How to Pick Locks Like a Professional
How did we get from the Original LISHI KEY READER to the YALE LISHI-STYLE lock picks we have today - here's a brief history....
(VIDEO AT BOTTOM OF PAGE)
Dangerfield Lishi-Style Yale Pick + Decoder
In nearly TWO DECADES of lock pick supply I have never seen a new lock pick sell so quickly. And I'm not in the least bit surprised. Why? Well first, let's have a bit of background.
Lishi picks are the invention of Zhi Qin Li, or Mr Li for short. They revolutionized automotive lock picking by making the process easy to learn and exceptional fast to perform. With their world renowned 2 in 1 Automotive picks, a skilled user can pick and decode a vehicle lock in about a minute.
The Lishi name comes from the Chinese with 'shi' meaning 'family' and Zhi Qin Li just adding his name 'Li' into the mix: Li + Shi = Lishi.
The story starts in 2000 when Mr Li invented the VW decoder or 'reader' as it's sometimes known. A tool that effectively allowed you to read the depths of the wafers, pop a key in your machine and cut a new key for the lock you just decoded.
Lishi HU66 VAG Key Reader
These decoders were a huge success. Being designed for the HU66 lock, which is used in a wide variety of vehicles (Volkswagen, Skoda, Audi, Porsche, and more) automotive locksmiths and roadside recovery organizations took to them instantly and never looked back,
Mr Li then invented an HU66 pick, commonly known in the West as a 'Blind Pick', sometimes 'Blind Touch' since after inserting one part in the lock, the guesswork was taken out of the process as the holes were exactly where they were meant to be - on the wafers - meaning you could insert your pick and know exactly where to feel for binding wafers and pick them.
Lishi Blind Pick
Using the decoder and the pick together, locksmiths were able to pick the lock, open the door and then make a key if required. If the keys were locked in the car, you'd just pick the lock and you were in.
Other companies made variations to the Blind Picks like this one. You can see the holes that sit above the wafers making picking simple.
And then everything went crazy! Mr Li combined the decoder and the pick to create the now legendary Lishi 2 in 1 Pick + Decoder, which is currently available in approximately 100 different versions, covering vehicle locks used all around the world across a multitude of vehicle brands as well as different years.
Lishi 2 in 1 HU66 Lock Pick + Decoder
There's simply nothing available to compete with the Lishi design for picking automotive locks, and any serious vehicle locksmith will have a set covering the brands and years of vehicles they regularly encounter.
Predictably, it wasn't long before the locksport community got wind of this design and marveled at it's ingenuity. While picking car locks isn't much of a thing in locksport, the thought of having some kind of Lishi-style pick for cylinder locks was discussed at length on forums and Facebook groups.
Interestingly, there were some similar tools made for Mul-T-Locks where you'd essentially pick the lock based on markings on the exterior of the lock pick, and although effective, didn't really catch on, probably due to the lack of dimple locks in America, their relative scarcity elsewhere, and other, better tools for picking such locks developed soon after.
H&M Mul-T-Lock Classic Interactive Pick
Then Lishi blew everyone's minds by bringing out a selection of pin-cylinder lock picks using a slight variation of their automotive design for the very popular US locks Schlage, Kwikset, and American Lock. And they worked! And they worked quickly and with ease - if you knew your way around a pin-cylinder.
Lishi SC4 Schlage 6 Pin Lock Pick + Decoder
What's more - these new Lishi pin-cylinder picks would plough through security pins like they were not even there. Spool pins, serrated pins, mushrooms, torpedo, double spool - you name it - the Lishi picks dealt with them with little to no problem.
And so, it wasn't long before people started thinking about the HOLY GRAIL of the Lishi design for pin-cylinder locks: The Yale Profile.
The Yale profile is the world's most popular keyway in the world. Yale uses it, Chubb uses it, Cisa uses it, Union, uses it, and many other brands use it. Not all the time for all their locks, but definitely some of their locks for some of the time.
Copy locks use the Yale profile, fake locks use the Yale profile, OEM manufactured locks use the Yale profile, and generic no-name, unbranded locks use it. Even the industry standard 'Universal' profile is essentially a Yale profile. If you could make a Lishi pick for that keyway - JUST WOW!
Yale Profile on a Rim Cylinder Lock
The race was on! Different manufacturers were working on it and releasing version it seemed every other month. YouTubers were reviewing them with largely underwhelming results.
Early Attempt at a Lishi-Style Yale Lock Pick + Decoder
Another Attempt at a Lishi-Style Yale Profile Lock Pick + Decoder
The wider, non-paracentric Yale profiles in the USA seemed to be getting the best results, but European and UK locksport communities were not too impressed. The paracentric issue was still the major sticking point. Literally and figuratively.
As well as the frankly bizarre "80% Coverage Without Pin 8 or 9" that was printed along the picking arm of some of these early attempts at the Yale profile pick.
And yet none of these were made by Lishi. And to this day I really don't know why. I have very little knowledge of the Chinese lock market, and that could have something to do with it.
But when a friend said he'd got his hands on a pair of Yale Lishi style picks and that they were great, I had to have a look - one for Rim Cylinders and one for Eurolocks (this distinction to do with where the tension arm and markings are and the pins of each lock being pinned above and below the keyway respectively - also meaning you can also consider each pick as the left and right version of the other, depending what side of the door the lock is installed.)
And they were good. And people started selling them. And the forums and YouTubers were reporting great things. So, I handed them to my automotive Lishi expert and asked what he thought.
Two days later he came back to me with some drawings and notes, and said 'They're good, very good. But if you can get them manufactured with these slight changes, they'd be unstoppable!
So I did. We didn't rush to compete with the clamor and hype. We waited to ensure we had the best version of the Yale Lishi style picks you could have. And after we put them in the shop, and linked to a video of them being used, picking over half a dozen locks, different brands, padlocks, rim cylinders, eurolocks - each one picked in about EIGHTY SECONDS - they pretty much sold out in a matter of hours.
Dangerfield Lishi-Style Yale Lock Pick + Decoder (Eurolock)
Dangerfield Lishi Style Yale Lock Pick + Decoder (Rim Cylinder)
These are incredible picks. I've never seen such a gamechanger in pin-cylinder lock picking. You can also pick both FIVE and SIX pin locks with the same pick, For a working locksmith they're essential. And for the locksport types, while it might not seem as gratifying to pick a lock like this, compared to say, Single Pin Picking, or Impressioning, there's certainly a lot to be learned by how they work, how they deal with security pins, and more.
They're also a good way to check if the lock is damaged - because if you can't pick it with these, the chances are the lock is at fault - they're that good!
Happy Picking People.
VIDEO of these picks working: