Hello Lock Pickers
There's very few mythologies in the lock picking world, not too many stories or events draped in mystique or intrigue that permeate the scene. World Champion impressioner Jos Weyers has a nearly legendary story where he locked himself in a room with a lock, a file, a vice and 1000 blanks. But although I've heard variations that have gone through the Chinese Whisper stage, absorbed exaggerations as such things are deliciously prone, and ended up more like he locked himself away for a month, in total darkness, with a million blanks, I heard it from the man himself, so the legend is lacking the necessary mystery to be a true mythology. You can just ask him.
Jos Weyers - he lived for 8 years in an Igloo in the Antarctic with only a file, some chickens, and 20 millions blanks. Something like that. I think there might have been a bomb with a lock he needed to impression in 20 seconds too.
And that's about it. See what I mean? The lock picking community has a poverty of such things. Perhaps it's the relative newness of the practice of lock picking that's to blame, and with the internet, so much information is so easily accessible that a true mythology is unlikely.
But then there's The Sputnik. Yes, The Sputnik.
I got to know Oliver Diederichsen at an Impressioning workshop I set up in London in 2010 - a few years after I'd started trading lock picks online. Jos Weyers also came along, and to a group of about 30 keen and mostly bewildered lock pickers, these two pin-wizards demonstrated impressioning live, opening locks out of the box in under a minute. You tend to give someone respect when they can do that, and an abundance of it was poured upon these two talented men. A lock, a file, a vice - 58 seconds the lock is open and you have a working key. Wow.
Oliver Diederichsen, impressioner extraordinaire and general all-round lock picking genius. If I had half his skills I'd be smiling twice as much as him. To produce a working key from a blank in under a minute as him and Jos demonstrated several times is a skill to behold.
It was during that heady afternoon, once we'd all made it downstairs to the bar, (thirsty work, lock picking) that Oli first mentioned 'The Sputnik' to me. We'd been discussing the pros and cons of impressioning, bumping, the usual kind of thing you'd imagine a gang of half drunk lock pickers to debate, and Oliver suggested I go check out 'The Sputnik', which I did, and as soon as the image of this peculiar, strangely elegant, but utterly unfamiliar pick filled my screen, it was imprinted in my memory like parents do with their newborn kids. I was memorized.
Behold! A true lock picking mythology. As you'll see, it's origins are still wonderfully - and thankfully - vague.
The picking process is simplicity itself. The unit has a key blade with 5 pieces of wire going through it, each one poking out vertically through a small hole, which is designed to extrude exactly where each pin is. You insert the blade into the lock and begin manipulating the wires through a series of controllers sticking out of the back of the unit. The cylindrical 'body' of the unit is turned left and right to allow you to feel the pin set, and this process is continued with each pin until, bingo! The lock opens.
Now, while technically ingenious, and devastatingly effective, as yet - I hear you cry - not that mythological. OK - so then comes the question: Where did this amazing tool come from?
Oli will tell you himself that he 'saw' one of what he calls 'The Originals' and then over the course of a few months built his own. But as to where it came from we have to dig a little deeper.
During the early 80s there was a spate of robberies in Germany and police were at a loss as to how the thief was gaining access into the properties. It was only when forensic lock man Manfred Goth studied the interior of these locks he found some very interesting and unfamiliar marks on the pins.
Another version of The Sputnik, in this picture you can clearly see the protruding wires that - being perfectly spaced - simply push the pins into the set position.
Eventually a Criminal named 'Birdtitch' was arrested, and upon searching his property they found The Sputnik, although this doesn't necessarily mean he invented it. Much like in the 80s many criminals were found with a variation of a slim-jim, and yet who invented that?
So there you go. This incredible and unique device came from the German criminal 'scene' - although details regarding its actual invention and design remain absent, helping maintain its mythology, which is fine by me. But if anyone knows....
Regarding The Sputnik as a lock picking tool, there are some downsides of course. Nothing's perfect (perhaps Brigette Bardot circa '65) and The Sputnik has it's drawbacks. It's profile-specific, meaning it will only fit the locks each model is designed for. The original was designed for the ABUS, as there's literally millions of them in Germany, but of course that won't fit any other locks. It's not only the profile of the blade, but obviously the spacing between the pins is lock specific, so for such an expensive item (retailing for around $1700), that's a major drawback, and probably the reason why this tool - which although awesome, has never really made it as a viable commercial item.
Brigette Bardot in 1965. Absolutely nothing to do with lock picking, and proved her image as a viable commercial item.
The Sputnik, an item which I'm sure if this is the first time you've seen it you'll agree is a wondrous item. An ingenious design, and considering almost anyone can use this pick within minutes, another example of why modern locks are far from the security items they pretend to be.
I wonder what it's like to pick locks in space?
See you next time.