"Welcome to Super Custom Locks. This is Roy."
"Yes, sir, we have a range of sizes and lengths. Is there a specific shape padlock you need?"
"Well, what will it be for?"
"So the U of the shackle needs to be about 2 inches wide, but only an inch high. I think we've got something like that. Why don't you come in and have a look?"
"Okay, thanks. Have a nice day."
That was a fairly ordinary call. But it seems once a few people understood that there is a *lot* of variation possible in a padlock's design - and that we make 'em! - the calls have started flooding in. And that's how I got the attention of a certain special class of client.
"Yes, we make decorative padlocks, ma'am. Most of them are brass or stainless steel. We've found that anything else gets way too expensive or that people don't like looking after them. Although now that I say that, we do have some iron locks, as a number of customers like how they rust naturally."
"Our smallest would be about 1cm across the shackle and about 1.5cm top to bottom. That's just larger than three-eighths. It's not real secure, but it does look kinda cute, if that's what you're after."
"For almost all our padlocks, the keys are extra."
"Yes, the keys are extra."
"Each lock is numbered and you can come back at any time with that number and we'll create a key for it."
Or this one:
"A swung hasp? You mean a swing shackle? Instead of a sliding shackle?"
"Yes, like old-fashioned locks with the keyhole on the front rather than the side? Yes, sir, we sell brand new ones like that. A variety of sizes. Some swing to the left, some to the right. Some have a door over the keyhole, but we can add or remove that for you. In a way, those kinds of locks never really went out of style."
"Oh, the biggest ones can be a few kilograms. But they are very large. I can see one on the shelf from here that is at least four inches across and I know that it's not our biggest."
"What do you mean by a 'reasonable size'? What did you want it for?"
"Mate, I've heard a lot of wierd and wonderful things people put my locks to. I doubt you can surprise me."
"You mean on the front of a slave collar?"
"Yes, I said a slave collar. We sell those too, if you're interested."
"Fair enough. So you probably don't want the padlock to dangle down too far, then, but you want her to know it's there."
"I just guessed. It doesn't matter to me if it's a her or a him."
"Oh - a small padlock that's heavier than it looks? I hadn't thought of that. It can't be too small, of course, as the smallest ones don't have any spare space inside them. You'd probably be looking at something at least an inch-and-quarter across. Maybe bigger."
"No, we couldn't use lead. We don't work in lead. We'd just make the front and back plates thicker, and add a few extra pieces inside. At that sort of volume, I don't think you could tell there wasn't lead in it."
That one openned up an interesting sub-line. He came in and got his lock, too. Was very pleased with it. It was a swing-shackle lever lock in iron and steel that was about an inch-and-a-half across. But I'd made it heavy for him: it weighed more than our normal next size up, which is two inches across. He came back a few months later for some more. And it sells steadily.
Then you get calls like this.
"No, ma'am, we didn't make a mistake. I have the order right in front of me. In fact it's the work order, so everything was ticked off as it was completed. You ordered five three-quarter inch brass padlocks with standard pin tumblers and the minus one shackles, all keyed differently."
"Right. So they look like they'll fit, then."
"And that's also right - you didn't order any keys. No, keys are extra. And optional."
"Why? Well, I've found that's what my customers want."
"Oh, so they *do* fit? That's great!"
"No, I've already told you, I didn't send any keys with this order. I could have sold you some in another order, but I've only the got one for the padlocks in front of me."
"... that's the only order you've made... Well, I can sell you the keys, if you like, right over the phone."
I make a special point of making sure the customer knows that keys are extra, but it seems a few forget. Whilst she was fairly understanding in the end, and was pleasant if a little frantic throughout, she did buy the keys in that call. I couriered them out to her at half-price, as a gesture of good will. I wonder how long her playmate was locked up for.
What I didn't get to explain to her was that once we attracted the attention of the bondage crowd, the padlock orders started getting interesting. There's really no other word for it. Some random Joe who needs a good strong padlock for his side gate isn't too fussy about the size and length. It just has to fit, it probably needs to be weatherproof and they seem to expect it to come with several keys. At least two, usually. Well, they can go down to the local hardware store, now. My standard padlocks for that were always more expensive, anyway.
Bondage people, on the other hand, can be fussy. Smaller shackle is a highly requested item, obviously to go through some small hole (I wonder about some of the people making locking items - put a decent hole in there, ya knobs!). Shorter shackle is also popular, which I call my 'minus one' shackle. It means it's only as high as the one on the padlock the next size down. Kinda low-profile, if you like. Custom shapes get asked for, too. We had requests for a sperical body on a sliding-shackle pin-tumbler brass lock so often we now stock it as standard item. And keys! Some people want to buy 10 keys, all keyed-alike, others want only one, and still others want other combinations. Keying padlocks alike isn't a problem, either, but that changes the key-count again, too. I've even had requests for double-sided keys so they work in two different padlocks (why not get them keyed alike?). In the end, it was just simpler to sell the keys separately. Turned out to have a bit of an interesting benefit, too. There is a noticeable fraction of customers who have the keys sent to a different address. Keys as a separate item makes that so much easier to do.
Talking about keys...
"Super Custom Locks, Roy speaking."
"Leg-irons originally bought from us? Well, we sell several different models. Do you know the type?"
"You don't. Okay, well what's the problem, anyway? Maybe I can figure it out as we go."
"Ah... They sound like they could take an ordinary six-inch bolt. Although a long-shackled padlock would work, too."
"Yeah, like you'd use to build a fence or something. Are the holes threaded?"
"They are? We sell bolts that fit that, though like I said, they're a standard size. The bolts we sell have holes drilled near the end so you can padlock the bolt in. The holes are an eighth-of-an-inch so they take the common smaller sized padlock. You've probably got some already that would fit, although we sell a range at that size, too. But even if they weren't threaded you could just put a nut on the end."
"Yes, we sell the nuts, too. And we've just got in some special nuts that do up by hand but you need a special clip we also sell to undo them. Why don't come in and have a browse around?"
"Okay. See you then."
We've also found ways to get creative with padlocks.
"Padlock with a delay timer? I wonder if you've been speaking to one of my other customers: we've just brought out a small range of padlocks just like that. He gave us some help developing them because he couldn't find anyone making them."
"No, at the moment, there's only three sizes. The smaller one is 40mm - about an inch-and-a-half. The larger one is about 66mm across. That's two-and-a-half inches. And there's one more in the same size but with a swing shackle instead. You set the timer on the front and it starts when you push the shackle in. Then when it reaches 0, the bolt retracts and it pops open."
"About 30 minutes. We might be able to modify it for 60 minutes or perhaps longer, but our clockwork maker wasn't confident it would be reliable with such small mechanisms."
"Yes, the dial is on the front and it shows how long is left."
"Well, we could put a blank dial on, so you couldn't tell. You'd just have to guess when setting it if you didn't want the maximum time."
"At the moment, yes, you can change the timer after it's started. To start with, we just wanted to try out the idea. But we'd like to put an interlock of some sort in, yes."
"A key as well? I dunno. There isn't room in the bodies to add a tumbler. Besides, what would a key to do?"
"Hmm. That might work. So even if you have the key you'd still need to wait for the timer to run out. I'll ask my clockwork maker, but I'm pretty sure we'd have to use bigger lock bodies."
He did buy one. He bought a several more a week later. He also bought a few when we came up with a way to interlock the bolt so you can only adjust the timer before it's closed. We made the key idea work, too. The same customer also came up with an interesting variation that combines the old self-winding watch with the clockwork countdown: if you move the padlock too suddenly, the timer stops for a few seconds. Our clockwork maker was intrigued by the idea, but he hasn't made it work yet. It has to somehow stop the escapement in a way that reliably sets it going again shortly afterwards.
Then there are some really out there requests.
"A padlock with no keys? Well, we sell all our padlock keys separately. So you can just not buy the keys."
"Yes, you can always get the keys. Each lock has a unique number. You provide that number, and we can make you a key."
"I guess we could make a lock that had no matching key."
"Oh - without even a cylinder? So, not even a keyhole?"
"Umm. I guess we could do that. It wouldn't be cheaper; you do know how dangerous it could be?"
"A padlock that can only be shut once and that's it is quite a dangerous thing. You wouldn't want someone to use by accident."
"I think we'd have to have you sign a legal waiver, so we know you understand what you're asking us to make for you."
"Do you know we sell padlocks with magnetic keys? There's no keyhole to marr the look and it would give the effect you seem to want, but you can open them again with the special key."
"Well, no; we don't make very many of them, because we don't sell so many, so the range is smaller."
"Or what about a puzzle lock? Some of those have no visible keyhole. You have to solve a puzzle to open up the keyhole. Some of them have a fake keyhole that partially solving the puzzle will open but that will actually lock the padlock further if you try it, requring a different puzzle solution before the real keyhole is opened. They're quite ingenious, actually."
"Yes, some of them are truly keyless: solve the puzzle and the lock opens."
"Sure, you can come in. Our showroom is open most days and our workshop is, well, not really open, but we do tours so customers can see what we do."
"Okay, see you next Tuesday then."
Wait, there's the phone again. No rest for the wicked, I guess.
"Super Custom Locks. This is Roy."
"Sure, we can make a lock to match a key. What sort of key is it?"
"That sounds like a lever lock key, so it'd probably need to be a padlock with the keyhole on the face. Hang on, how old did you say it was again?"
"About 150 years, so it might even be a warded key. Okay, we can make an old-fashioned-style padlock that opens with that. How about you bring the key in and we'll see what we can do."