Making your own tools – Part 2

Welcome to Part 2, looking more at dimple locks than Part 1. Part 1 is here.

The other great material for making your own picks is actually the key itself. Whether a blank or a pre-cut key – often, for high security locks, the one that came with the lock, as those blanks tend to be very hard to get – these already fit the lock, though perhaps a bit too well.

If you have a high security dimple lock, there are a few designs where the main pins do clever things, and the other pins are a bit less clever. For example, a row of passive pins that don’t really do anything when the lock is being picked can be ignored, and the main pins, well, we want access to those. So, if we simply cut away the key, pretty much in half, so that the side that only interacts with the passive pins remains, we can now use it for a tensioner, and use a pick to access the pins that need manipulated. Yes, it isn’t the best ergonomic tensioner, but you could probably drill a hole for a tommy bar, right?

For the actual pick, you can buy a set of Honest Dong Shi from China, but, we aren’t about that here. You can use a bit of your wiper blade insert, and carefully, keeping it cool, grind or file it into a simple flag pick. Another option is to use a bit of 1.2, 1.4 or 1.6mm piano wire, and some pliers, and fold the end to 90 degrees, then cut it off to the length you want. Cut it long, then grind it back and round it as required, or just go for it – any that are a bit short will still be great for sidebar work on higher end “regular keyway” locks such as the ASSA Twin, where there isn’t much room, or on tighter keyways where you don’t perhaps need as much lift. If you want to get fancy, you can drill a hole in a bit of steel to use as your form and anvil. Just use that to bend the wire over. You can do what is called a “compound bend” too, where you bend the wire in one direction, then, very close to it, bend it again at nearly 90 degrees, to create a sort of step that will give you more lift – this is covered in detail in Part 3.

For the handle, there are many options, most of them round. A short length of that half inch or 12mm wooden dowel you planned to use for a plug follower will work well. You can either drill down the middle, or split it lengthways and add a channel, then glue it back together. You don’t really need to add a bend to stop it rotating in place, but you can if you want. Just tweak the last 5mm to 90 degrees or so and it will never rotate. If you want to get really clever, bend it into a —-V—– and put the opposite hand bends on the other end! The kink in the middle will keep it stable, just cut away a little of the wood to make room.

Another option is the pin vice or mini drill holder. These are basically the same as each other, though the drill holder tends to have a freely rotating end cap. A shorter option is to use a micro PCB drill bit holder, either on it’s own or with an additional handle.

Silver finish double ended pin vice
A mini drill driver/holder with a free spinning end
A shorter option, which could be embedded into a wooden handle, a PCB drill bit holder

 

This example was made by member Warren, using a pretty chunky pin vice.

dimple pick with pin vice handle
A sturdy and effective dimple pick with pin vice handle and engine dipstick(!) tip, optimised for Garrison (7×7) locks

This example was made by member NKT, using a radiator bleed key. The wire was stabilised by adding solder, though epoxy would also have worked.

wire wrapped through handle hole drilled into a radiator bleed key
Piano wire wrapped through handle hole drilled into a radiator bleed key

Member Super-Loki writes:

 

The best [dimple] picks I own cost £0.50 per pick, excluding the handles. It’s so convenient. Cold forming the tip with a hammer, I’ve picked a few dozen with my XL flag (in pic above) and I have a finesse flag for more awkward locks. I got 5m of spring steel piano wire for £5. Enough for 50 pick heads. Fantastic price, loud feedback due to strong and stiff pick, also you can get exactly what you need in under an hour.

 


There’s plenty of online tutorials on how to make a lock pick, so you can take a look at those, or drop into the Discord, or, if you’re reading this in the future, you can read the next post, Making your own tools – Part 3, about making lever lockpicks! If  you’re reading it now, you could read Part 1. 

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