each costs about $400. Each of the swipe lock systems cost about $1,000.
But most keys are the traditional type, which cost far less. In the shop are trays containing lots of parts that may be needed for repairs, marked spindles … lever handles … strikes 4 7/8 … thru mounts, etc.
Whenever a building is renovated, they remove and store the old lock mechanisms, as they put in new ones. The campus has used Corbin locks since at least the 1920s. If spare parts are needed, they will have them on hand.
He pulls out a 1950’s Corbin lock, and explains that in the 1920’s the Corbin lock would have used a skeleton key. “You couldn’t buy this in 30 or 40 years.”
As for the keys, as they are returned – for example at the end of the semester – they are stored in a rack system. They are in rows of 12 by 144, arranged by building. With 55 racks in the shop, that’s 9,360 keys. Each is stamped “UNCG – Do not duplicate.”
If a duplicate is needed, he can cut a new one using a key as a template. Or he can type the key’s number into a data system and the key’s shape and spec’s pop up – and the machine can cut it automatically. This will give a little more accurate cut, because over time keys become a little misshapen due to use.
He got his start making keys in Houston, where he worked with three others in a very small space making keys for apartments and houses for hours at a time, tossing them into grocery carts.
At the UNCG Lock Shop, there’s space for the supplies and computers. There’s a sense of camaraderie. There’s blues playing in the background, mixing with the regular grinding of the key-cutting machine.
And there are the orders to fill. “We probably give out 3,000 keys a year,” he says.
How many never make it back? “It’s probably 10 to one. We give 10 out. We get one back.”
As staff and faculty resign and new ones hired, there is a process (with small forms) for each department to follow to ensure key transactions are properly recorded. Those with questions may contact Travis Holcomb at email@example.com.
Visual: Travis Holcomb in the Lock Shop