A few months back GJ Lock Tools launched a brand new decoder for the Era Fortress, Union Strong Bolt and also the new Yale BS (which is exactly the same as a Strong bolt). It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of GJ Lock Tools products as you can probably tell from previous tool reviews, and again the new Fortress decoder does not disappoint.

One of the key things with any door lock opening tool is, will it actually get used and will you get a good return on investment? With Era Fortress and Union Strong Bolt being one of the most widely used BS mortice locks out there at the moment you can pretty much guarantee it’s not going to be a tool which is put away in the back of the van and never used. I’ve had my decoder for just over a month using it on locksmith jobs in Leeds and it’s almost made its money back already!

Each decoder kit is supplied with 1 x make up key, 1 x left hand reader wire, 1 x right hand reader wire, 4 x of each height brass key bits, 1 x counter weight, 1 x curtain turner/ reader wire holder.

Decoder Kit

All of the new GJ decoders use the new brass key bit system instead of the traditional pin style and the new Fortress decoder is no different. However the Fortress decoder has some really innovative features not seen in any of the other GJ decoders.

Key Bits

The first of which is the new way the brass key pieces are loaded onto the make up key. If you read the Securefast decoder review you will know that the make up key has to be dissembled and then the key pieces loaded onto the shaft and then re assembled and nipped into place because the key pieces effectively need to be loaded up from the back, which can’t be done without taking the tool apart. The new fortress make up key is loaded up from the front by simply removing a little cap on the end of the make up key meaning loading the key bits is a lot quicker which is a really nice little feature. Once all the bits are on the make up key everything is nipped into place by turning a wheel on the back of the key which clamps everything nice and tight stopping the key pieces moving around. This also eliminates the need for using a solid wider key piece as a packer like you do with the Securefast make up key if you are only building half of the key just to open the lock as opposed to building the full symmetrical key.

Make Up Key

The second new feature is the way you feed the reader wire into the lock to take the readings. This is such a simple but well thought out and effective method. As mentioned above the kit comes with a curtain turner and this also acts as a 2 in 1 tool which holds the wire and turns the curtain at the same time. It’s very easy to use and will literally take a minute or two of practice. The wire is dropped into a slot in the curtain turner tool, around the outside of the tool is a thin brass sleeve, once the wire is inserted into the curtain turner you just spin the outer brass sleeve and this traps the wire inside the curtain turner and stops it falling out. The tool is then inserted into the lock and turned in the locking direction. This will spin the curtain and position the wire ready to take readings from the back of the levers. It’s as simple as that!

Curtain Turner

The decoder its self is really easy to use. The reads are very accurate and from the times I’ve used it always land spot on with the chart so there’s no guess work or getting a read that could be between 2 different lever heights. An hour or so practice should be all you need really, maybe a little more for some people and a little less for others. As with any locksmith tool a good knowledge of the lock will be a big advantage when it comes to opening them. You can download the charts from the GJ website. You will need to download separate charts for the Fortress and the Strong Bolt as they are slightly different with the Fortress having 7 different lever heights and the Strong Bolt having 8 lever heights.

Fortress Decoder

You can also catch Geraint from GJ Lock Tools at the Nottingham LockExpo 2016 to get a good look at the new decoder.

All in all another great tool from GJ Lock Tools!



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