Home Lock Picking for Beginners (867) How to Impression a Key

(867) How to Impression a Key


Over the years this has been one of the most requested videos.  I put it off because impressioning a key can be quite tedious and often results in failure even for the most experienced impressioners.  My goal here was to show you what tools you’d need, as well as discuss the process.  I deliberately chose a 4-pin lock to keep the video length reasonable, but as it turned out that wasn’t necessary because the bitting was so mild.  It literally popped open in minutes, much to my surprise.

Anyway, welcome to the world of impressioning.  I think you’ll find it one of the most rewarding AND frustrating skills you’ll ever learn.  Good luck!




  1. Don’t know who taught you this method but I’ve tried them all (blading the blank, smoking the blank, fluorescent markers and UV light…) and this is the method that finally worked for me – taught to me by a great instructor in a CMoE class. I put some torque to the left and rock the blank up 3x to mark, then down 3x and repeat with right hand torque to get my marks). I may also use a light box to see the marks – mine switches between a white or a green LED. Works great on garage door rim cylinders as well as cabinet and toolbox wafer locks. For residential, it works better for Schlage (pointed pins) than Kwikset (flat pins). Great skill to have in your bag of tricks! Thanks for making the video!

  2. Bill you are just a fabulous example of human. Most people on the ol’ interweb are so full of it their eyes are turning brown. you however are concise and we’ll articulated it is a rare occurrence that I believe any of the BS on the web. I have no doubt that you ain’t bullshittin. So thank you, thank you, a million times thank you

  3. My brothers boss has a so called lock (master lock) an was going to throw its a way. Im just starting to pick locks an i have a junky pick set.i did pick it.he took it to a lock smith they said they couldnt make a key because it doesnt have numbers on the bottom.i told him let me see if i can make one for it. Im going to try your method. It looks like fun.thanks for the great video.

  4. Bill, you are very articulate and informative. A true pro at this. Great sense of humor as well. I continue to learn from you…

  5. A couple of options. First, I prep my blank with a file. After the prep you are looking for marks on a filed blank anyway so same difference. Second, I love my Pippen file. Once you get the hang of one of these you won’t want to go back. They are a little pricey so you may want to see if it is something you will stay with. Lastly, on tough locks you can “bounce” the pins to improve the marks. Wrap your key blank handle with a screwdriver handle. I do know guys that like to mark their blanks with a marker to better show the marks, I never developed that style myself. Good video.

    1. Sparrows had Pippin files in 3 cuts for $30 each. I bought one of each, but I build and repair guitars, and usually pay closer to $70 for ONE Pippin file. I really love the Pippin files for making keys, notching saddles, nuts, fitting inlays, etc. The Pippin file is by far, one of the most essential tools for everyone from lock smiths, to gun smiths, to jewelers, to luthiers, to electronics technicians, to saxophone repairmen. I use black lacquer based markers to mark my key blanks, over copper sulfate to dychem. Liquids dyes in bottles are destined to make a mess. If you have the little templates that show common depths for cutting keys, you can quickly ascertain how far to file to the next depth cut, and that makes impressioning a key much much faster. The German competitions are all done with the same lock brand year after year, and those guys can tell from sight, how far to go to the next depth, so they can file out a key in a couple minutes.

      1. Sounds like your good at repairing guitars. I have a Jackson Warrior that I would love to adjust the action on. But I dont want to destroy the guitar.

  6. Been watching for a long time . Got to ask , who does your graphics in the beginning of the videos ? Also what happened to the girls that you had at the end of the old ones ? Great vids. Please keep up the good work and his bless

  7. . . . . …..also, im sure youve been ask this a million times also; could you do a video on pucking vehicle (door, ignition, trunk etc) locks . . …please 😊🔐

  8. Great job Bill. I took a crack at impressioning about a year ago, after destroying about 10 keys, i gave it up for a pair of bolt cutters . . . .lol 😂, maybe ill buy keys in bulk and give a go at it again . . ..

    1. Bill does not do much with automotive. I would love to see him spend some time in a junk yard, and develop some skills with auto wafer locks. I used to do auto lock out entry as a good Samaritan, but I use #9 pin rod, and wedges, to manipulate the switches, pull knobs, levers, toggles, and slides on the inside of the car doors, or a slim jim. Yes that alarm goes off, but the owner’s keys are supposed to be inside the car, so we can shut that off in short order. My best advice for impressioning keys, is learn where the factory cut depths are, by buying one or two $15 decoders for Kwikset, Schlage, and the other “usual suspect” residential locks. That will show you where to file to next, to try again. I am old enough to have lived in the days when hot-wiring a car took 1 minute or less. I have to admit 1940s GM ignition switches were one of the best locking switches, but jumping the wiring, hitting that starter button on the floor and you had a running vehicle. The old timey up click locking inside door handle was a bitch to open, compared to the little pull knobs.

  9. I always found it odd, that in competition in Germany, they use a standard stock lock, everyone knows the step amounts to cut, so it is just a matter of filing down to the next lower key cut, trying, and moving to the next one. Everyone knows exactly how far to file to get to the next factory cut. Why not throw them a curve?

    1. As a luthier I have to level & crown frets on guitars. If I get one fret .0005″ too low, the job is ruined. I use a Sharpie marker so I can see where I have filed, then crown and I can run the 4000 grit over them with a scraped .00001″/ foot flat sanding block. I found this also makes the scratches on key blanks very easy to spot too. Use a lacquer based sharpie, not the edible office supply versions that are non-toxic. The lacquer based Sharpie is called, an “Industrial Sharpie”. The edible ones will come off all over your fingers, and make an even bigger mess than the lacquer based version.

  10. I find impressioning more rewarding on a job than picking. it does take some time but if a lock can't come off a door bc it'll ruin the finish bc a painter painted over it. then impressioning is the way.

  11. Wow I had the impression it's much less visible !
    Anyway .. what about foiling ? Have you seen that Forever lock foiled ?

    1. Foiling is for dimple key locks. Use the OLD burglar alarm foil tape for windows if you can find it, OR use that aluminum duct tape foil tape from Home Depot, OR if you can find it, use 3M made a peel & stick foil tape. That or alarm tape REALLY work well, but I have 1 roll left of 3M, and that’s it. I have a few of the 1/2″ burglar alarm window tape. Back 30-60 years ago alarm companies would put foil tape on window glass. Each piece of tape joining another piece had to be “pounced” with a “pounce wheel” so the aluminum would contact the aluminum in the next piece, and the adhesive would not insulate the two pieces. If the circuit was broken, the alarm sounded. Unfortunately two map pins and some wire could jumper the circuit, rendering that zone compromised. A burglar would jumper the zone while the business was open and the proprietor and or employees were not looking. A small magnet over a reed switch on a door or window could also render a zone unable to send an alarm signal. The burglar(s) had to do some pretty good recon to get it right, but once the alarm was compromised, the building was easy prey. Some loops has a specific resistance on each zone. Any abrupt changes, and the alarm would either sound, or when set the alarm would show a fault in the compromised zone. New alarm systems use motion sensors, thermal sensors, pressure mats (also a very OLD sensor), and other sensors, like breaking glass, open doors, building pressure, etc

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