Impressioning is a lock picking technique where a blank key is wiggled around in the lock to produce tiny marks on the key. After filing down these marks and repeating the wiggle, you end up with a working key. Sound good? I saw Jos open a lock like this in under a minute, lock open, working key in hand. Quite amazing. Recently I caught up with Jos again, and asked im some questions about lock impressioning, being a celebrity, and well, being Jos Weyers. I'd like to thank Jos for taking part in this interview and for being a super nice bloke!
UKBUMPKEYS: Of all the strange things the internet has created, 'Celebrity Lock Pickers' is one I guess no one saw coming. Did your rise to Celebrity Lock Picker change your life much? What were you doing before, and did it take you by surprise?
JW: My "claim to fame” was my 1:27 ABUS opening at HAR2009 and speaking at venues like DefCon, OHM, EMF, NoiseBridge, HitB. Being easy to Google turned out to be quite handy when a TSA agent starts asking about the collection of handcuffs in your hand-luggage! I’ve been lockpicking for quite some years, but never managed to actually win competition.Then impressioning turned out to be my thing
UKBUMPKEYS: At the UK Bump Keys impressioning workshop a few years ago I watched you impression a lock in I think it was 52 seconds, much to the amazement of everyone present. To this day it can still take me around 15 minutes to successfully impression a lock. Can you tell us how you got so good? The legend suggests you locked yourself in a room with a lock, a 1000 blank keys, and didn't leave until you could do it - what really happened?
JW: Practice, tons of it! I had set up my workbench ready to go in the middle of the living-room. For about four months, every couple of free minutes i started to file. I’m not sure if I killed thousand blanks during that time, but it sure were quite a lot of boxes. That’s why we tend to joke about the three “O's” in ToooL meaning “Practice Over, and Over and Over again"
UKBUMPKEYS: For me there's something 'pure' about impressioning that other forms of lock picking don't have, I like the idea of the lock containing the seeds of its own undoing. With a small set of tools many locks are vulnerable to this technique, yet many people seem a bit daunted by it. Why do you think this is and what are the most common mistakes people make when learning to impression locks?
JW: I agree. Impressioning a lock gives a totally different sense of accomplishment than regular picking. The most common mistakes newbies tend to make is choosing the wrong material; blanks should NOT be steel! Decent files are a good investment, and proper lightning/magnification makes life a lot easier.If you are on a tight budget, a vice and key-grip are the places to go cheap. Impressioning can have a steep learning-curve. My “standard” set of tips is: watch some You Tube vids, read Ollie’s book (or at least study the pictures), then get a one-on-one with someone who knows what they are doing. Be prepared to ruin a shitload of blanks….
UKBUMPKEYS: When did you get involved in lock picking? When did you get involved in the locksport scene? How has locksport changed since you became involved?
JW: I visited some hacker-camps where I bought some picks. Two years later, same kind of venue, bigger set. Easy locks turned out to be easy, but i kept struggling with mushroom pins (AKA Spool pins). So I decided to visit a Toool meeting in Amsterdam, and basically never left! That was January 2007. We didn’t even have ToooL branches in the Netherlands back then, let alone chapters in the USA or UK. Needless to say, we grew a bit!
UKBUMPKEYS: What lock picking ideas are you interested in at the moment?
JW: I like to see people get great at techniques I taught them. Seeing them think outside of the box (or plainly ignoring the existence of said box) is highly rewarding. We’ve been looking at 3D printing lately, which opens up a whole new playing field.
UKBUMPKEYS: Over the last few years the Penetration Testing (hacking) community has embraced Lock Picking, with lock picking 'villages' showing up at conventions all over the world. Have you had any experience of hacking, the 'Digital lock picking?' Does it interest you at all?
JW: In my day-job, I get paid to keep out those pesky hackers. So yes, that field clearly has my attention.
UKBUMPKEYS: What locks do you rate? Are there any lock technologies around that really impress you?
JW: I’m not really interested in the slap-some-electronics-on-this-
UKBUMPKEYS: What else does Jos Weyers do for fun?
JW: I spend quite a lot of time at my local hackerspace: Hack42 in Arnhem, which Hackaday called “The most awesome hackerspace”. I can’t say i disagree...
UKBUMPKEYS: Nice one Jos!
You can follow Jos on Twitter @josweyers