Impressioning (and why it’s awesome)!

While very few people understand how awesome lockpicking is, even fewer understand how awesome impressioning is. Today you get to learn about it, from me.

One of the best ways I’ve heard impressioning described is that lockpicking allows for one-time opening of a lock, while impressioning allows you to provide access to any one. You pick the lock, and you get in once. You impression the lock, and you can let everyone in.

While there are a few different ways to impression, what I will be writing about is referred to as manipulation-based impressioning. What you’re doing when impressioning by this method is taking a key that fits into the lock (has the right ward cuts) and manipulating that key in the lock so that there are impressions on the key of which pins are “binding.” Using magnification (or some times not, depending on the marks), you determine where on the key there are marks from pins binding. This step is where using “pre-scored” or “0-cut” keys is very helpful, because you know where to look for marks.

You then use a fine file and make a few (roughly 5) passes over the area of the key where there are marks, and repeat until there are no marks left in that section of the key. No mark = pin not binding = pins at shear line. Eventually all of your pins will be at the shear line, and when you turn to get the pins to bind, the plug will turn. I love it.

It’s such a cool and not commonly understood skill, and I’d love to get better at it. I leave you with a couple of cool things. The first is Jos Weyers of TOOOL NL impressioning a lock to open in less than 90 seconds. It is amazing to watch someone who has honed the craft so well. The second is a great book (which I admittedly haven’t bought yet) by TOOOL US Board Member Deviant Ollam, “Keys to the Kingdom: Impressioning, Privilege Escalation, Bumping, and Other Key-Based Attacks Against Physical Locks

Good luck impressioning, and if you don’t own the equipment, TOOOL US sells a full impressioning kit in our web-store at (very bottom of the page). If you have any questions, let us know, and hopefully you’ll be impressioning locks before you know it.



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