Years ago my great uncle passed away, I was about twelve or so. Shortly after this, my great aunt (his wife) had had dispersed his earthly possessions to the tinkering side of the family. She brought me an old classical guitar (she knew I had been playing since I was 8) and a gigantic box of ham radio equipment. Fun stuff. My dad had gotten these gigantic boxes of tools, I had never seen these tools before but they seemed cool. After looking closer I found that there was about ten thousand key blanks and then it clicked, HE WAS A LOCKSMITH!!!! Sweet!! I quickly snagged a few of his pick sets and went to work. I didn't know what any of the tools were for. Over the course of a few months I had started learning about raking locks, random attacks and it wasn't for awhile that I started to single pin pick the locks. But when I did learn to SPP everything changed. I started pulling locks apart and learning. Here's a few things I learned about picking locks that every beginner should know.
Step 1: When You Start to Pick...
When you start to pick you must realize that what you see in movies is usually wrong. Somebody sticks a pick in a keyway, jiggles it around the locks opens. You need to have tension. I found a nice simple procedure that I use every time I see a new lock. I use the flat side of my pick, push all of the pins to the top of the chamber and apply tension. I pull my pick from the lock and slowly loosen my tension until I hear the pins drop. Do this a couple thousand times over a month or two on a variety of different locks and you will start to get the feel for tension without having to do this trick.
Step 2: Disassemble Your Lock.
You need to know what is inside of your lock and how to manipulate it, physically having a disassembled lock in your hand is much better than learning from videos on the internet. If you don't have a key for the lock, you can either pick it or pull the guts from the top. Either way works when you're learning. For this I'm going to pull it from the top and dump four of the five chambers out. Remember to not lose your springs!!! Or do... that's how you learn. I put the slide back into its groove with one of the chambers still full of pins and it's spring. Now, you can use this as a beginning practice lock to find your right tension, maneuver around the key way and manipulate the lock. Do this until you get comfortable with one set of pins and add the pin set next to it, now you can maneuver around the lock with two pins and learn to manipulate one set without disturbing the other. Repeat process until you're comfortable attacking this lock with all chambers loaded.
Step 3: Create Your Own Style... But Be Open to Other Techniques.
This is the last thing I was gonna touch on. Every locksmith has his own style of picking, I almost always pick my locks with a top tension wrench unless a complicated keyway does not allow. I almost never lube the lock before I pick it unless it's weathered to the point that I can't manipulate the pins. I just find it harder to feel a set on a freshly lubed lock. I almost always SPP with a little variety of a zipping technique and sometimes rocking the pins into place with the bottom of my hook. If I have to I will use my rakes. The point is, do it the way you feel comfortable and be willing to pick up new techniques and learn tricks from somebody else.
Just some thoughts for the new pickers.