Hello Lock Pickers.
Without doubt it's a strange and endlessly fascinating thing we do. Have you ever told someone and them not be immediately curious? I mean, I don't expect everyone to be interested in what I'm interested in, but when you tell someone or a group you are a lock picker - it never fails to pique the interest of pretty much everyone.
And it's not surprising. Locks hold a particularly high place in our cultures. They protect our property. They keep us and our families safe. They mark the moment between public and private and provide a barrier therein. If we didn't use locks for such security purposes, no one would care if you could pick them. If you got out a lock and picked it, it would be like showing someone a puzzle, and how you complete it. But a lock is not just a puzzle, it's something we rely on heavily, and to be able to transgress that security, to be able to 'beat' it - people are always going to take notice.
A puzzle, much like lock picking is a puzzle, but with these, no one cares.
So I thought it would be fun to list the Lock Picker's progress. A series of phases in the lock picker's journey that with luck you'll recognize, and then be able to identify in others, which is always nice. Here we go!
1 - The Hook
There's always a moment that hooks you. A moment when the human being, going about his every day, polishing his boots, considering getting a pizza, whatever, where for some reason he notices for the first time lock picking. But more, 'The Hook' is different from mere interest as it is characterized by the beautiful realization that YOU can do it. Once that is truly believed, you're hooked!
All of a suddenly the universe conspires, planets and suns align, and luring you into a whole new world. Things will never be the same!
I picked the lock on my family telephone, but that wasn't a hook so much as a fluke. But it set the seed, and years later when I saw a set of picks in a military surplus kind of shop under the arches of Charing Cross station in London. The knowledge I had already picked a lock, and the realization there are actual lock picks for sale - I was hooked! What was your hook moment?
The classic SouthOrd 5pc set, the start of many a lock pickers journey. On tip-toes I saw a set much like this in that shop window. The fuse was lit and burning hard!
2 - The Glorious Fluke
I think it's fair to say the amount of people who learned how to single pin pick and then performed such a feat as their first lock picking experience are few and far between. More likely is something like Raking and hoping. YouTube lock picking legend Bosnian Bill has a thing called 'Bitchpicking' - apply tension, insert pick, wiggle around, and 'WOW!" the damn thing opened.
I bet you didn't know they were called 'Flukes'. There's something fishy going on here. As you were....
I think that's most people's experience. And what an experience. Bearing in mind what I said about the place of the lock in our culture, that moment when - without really knowing how - you transgressed it, that moment when that shackle popped up, or that cam turned. It's almost Biblical in its impact. You can hear the angels singing, you look at the lock, you look at the picks, you NEED to tell someone.
And as amazing and life changing such a bitchpick is, what's the first thing you do after the buzz has started to fade? Lock it up and try and do it again. If you thought you were 'hooked' before, now you've had the whole thing charged with mad excitement - you're now addicted! Can you remember your Glorious Fluke?
You don't know how, you don't know why, you don't know much, but it opened, and you're absolutely buzzing your XXXXX off.
3 - The Student
Having popped a lock I reckon more than a fair few of you will know the feeling of not being able to do it again. You only wiggled a pick around and applied tension and it opened. But I've been playing with THE SAME LOCK now for 4 hours and I just can't pick it again. Sound familiar? Now while this situation can continue throughout your picking journey (I had one yesterday, managed to pick a flurry of security pins and some agonizing sidebar shenanigans in pretty quick time. Couldn't do it again though, and still haven't.) But in these early days the progression is obvious. The frustration that you cannot 'blag it' again, the annoyance that you can't seem to repeat The Glorious Fluke, can only go one of two ways. Abandon the project and never get that amazing feeling again, or actually start learning about how locks work, to begin to study the mechanics, and how the picks can manipulate things properly.
These are 'students', largely unpleasant, lazy, workshy fops, who are not to be confused with the wonderful figure of the lock picking student, a veritable God compared to such layabouts.
It's at this point you tend to join some forums, join some Facebook pages, start asking questions, and usually get some kind of guide to SPP. This is an important step, characterized not only by actual learning, but an almost obsessive need to tell everyone you encounter about your new found skills.
4 - The Lock Picker
You've changed. Not a day goes by when you don't think about lock picking. Moreover, you're stopping in the street to look at locks, you're handling padlocks on other people's things to have a look at the keyway. At the bar or at work, when some fool puts their keys on the table you pick them up, fascinated at the variety, calling them out as you go through them: "That's a dimple lock, this is a wafer - one-sided, this is some kind of tubular lock,this is a...hang on..1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 pin cylinder lock". You literally cannot be in the proximity of any lock or key without paying it far too much attention. Friends and partners will notice and often get annoyed, yet you will show no shame as your pursuit of locks, locks, and more locks continues wherever you go.
This is my friend Oli Diederichsen. He literally wrote the book on Impressioning. He's a master picker and locksmith too. He's the read deal. Look at that smile, that's the smile of a thousand locks opened.
You see something happened. You got your guides, you joined the forums, you know how they work and - most importantly - following your knowledge you picked a lock, yep, you know about The Binding Pin Principle and you have effectively applied that knowledge and opened a lock. A few locks, many locks - you're unstoppable. You even find yourself on the aforementioned forums and Facebook asking, almost begging for locks. Where can I get locks? Has anyone got any locks I can have? You're on Ebay buying collections of old, dirty, often greasy, occasionally rusty locks, and upon arrival in your hands you couldn't be happier at the pile of metal junk in your hands. Things will never be the same.
5 - The Artist.
I have frequently referred to lock picking as an 'art', and as someone who had the pleasure of being a student of art for 7 years after school, I don't say it lightly. To become truly engaged in the art of lock picking we have refined our tools. Into the back of the bag or into the hands of a nephew go the cheapo Chinese made picks that you now realize are hindering more than helping you and through the post come your brand new shiny, professional picks. Then some rakes. Now you're not happy with your tensioners, now you've got top of keyway tensioners too - at certain gauges. It wasn't long ago you didn't know what a Binding Pin was, and now you're emailing an online shop asking for a thin gauge "TOK wrench for a particularly tricky bi-axial lock" - it's been quite a change!
From here on in it's pure discovery. You can Single Pin Pick lock A, but lock B with its security pins, Hmm, I need to learn more. Then there's impressioning - what? I start with a blank key and end up with a cut, working key? In under a minute? Then there's all manner of bypassing the damn pins altogether. Bumping? That can't be real - then one day Bump! and it's open. Pick guns? OK - wow! And then, what's this new set of rakes? I thought raking was just in/out in/out - apparently not.
A painting called 'a lover in a beret' by Pablo Picasso. She must have been well happy! And if you think it looks like it was painted by a child, there's a reason for that.....
Picasso said "The first half of life is learning to be an adult - the second half is learning to be a child.” And there's some truth there for lock pickers everywhere. For when you reach that pinnacle when you can hold your own in terms of knowledge and experience among pretty much any group of pickers, a far cry from that shy student asking for locks on a forum just a year ago, you learn something key, for lack of a better word, and that is - the more you learn about picking locks, the more you realize how little you know. It's life in a nutshell, and it's what keeps us coming back, to another pick, another wrench, another damn lock, and another moment of success, which takes us back to that first moment when we were hooked, and the wheel keeps turning - and it never stops giving.
Best wishes and happy picking