The Bare Metal Directional Lock at Red Fox

We recently visited Red Fox Escapes in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they did something that I had believed impossible:

They made a Master Lock directional lock look both thematic and aesthetically pleasing – in a U-boat escape room.

They did this by stripping down the paint and exposing the bare metal with a Dremel and a file.

A Master Lock directional lock filed down to bare steel.

What Does This Fix?

Stripping a directional lock down to bare steel made it look cool – and like it belonged – even if it wasn’t period accurate.

Personally, I rarely ever think that period accuracy of mechanisms matters in an escape room. It’s huge just to make the room feel like everything belongs and nothing looks out of place.

Peeling away the ridiculous candy colored shell and “Master” branding transformed this from a silly escape room-y lock into a cool, curious object on a submarine.

What Doesn’t This Fix?

UI Challenges

This doesn’t make the directional lock more intuitive; it’s still a clunky contraption that requires explanation. Nothing is going to change this.


This isn’t going to improve the durability issues that directional locks have. They break, or at least, some large percentage break. There is a portion of the owner population that swears that they have never had to replace their directional locks… so maybe some are winning the manufacturer’s lottery?

Almost perfectly mirrored star ratings on both the high and low side for directional locks on Amazon.

The directional lock that I own doesn’t work so well after casual use with proper operation in a clean environment. I honestly cannot account for the varied opinions, which are split evenly on 2,500+ Amazon reviews. The only thing that makes sense to me is inconsistent production on a manufacturing level.

The Bottom Line

Red Fox Escapes made an escape room clichΓ© cool with a small alteration. They thawed my heart towards the directional lock. I’m thankful for this experience.

A different Massachusetts escape room owner from Outside The Box in Webster had said to me of his game The Body Shop that “nothing went into this game untouched.” They roughed up and patinaed everything in the game.

This is a smart way to build compelling escape room environments without breaking the bank. While it doesn’t cost that much more money to build this way, it does require a lot more thought, effort, and care. I truly respect it.

Visit this Lock

Buy your ticket to RECON, our escape room industry convention taking place in Boston in August. Red Fox Escapes is the closest escape room company to the Boston Marriott Cambridge, where we are hosting RECON.

RECON eye & penrose triangle logo.

Come visit Boston this summer for outstanding speakers, meaningful conversations, and new perspectives on escape rooms… and add in your own directional lock tourism!

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