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Pin Tumbler Impressioning Woes

PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2017 8:29 pm
by tarboxb
Hello all,

I have been getting into lock impressioning and started with a cheap wafer lock in a LaGard safe dial. I was able to remove the cylinder and checked my progress a couple of times but did all the cutting with impressioning. I did succeed on that lock. I decided at that point to try a pin tumbler and have been working on one of the cheap brass Master locks. I worked on my key for many hours and failed to get the lock to open. I then decided to look at the key to the lock which I had stashed at the beginning without looking. It appears the bitting is 2, 3, 1, 5, 7 and my key is more like 3, 5, 3, 2, 3. I am obviously nowhere near the right key. I am marking the top of the key with black sharpie, inserting it into the lock, binding it and then bumping it once. I then bind it the other way and bump again. I usually bump both up and down about 3-4 times per side before looking for marks. I cut where I "see" marks. I must be interpreting the marks incorrectly. Any tips? I appreciate it.


Re: Pin Tumbler Impressioning Woes

PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 2:26 am
by mastersmith
Brandan there is no substitution for practice. Especially when impressioning. First I would stick with one kind of lock until you are proficient with it. Wafer locks leave different marks than pin tumbler locks. Wafers will "mark" on the edge (side) of the blank, pin tumbler will mark on the top (flat) of the blank. Worn wafer locks generally leave better marks for me because they are traditionally lower quality. The sloppy parts tend to be easier to read. Pin tumbler locks I find easier when newer. I guess because the point on the bottom pin leaves a cleaner mark. Once that point gets a bit rounded the impression is more of a "glossy spot", versus a definitive mark. The only way I know to learn the "language of the marks" is to practice it. And from now on don't "check your progress" even if subconsciously, you know where to progress your key if you've seen the wafers. It's counterproductive. Good luck, once you get it you will have a new world in front of you to enjoy!

Re: Pin Tumbler Impressioning Woes

PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 2:44 am
by madsamurai
Are you using a magnifier of any kind? Sometimes the marks are very small and light... I use a magnifier visor and also a little 25x chinese pocket microscope I picked up for a few bucks on ebay, and that helps tons. Also try using a very fine-grain sandpaper to smooth the surfaces as much as possible before you try to mark it. I like to roll up a piece of 800 grit roughly the same diameter as my file. My personal experience was that using a sharpie didn't usually help much, and sometimes even made it harder to see marks than clean brass, so I only tend to do that if I'm really stuck. Try to use daylight or some direct incandescent/LED light if you can, florescent/diffused lights can make it hard to see marks. Only file the clearest mark, and only file one at a time. Go slow and don't take too much off at a time, and it's totally worth the money for a good quality fine-cut file (I use a Grobet #4 round file, think it was maybe $60 but leaves a very clean surface that shows marks well) and if you use a little oil on your file it'll cut cleaner and won't clog up. You also want a lock that's pretty dry, so if you've lubed it up to make it easier to pick that'll work against you... I haven't tried it myself, but I've heard soaking in brake cleaner and letting it dry will remove the oil and it will mark better.

I think that's about all I know... Seems like I heard somewhere that Master locks aren't all that easy to impression due to weak pin springs, but I could be off on that. Some locks have rounded pins or even flat pins (like Kwikset) that can make things much trickier. Keep at it, it takes some practice to learn what real marks can look like and which ones are foolers... Hope this all helps.

Re: Pin Tumbler Impressioning Woes

PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 4:13 am
by tarboxb
Thank's for the info guys. I think the suggestion to stick with the wafer locks for the time being and not to have any look at the cylinder is a good one. I think I will do that. I also think that my file is likely part of the problem madsamurai. It is an extremely cheap chinese diamond file and while it works well for many things is probably not ideal for this. I will definitely give it a shot without the marker as well! Thanks guys!

Re: Pin Tumbler Impressioning Woes

PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2017 3:59 am
by Oldfast
As I attempted to learn & get better at impressioning... many, MANY people offered me
plenty of helpful tips & tricks, does & don'ts, etc. If you're willing to sift through all the
pages, you may find some of them helpful too. viewtopic.php?p=60760#p60760