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Live with Ken Nixon (Ask Him Your Questions!)

Pull out a bottle of Topo Chico and let’s tackle the posts/memes of the week, comment of the week, and a AMA with Ken Nixon. Let's get started here.



This was sent in by Joe D. If you look on the far left back rear passenger wheel, you'll see a big old lock boss sticker. Captions says, ‘Our lockboss stock car team won Friday night. We got first and 2nd place.’ Very excellent, Joe. Glad you had fun, and then that looks like a dirt track. And I tell you what, I like watching but dirt track racing because it is where it's at. That looks pretty cool, Joe.


Next, here we have the two types of merchants in the world. You can see on the left there we have nice, clean and tidy. And on the other side, we have what looks like a gentleman who needs help getting his legs pulled. But I loved reading the comments on this one. It's perfect, right? And how many of us strive to be on the left. But sometimes, after a big job or a few busy days, we look like the gentleman on the right. So you know, I often wonder with pictures like this pose, and maybe all of you know, but I just don't. But is that like someone had to pose for that picture that had? Am I guessing for a meme or something? Or maybe an excellent friend took it? I don't know. I always wonder, 'What's the origin story on that?' but I'll tell you what, it's pretty cool guys. They're pretty funny.



Very true. Yes, Carlos. And I like learning just as much as you do from different community members. And it's been a blast, and hopefully, we'll have some more interviews out from out community.


All right, so with further ado, let's catch up with Mr. Ken Nixon. Some questions came from the community during the live broadcast.

Ken: Hi there.

PJ: Ken, welcome back, except for this time you're live. Right, so -

Ken: - Yeah, thanks for having me.


PJ: Yeah, absolutely. So we must be a little more careful on the bloopers, right, with the two of us being on here live. So, Ken, we talked about it a little bit, but what was it like? We've seen all the comments and how many people were fascinated by your story. It's a shocking, fun story.

Ken: That's true, but, you know, I mean, it is a true story. So it's following your childhood passion. Fireworks had been very successful to me and with the blessings of the Lord as I said, so, you know.

PJ: Absolutely. So I have to ask so, you know, yesterday was the 4th of July, which is I'm guessing in your business like the biggest, your old business, the biggest event of the year for most people who do fireworks.

Ken: You know, I mean, I didn't shoot Lake Tahoe for like 30 years. That was a big show, the most prominent West of the Mississippi, and I had a crew of 20. You know, it took five days to set it up, two days just to put in the physical mortars and all that. Two days to load it and then pull out and shoot it that night on the fourth. That was a big show; a lot of work, but you know, it was advantageous for me because I got to see the design that I did, and I picked all the sales and the music and, of course, with the sponsor have some input on the music, but that was so rewarding, you know to enjoy the work that you did.


PJ: So what did you do yesterday? And you know, as someone who ran all these big shows, I'm inquisitive

Ken: Well, I'm kind of embarrassed to be on here. I shouldn't, you know. Generally, on the fifth, it was all day to tear it down and put it in the truck. But, yesterday, you know, I shot. I had some friends over and had a little barbecue, and we shot some, you know, just a few consumer fireworks we were playing with sparklers. I had a variety of different kinds, which are the better ones. But you know, in California, it was all safe and sane fireworks. And so, I didn't want to have any issues. So had a little fire fun instead of firework?


PJ: Yeah, that's a good one, Ken. That is a good one. So nowadays in your life, on the 4th of July, you're having fire fun, not fireworks?

Ken: That's right. Yeah. You know, I mean, I used to be out on the 4th of July, and I could get a bunch of calls for people who were having problems with our equipment, you know. Every once in a while and trying to deal with all that in the middle of actually doing a show. It's just challenging, shall we say? I never really had any massive failures. I mean, probably some people know about the one in San Diego a bunch of years ago, where it all went up when they initiated it, and that wasn't our firing system. But that was an operator here. If you did check it all beforehand, he would have realized that was going to happen so


PJ: Okay, so what - like, have you found any way to incorporate fireworks or, you know, any part of the firework business into your locksmithing business? Like if you found anyway, whether it's through anything at all?

Ken: Well, you know, when I sold the business, I tried to market them, MedicoXT Electronic System, to the fireworks industry for their magazines and storage and all that because it's excellent. And you know, it has a memory chip and a calendar clock and chip. So, it had a perfect audit trail, and I got a variance with the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) to use that to replace the five-pin cylinder that was required. And they all loved it. ATF loved it; everything was great until they saw the price, and what's the end? And then COVID hit, so wiped me out that business. You know, I was following that career. But you know, it was going up a blind alley; too expensive.

PJ: Okay, and so, Ken, I expect that so it's like a box?

Ken: Well, the MedicoXT System has cylinders. You can put in padlocks to doors and all that. And it has an electronic key that talks to it. And if it has the authorization in it and it opens the cylinder. It has an audit trail and all that. There's a memory chip in the cylinder as well. You get the key, and then it's uploaded. And it was great for, like, who's been in the magazine, you know, it was the last person in there, and we didn't have to do an inventory because nobody had been in there for a month, well, then that's okay. You have to physically walk around it to ensure it hasn't been broken into. But, you know, storing explosives is critical, and you can't do that. You have to maintain stringent control over them.


PJ: Absolutely. Okay. Yeah. So I get you figured out using your locksmithing skills is a relatively simple way to get audit trail and key security on where those explosives are being held?

Ken: That's right. I mean, it was a system; Medeco makes it. So I was a dealer and became a dealer for MedicoXT Systems. It's known; some people, I'm sure familiar with that out there.

PJ: Sure. Very good. That's cool. So, you know, my phone's been beeping here. So I think Kelly has some questions here for us. So let's get to some of the questions here. All right.

Ken: I see that on there. I'm just kind of looking at a few comments.

PJ: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Ken: Make the stinger into the weenie cart. That was pretty funny with all your hot dog eating contests. That was great!


PJ: Yes. Okay. So you know, let's talk about that for a minute. Ken, what were your thoughts when watching that hot dog video?

Ken: Well, I was hungry. I need to eat some hotdogs was my thought.

PJ: Oh, I tell you what, I know. Yeah. Next week with part of our live, we're going to bring on Joey. And you know, I haven't talked a little bit about that. But yeah, that was, you know, I can eat a lot of food, Ken. But I realized I couldn't eat it fast—sitting next to him. I was dunking those buns. I mean, it was making me nauseous. I had to keep my head down. You know. I mean, there's just something about dunking a bun in water.

Ken: I guess the water helps to make it go down there.


PJ: Yeah, I mean, but yeah, that was funny stuff here. But all right, here we go. So this is from Thomas James Reineck asks, ‘what advice would you give to a beginner?’

Ken: A beginner? Well, I mean, I had the passion. I just want to study and learn everything that you can, you know. I mean, it's great if you could find a mentor, somebody to teach. The key is passion, and everything will follow after that. If you want to be a locksmith, that's great. You know, start picking up learning things. You may have to spend a little money, you know, but not a lot in the beginning. I mean, there are things I don't know because I'm not out there every day doing it, you know? Sure that I'm, you know, I'm a lock collector, too. So I pick up locks, play with him, and try to learn everything I can.


PJ: Okay, cool. Here's another question for you. And I don't know what they're talking about. So I was hoping you do, but we'll find out here in a moment. How awesome was it to meet Lishi Cowboy? That's from acskyking.

Ken: That's pretty funny. Yeah. Yeah, that's Jason from SClockandkey. I get down there to the south once because my wife has some property there.

PJ: That's great.

Ken: And Jason's great. He's just on his Saturday morning life. He's giving me some things; I gave him a few things. And I just had to talk to him the other day because I didn't know anything about the great Schlage lever locks. And you need a unique screw tool to unscrew it. That's kind of lock knowledge that I don't have because I'm not out there doing it every day.

PJ: Okay, yep, taking that nut off there.

Ken: Yeah, that's right. So I don't guess that tool. So I didn't know that, you know, they called me there, they needed. The keys weren't working right. And they needed to rekey it, but I didn't have experience. You know, I've taken a lot of cylindrical knobs off before, but that one kind of threw me. I mean, eventually, I figured it out. But you know, it's, that's like it. You have to have mechanical skills to be able; you're going to get thrown in all kinds of loops. You got to muddle your way through it, and I was going to be the fastest and most efficient first.

PJ: It's very accurate, right? Like, this is one of those industries where it's like, you have to apply the knowledge you do have -

Ken: - That's right.

PJ: To solve the problems of the knowledge that you don't. Because it kind of builds on each other; on itself, I should say.

Ken: That's right. Problem-solving; that's it. Everything you do in life.

PJ: Yep. Very, very accurate. All right, next question. This is from James Randolph.

Ken: Okay.


PJ: And he says, what would happen if we accidentally got you and dusty knuckles into the same room?

Ken: Oh, Dusty knuckles? He's another locksmith, right? So, just be talking locks all the time and our wives. They will run away somewhere else. What are you guys talking about? So we're just having fun, you know, chatting about locks?


PJ: Yeah, that's good. All right. Next question. Okay, this from Everett C. Veilleux. Hopefully, I said that right. What was the one unexpected difference between starting a firework business you encountered when starting your locksmith business?

Ken: Oh, fireworks were, you know, I started from zero and kept growing. And I was working with my brother, and how do we solve this problem trying to make fireworks go with music? In the locksmith business, I mean, that was just another passion. And you know, I didn't have much success trying to sell that Medico System to the pyro people because it was just too expensive. So I wasn't thinking ahead on that problem because I know they're very cheap in the fireworks business. They don't like to spend any money.

PJ: Okay

Ken: I didn't answer that very well, but it's hard. I don't know.


PJ: Yeah, man, that's perfectly fine. But you know, that brings me to another question that just came to mind when I asked that, which is, so in the lock and key industry, right? A lot of times, the merchants keep cards very close to their chests. Now, it's getting better; we've been trying to promote a lot more community, right? It's better to be friends than frenemies, right. But I'm curious because there's a lot of secret trade type stuff, or techniques and things that a lot of people, you know, don't like to share very much. I'm curious in the firework business, like, is there that same type of thing where everyone's pretty secretive, or do they share information?

Ken: Oh, yeah. Well, they're secretive. I mean, they all have clients. They don't want somebody to go and take their other client. But all the CEOs and prominent players in the fireworks business, I mean, they're all family-owned businesses pretty much. But they all have gigantic egos. You know, 'My shows are the best in the world.' And I guess the same is true, but what surprised me most about the locks industry is how big it is. Just think about, you know, a hospital, anything, how many locks? How many locks do you physically have on the property? It's a gigantic industry. And you know, it is forever. It's just, I mean, just look at these big companies. And you know, Schlage, whatever, Medico, all those. They make, I mean, I think the SFIC best factory claimed at one point they had, like, forget, it was like, several, like 4 billion in small format and interchangeable cores installed worldwide. That's a lot of locks.

PJ: It is, you know, it's one of those weird things. If you think about it in this industry, it's like, you interact with locks all day, right? Like when you leave your house and show up to your work. I mean, every aspect involves some sort of lock. You're right.

Ken: Yeah, they're everywhere.

PJ: This is very good for us here because we like to work with locks and keys, so it works well.

Ken: That's right. Well, you know, locksmith to get into door closers and hinges and other things like that are all related. And why have you got to be a fire inspector for fire doors and all these things are very important?


PJ: Absolutely. Ken, I have one last question for you here. And it's probably the most crucial question I've asked: This is from The_Locksmith _Life. Chad, what's up? He says, 'Hey, Ken, do you still have all of your fingers, brother?' 

Ken: That's right. That was one of the advantages of electronic firing or computer control. You can get some distance between you and the firework because space is your primary friend. It's more different in the proximate world, where you have a pyro close to the audience and the performers on the stage. Then you don't want to burn them and all that, and when you're doing outdoor aerial, you know, the spectators are at a certain distance away. So you want to be back to, I mean, I've shot many shows where you have to light it with a flare, you know, for smaller concerts. And that's, that's real fun, but it's fascinating and doesn't always go perfect. To do a massive show sync to music, you can't do it with a flare. So I guess all my fingers and, you know, I've learned some people that are no longer well alive. Had accidents and been killed. Manufacturing is usually the most dangerous part, but display business with those big shows. I mean, those big shells can kill you in a heartbeat. You can't hand light some of those big shells; you're not supposed to. Use it within an electric match and get some distance between you and the product. There used to kill me. I'd see people with push-button systems sit right in the middle of it all. Shoot it. Oh, come on. You got all these cables. Get yourself away. I like being awake. I could see the show if you're underneath it. You know you don't have the proper perspective.

PJ: Yeah, that's cool. Well, hey, you know, I mean, congrats on a long fireworks career and keeping all your fingers. I mean, that's probably something pretty good.

Ken: That's right. Yeah, for sure. People that are no longer with us. So

PJ: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Well, good stuff, Ken. Hey, I appreciate you coming in and hanging out and getting a few of some questions. And you know, it's been just an absolute blast. We've been interacting for quite some time in the comments on the YouTube videos. And I've had an absolute blast. Getting to meet you screen to screen

Ken: I look forward to seeing you and everybody at ALOA so

PJ: Yes, yeah. It'll be a blast. I mean, we're weeks away now so

Ken: We will go out to lunch; buy a hot dog.

PJ: Oh, that'd be good. That would be good.

Ken: All right. Thanks.

PJ: Perfect, Ken. We'll talk to you soon and take care. And we'll see you in the comments.

Ken: All right. Thanks, all of you, for commenting. Because I comment back, too, I see it all. That's great. So awesome.

PJ: Yeah. Good stuff. We'll see you, Ken. Okay. All right, man, that was that fun or what? Man, I appreciate Ken coming on and hanging out with a little bit of a fascinating story. And you know, it was perfect to have him on right after the 4th of July.

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