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Don't repeat my mistakes...

PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2020 7:47 am
by least
I believe that there isn't enough time in one's life to make all the mistakes yourself, so here are some of mine, so you don't have to repeat them...

Mistake number one: buy the first nice set of picks you see.
I bought a really nice Southord's kit, that isn't bad, but because the most of locks available here are the euro profiles with relatively tight keyways, it is not very usable in those. If I did just a few minutes long research, I'd buy a set with the slim profiles and my picking would be much more pleasant. In case you are really cash limited, you can buy just a couple of hooks (for some reason the half diamond never really worked for me) for a few bucks, make a wiper insert tensioner and start picking.

Mistake number two: going to a shop, ask for the cheapest lock and use it for training.
The lock I got was a cheap FAB cylinder (pretty good for the money though), but it had quite a nasty biting (pin 2 highest cut, and the next two pins quite low) and also three spools. I cut it in two and re-pinned it starting with two pins and going from there, but it wasn't very pleasant...
This time around I decided to invest into real training locks (Sparrows progressive set, one standard cut-away and the re-pinning set) and it is so much better for learning. Even if you are cash-limited, just the standard cut-away is a tremendous investment, that will save you a lot of frustration; combined with the re-pinning set, the lock can "grow" with you and provide you with more and more challenges, as needed

Mistake number three: using the deepest hook I can cram into the keyway.
Sometimes, when the biting on the key is looking really nasty, I'm tempted to use the deeper hooks from my collection. Yes, they allow me to avoid oversetting the high cut pins, but maneuvering with them in the lock can be quite hard. Some time ago I saw a video on a youtube, where the guy got the core out, sticked the pins into it (pins side up of course) and tried different picks to see, which ones allowed to set the pins without oversetting the others. Boy was I surprised to try it on my training locks and seeing, that where I used really deep hooks/deforest diamond, I could use the shallow hook too (after a bit of trying). So the lesson here is - don't overestimate the enemy...

Mistake number four: not trying out a prybar tensioners sooner.
In the new pick set I got, there are some prybar tensioners; so far I only used the wiper insert ones, just dremel-ed to allow for the pins side tensioning (I really hate the top/bottom of the keyway terminology, as here, most of the locks have pins on the lower side). So I did try them and suddenly some locks, that were giving me a lots of problems, are not that bad anymore.
Tensioner is really as important as the pick, and I think that many newbies don't really appreciate that (I did not).

Mistake number five: re-pinning locks with a normal tweezers.
While it is possible (been there, done that), it is also very frustrating - pins flying everywhere... When I finally got to modifying my old tweezers to wrap around the pin, the difference was unbelievable - what was frustrating several minuts experience, is now absolutely no problem. And with the nice tweezers from the re-pinning kit, it is even better. One sidenote though - when modifying the tweezers yourself, don't go fully around the pin, leave a small gap in front, so the core/follower can catch the pin, without interfering with the tweezers (it is really obvious, but for some reason I didn't do it the first time).

Anyway, I hope it might help some newbies not to re-do my mistakes and maybe the old timers will have a good laugh...
Kind regards,


Re: Don't repeat my mistakes...

PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2020 5:00 pm
by madsamurai
Sounds about right, I think most of us probably made most of those mistakes starting out. On the other hand, a lot of this is about trial and error, and finding what works for you personally... there aren't many absolutes. I bought and tried a LOT of picks before I settled on the two or three I use all the time. Even here in the US, I prefer the longer Euro style picks and my go-to are the peterson .018" short and medium hooks... I like the crispness of the feedback from those, and they fit in almost everything. If you check the Happy 2020! post you'll see our Femurat picking everything under the sun with a half-diamond. It's all preference and feel, so really the only mistake is not trying enough to find the one that speaks to you.

I have a lot more tension wrenches now than picks in my go-to set... it's much more common to find a lock I can't fit a standard tensioner in than one I can't get a pick into. You can save a ton of money making your own out of music wire or windshield wiper springs. Pry-bars are great, but they don't work well with rakes or zipping/scrubbing techniques, and sometimes will block access to the front pin. My first choice are usually the ToK wire tensioners that I make myself from music wire, they can be ground to fit much better and don't take as much vertical space, and I can bend them a little bit one way or the other for locks with keyways in different directions so my hand won't cramp up on me so much. Wiper tensioners are good in some locks where ToK just won't work (and there are more than you'd think) and are great for raking, imho. So don't hate on the BoK tensioners too much, just find where they work better.

And yeah, get some pinning tweezers if you're going to do any re-pinning... those things are one of the most-used tools on my desk and seriously have a thousand handy uses, but definitely will save you a little sanity with pins and springs and such. I'd also say get yourself a silicone locksmith work mat with the little bumps, it'll catch many of the things you drop before they reach the floor, and I guarantee you're going to be tired of bending down searching the floor with a flashlight in no time at all. Some of those little bits just really want to jump out of your fingers, and many things are spring-loaded just waiting for their chance to escape into oblivion.

Anyway, don't be afraid to try stuff and don't consider it a mistake if you end up with stuff you don't use... all of that is going to lead you closer to the things that work right for you. It's all part of the journey.

Re: Don't repeat my mistakes...

PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2020 12:25 am
by MHM
That's a really good list. As @Mad Samurai says though, it's pretty much de rigeur that you're going to make those mistakes - and more - as you learn how to pick locks, and how to work on them. For years I've maintained than in order to master a complex lock, it's almost inevitable that you will demolish one of them while you're figuring out how it works, and how to beat it.

Re: Don't repeat my mistakes...

PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2020 5:40 pm
by awesome14
My biggest early error was failure to file down the diamond pick to where it was usable. They're usually made a bit bigger than anyone would find useful, and often this causes pins past the shear, just because the pick is so damn big.

But now I can use just about anything on consumer-grade pin-type locks. I prefer a prybar tensioner, because I often intentionally drive all or most pins past shear, and manipulate the tension to have them drop back into the shear.

I also alter my picks so they're just how I like. Are we allowed to discuss any other (besides manual picking) nondestructive methods to open locks?