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Paladin Locksmiths & Safe Services: from One Expert to Another


The word is spreading! Thank you to Derek Mercer at Lockeys for the ‘heads-up’ and prompting us to interview Paladin Locksmiths. Mark Doyle is a Qualified Master Locksmith (QML) and professional Safecracker with over 20 years of experience in the security industry based in Skelmersdale.

So, why a Locksmithing Career?

I was brought up in Skelmersdale and Ormskirk, and I am currently living in Skelmersdale. It was 2011 when I started. It was an episode of Rogue Trader that inspired me, I felt like I wanted to make a difference to the locksmithing trade by offering a trusted service. I was very interested in locks as a child, I loved to fiddle and dabble and learned how to open basic combination locks and simple padlocks before the days of the internet. I thought it was something I could do for fun initially, so bought some lockpicks and locks and learnt how to open them. It all got ‘out of hand’ quickly buying more and more tools. It was then that I realised I could probably make a few quid with my newly acquired skills, so I started offering domestic locksmithing and then did commercial jobs too. Eventually moving on to vehicle locksmithing, and then I decided to specialise in safe and vault work. One thing just led to another…

Before I became a locksmith, I went to university to study software engineering and worked in the IT industry. It bored me sat at a desk in an office all day. The locksmith life can be isolating, that is why I like to speak to other people in the trade and get involved with the MLA to share knowledge and experience. My wife Vicki Doyle does all of the business administration, taking the work bookings and handling the telephone queries.

My involvement with the MLA

In 2016, I joined the Master Locksmiths Association and did the exams qualifying as a master locksmith and became an approved company. I found that this helped me a lot as increasingly people look for an MLA approved company instead of just doing a Google search; the Police recommend to everyone to always use an MLA registered locksmith. Two years ago, I became the treasurer and secretary of the MLA Northern Region. I like to give back to the association and the locksmith trade, I enjoy meeting new people and I would attend the meetings anyway, so might as well run them! It takes a lot of planning before and after. I also write articles in trade publications summarising the events and thanking everybody for attending.

Locksmithing likes and dislikes

Likes: I love the variety that locksmithing brings; no two days are the same! You really don’t know what you’re doing from one minute to the next. It could be a lock on a toilet block one day and opening a bank vault the next! It’s a great feeling rescuing people who are locked out of their homes, or locked in cupboards, or breaking into safes. A lot depends on locksmiths doing their job; access is everything.

I once had to rescue a lady trapped in public toilets and a student stuck in a small cupboard at a hall of residence – his friends thought it would be funny to lock him in a cupboard and couldn’t get him out.

Dislikes: I have to admit, customers can be a challenge! I have met some strange people, who call me on a Bank Holiday or Sunday for a non-urgent booking that’s not an emergency – why would someone do that? There’s not much else I dislike.

Tell us about your work with safes

People find themselves needing access to a safe because things break, keys snap, they lose or forget the combination code, keys are stolen, electronic locks fail and internal bolt mechanisms break – all of which prevent the safe from opening. I receive a lot of dodgy calls and have to ‘delve in deep’ and ask a lot of questions to verify ownership. It’s always dodgy when someone says: “Can you open this safe and lock it back up again.”

I’ll never forget opening my first vault, it was a Hobbs door in an ex-bank building. A new business had moved in and someone accidentally closed the vault door and span the dial. It was a four-wheel Chubb combination lock that had not been reset to the factory default combination and no one knew the code. I had to manipulate the lock carefully to find out the correct code out of the possible one hundred million possibilities. After just over an hour of interrogation I had it unlocked and was able to swing the huge door open. I think I had a permanent smile for several weeks after that job.

I am mostly self-taught. I taught myself by buying tools and locks and figuring out how the locks respond to the tools and therefore how they can be defeated. My business is now 50/50 percent general locksmithing and safe work. Safes are a declining market because of the increase in electronic transactions and businesses taking less cash. My expertise is still required though, less demand for services often means less available specialists.

My advice to new locksmiths

When becoming a locksmith, you can either buy a franchise, or spend money on the tools and stock and crack on with it. I decided to teach myself how to do things and I work purely on my own on a mobile basis; I personally didn’t want the hassle of premises and managing staff. When you go into business ‘you’re the boss’ so you can form your business around your own personal circumstances and what you want to achieve – whether to make a living wage or build an empire.

The locksmithing market is very tough and saturated. It can be difficult to make money and takes four to five years to get established and make a steady income/profit. It’s certainly not easy money, there is a lot of outlay in stock, tools, insurance and marketing. When you work for yourself, you need to be experienced in everything so you’re not turning away work.

More about Paladin

Paladin locksmiths offer a comprehensive 24-hour locksmith and safe engineer service. Established in 2011, they are an independent, family-run, local locksmith company based in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, providing a competitively priced reliable service. As a Master Locksmiths Association approved company, they are qualified, regularly inspected, and vetted to ensure that their standards are second to none.

Mark has an active role in the locksmith world. He is the Secretary and Treasurer of the Master Locksmiths Association Northern Region. Mark organises training and social events for other locksmiths and writes articles for trade publications. He enjoys going to locksmith exhibitions and training events, where he can keep his skills and knowledge up to date.

Outside of work, Mark tries to keep fit by running. You will often see him plodding around Skelmersdale as a member of the Skelmersdale Boundary Harriers running club. He regularly runs and volunteers on Saturdays at either Tawd Valley parkrun or Ormksirk parkrun events. He also attends several running groups at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk during the week.

Telephone: 01695 733394 / 07939 993201