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How to Install a Cam Lock? – 5 Easy Steps Everyone Can Do

Fact checked by Teddy B.Miller

how to install a cam lock

You have probably seen cam locks in drawers of storefronts, but did you know that these hardware items can also be used in other enclosures? If you look around your home, you might see cam locks on cabinets, lockers, drawers, toolboxes, and even on windows.

Given this versatility, knowing how to install a cam lock is a useful skill when you want to double the security or privacy of items most precious to you.

Cam Lock Installation Step-by-Step Guide

If you already know the type of cam lock you want for your drawer or cabinet, here’s the guide on how to install it.

What to prepare

  • Cam lock
  • Caliper/ruler/measuring tape
  • Pen, pencil, or any other marker
  • Drill bit
  • Glue
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Wrench
  • Level

Step 1: Measure a cam lock

After determining where to put the cam lock, the first thing you need to do is measure the body of the keyed piece and the latching distance using a caliper. You can also use either a ruler or a measuring tape.

Make sure to mark the measurements on the area where you will drill the hole. You can also use a level for certainty.

Step 2: Drill the hole

Find a drill bit that matches the measurement. If you don’t have a matching drill bit, fret not, as you can just buy one that does.

Slowly drill the hole with the markings as your guide. Do not go beyond your markings because accuracy is important for stable drawer cam locks.

If you will be creating holes for multiple surfaces, it’s recommended to have a cam lock drill jig. Otherwise, you can busy yourself measuring here and there.

Step 3: Install the body

When the hole is ready, you can then insert the body of the cam lock into it. If, by any chance, the lock wobbles a little, you can put glue on the interior surface to stabilize it.

Step 4: Install cam lock connectors

When the body is already fixed onto the hole, get ready to install cam lock fittings, like the tongue bar, collar, and nuts.

Use a screwdriver or wrench to tighten the cam. As with the keyed piece, make sure that it won’t jiggle. If it does, you can find a cam lock nut alternative to secure it in place.

Step 5: Test it

Now that both parts of the cam lock are fixed on the surface, test it by closing the drawer or cabinet and locking it. It should work fine, especially if you correctly measured the latching distance.

If, by any chance, the cam won’t latch, you need to replace a cam lock with an extra long cam lock. You can do so by finding a longer product that provides an extended latching distance.

On the other hand, if the item locks properly but wobbles, you can add extra collars that will help in extending the cam. Test the lock once more and adjust until you hit the perfect latching length.

The goal is to properly fix the lock onto the drawer, so you protect not just items but the enclosure’s frame as well.

What is a Cam Lock?


Adding locks to cabinets is a must, especially when you own a store. When you’re not confident in the built-in security that comes with your drawer, a cam lock can also be an effective auxiliary lock.

This L-shaped lock is straightforward. It has two parts: the keyed piece and the cam, also known as the tongue bar. The cam either rotates or moves horizontally or vertically, thereby serving as a latch.

It’s easy to install and use, making it a popular option for many enclosures.

For more on how it works, please click here!

Why Should You Install a Cam Lock?


Aside from being user-friendly with its simple installation instructions, using a cam lock is perfect for those who want an enclosure’s frame not to be overpowered by a lock system.

A cam lock goes well on wooden drawers and cabinets because it is flush against the frame. Since the cam is hidden inside the drawer and only the keyed piece is visible on the enclosure’s frame, it won’t become an eyesore.

Imagine using a padlock that does not always complement the enclosure’s aesthetics. With a cam lock, you won’t have to worry about the looks or the security.

Types of Cam Locks

This type of fastener is popular among locksmiths, so it’s easy to come by in hardware stores and online. This popularity also means that there are many variants of cam locks.

Aside from varying sizes, cam locks have numerous finishes, commonly zinc alloy or stainless steel. For the mechanism, there are keyed and non-keyed variants.

1. Keyed cam locks


A keyed cam lock is the most common type, usually seen on drawers, lockers, and storefronts. It’s compatible with many frames and comes with many keyhole sizes and shapes.

There are two main types of keyed cam locks: keyed alike and keyed to differ. As the name suggests, the former means all your cam locks can be unlocked by a single key (common in stores). The latter, meanwhile, uses different keys (as with lockers).

One alternative to both keyed alike and keyed different cam locks is locks with a master key.

There are cam locks for mailboxes, made of plastic, and miniature ones for keyholes sized 1/4″. If you want cam locks that are hard to duplicate, those with circular, hex, triangle, or square keyways (standard or miniature) are an option.

For a superb cam locking mechanism, say, for a jewelry stand, you can consider using those with no-copy keys. This variant uses half-moon keys that can only be removed when the unit is successfully locked.

There are also weather-resistant and washdown cam locks that can fight off dirt, dust, and moisture.

Another noteworthy type is the compression lock, which uses a two-way approach to secure an object: first is turning the keyed piece a quarter, then making another quarter-turn for the actual latching.

Those who want a trusted furniture cam lock can have a disc tumbler type that’s hard to pick. The same goes for a pin tumbler and tubular cam locks.

2. Keyed cam locks with handles

Aside from the regular hook cam lock, keyed cam locks also come with varying handles: winged, T-shaped, L-shaped, ringed, paddle-handled, swing-handled, and those types where you can put a cam lock together with turn latches.

A keyed lock is a reliable pal on a drawer because it goes well with the surface, all the while securing the enclosure.

3. Keyless cam locks

A cabinet cam lock can also be keyless. It can employ magnetic locks, like those with a key-fob; be slotted; have combination codes; be winged; or come with a padlock.

The slotted ones have varying designs: miniature, washdown, compression, adjustable compression locks, and those using a spring wire.

These are ideal for enclosures at homes, like on a cabinet door, and not advisable when securing something of value.


How do I install a disk tumbler cam lock?

Installing a disk tumbler cam lock follows the previously mentioned steps, but the difference is that you will be using more washers and two tailpieces (a straight one and an offset type).

The tailpieces go on the interior of the surface you’re working with, and these come with plastic shims that will help you to tighten the lock.

How do you screw in a cam lock?

Cam locks are used in furniture when joining two boards together. There are two hardware pieces for this type of project: a screw and a nut.

First, insert the screw into the first board’s surface using a flathead screwdriver. Afterward, like a Lego piece, you can join the first board with another board by aligning the latter’s hole with the screw.

You will then see the head of the screw on the hole, just big enough to occupy the hole mid-length. Afterward, you can put the nut into the hole using a Phillips screwdriver.

Fastening furniture parts has never been this easy.

Where do you connect cam locks?

Cam locks are also used in cable lock connectors for generators, and they can be installed in a jiffy.

The camlock connector will go over the set screw holes on the brass contact. You just need to slide it into place. Once the camlock is in correct alignment with the brass contact, you will see a hole; this is where you’ll put a screw to secure the camlock.

Do cam lock fittings leak?

You won’t need to change a cam lock now and then because its fittings don’t leak. These locks are used in many industries, so you can rest easy knowing you won’t have to worry about stress, force, pressure, or friction that might harm them.


Knowing how to install a cam lock will save you locksmith expenses. Cam locks are easy to work with, readily available, and their assembly instructions abound online.

As such, the only thing you need to master is their installation. With a little patience, you’ll have no trouble understanding the measurement of the lock or its testing.

Cam locks are practical to use because of the keyed-alike variants, and they are an effective way of securing your valuables.

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