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How to clone a key with a pippin file

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Image of a pippin file which is used in creating copies of keys Pippin files are ideally shaped for turning key ‘blanks’ into working keys through a process called ‘impressioning’.
A key blank which can be turned into a copy of a key with a pippin file Key blanks are the right shape to fit into a lock. However, they are uncut, and therefore will not open it.
An image showing all of the items that are needed for cloning a key: grips, pippin file, key blank, brute force For this process you will need a key blank, a pippin file, a pair of grips and large doses of both brute force and patience.
Wonkee Donkee laments the difficulty of filing without opposable thumbs
A locksmith filing a key blank with a pippin file to ensure the surface is smooth before beginning

Step 1 – File key edge flat

Using a flat edge on your pippin file, make sure the top of your key is flat. You may not have to do very much filing at all to achieve this.

Locksmithing pushing a key blank into a lock

Step 2 – Insert key blank

Slide your key blank all the way into your lock.

A key blank before being notched with a pippin file in contact with security pins inside a lock Your key is now in contact with the security pins that keep the lock from turning if the right key is not inserted.
Image of a secret agent accepting a mission to clone a key using a pippin file Your mission is to turn your key blank into the right key!

Step 3 – Bump key against top and bottom of lock

Locksmith wobbling the key blank around inside the lock to create marks that will allow him to use a pippin file to create a key copy Use your pair of grips to hold tightly onto the head of the key. Give it a really good wobble around several times so that the thin edges of the key bump against the edges of the lock as much as possible.
A key fully inserted into a lock, which is what a locksmith should aim for at all times during this process Make sure the key stays all the way inside the lock at all times.
A locksmith turning a key blank inside a lock during the cloning process While you’re wobbling the key up and down, alternate between turning it right and left as far as it will go. Don’t worry if it’s not very far.
Diagram to show the locations of the marks on the key blank

Step 4 – Check for marks

Remove your key from the lock and hold it up to the light to check for marks. There should be a mark for each security pin in the lock.

Cutaway of a 5 pin lock Most locks have five pins.
Diagram to show how a key can be cut using the round face of a pippin file

Step 5 – File at location of marks

Using the round side of your pippin file, file a couple of strokes at the location of each mark.

A series of grooves filed into the edge of a key blank by a pippin file This should give you a series of grooves across the edge of the key.
Locksmith wobbling the key blank around inside the lock to create marks that will allow him to use a pippin file to create a key copy

Step 6 – More bumping and filing!

You now need to bump your key again.

Image of a key blank that has already had grooves made in it with a pippin file showing the marks in each groove from the bumping process This time, you’ll need to check to see which of the grooves in the key are showing clear marks. Only file those grooves, and deepen them by just a couple of strokes with the file.
A DIYer looking extremely surprised after finding a mark in a location they thought they had finished filing on their key blank Continue this process. Don’t be surprised if you find a mark in a groove you had not previously been filing part way through the process. This happens often.
Image to show a locksmith who has successfully created a copy of a key using a pippin file

Step 7 – Success

You’ll know when you have succeeded in your efforts as the lock will open as you turn the key to one side during bumping. Well done!

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