How to pick a lock – in 3 simple steps

Posted by: Lockie Category: Guides Post Date: 06/08/2018

How to pick a lock – in 3 simple steps

So, you’re bored and need a new hobby. Want to learn a new skill that’s both challenging and fun. Or maybe you’ve seen the awesome products in Australia’s leading online lock pick shop, and want to get in on the action.

Welcome to the awesome world of lock picking. Question is – where do you start? Should you just buy a lock pick set and figure it out?

Nah. Make things easier for yourself and just follow our handy guide. We’ve even got a simple, step-by-step video that walks you through the steps below, so you can see lock picking in action. And follow along using your own lock pick tools.

Why bother learning lock picking?

Alright, before we begin let’s look at why you should even give a toss about lock picking. Why are some people so into it? And what’s the point of picking locks if you’re not a crim with a penchant for stealing 50” TVs?

Here’s why we (and other lock pick enthusiasts) get a kick out of it:

  • It’s so cool. Chicks dig it. Alright, they probably don’t, but lock picking is still cool. It’s like being part of a secret society of stealthy, handy ninjas. And once you learn how to pick locks, you’ll know how to do something a lot of people don’t. Suckers.
  • It’s fun. Knowing that you have the knowledge and knack to open doors without a key (legally, of course!) is pretty fun. And practicing lock picking gets pretty addictive, especially as you test your skills on tougher locks. Lock Picking has grown in popularity here in Australian and New Zealand. You can even enter comps.
  • It’s cheap. Some hobbies are so expensive (yeah snowboarding, we’re looking at you). It’s like you need thousands of bucks just to buy the most basic gear, and then there are membership fees and all the rest. Lock picking is a pretty contained hobby, when it comes to cost.
  • Increase your skills. Like most puzzles lock picking requires a lot of patience. While some locks are easy to pick others can be very challenging and take a pragmatic approach to understand the workings of the lock before you can successfully pick the lock. Lock picking is also great for dexterity and fine motor skills.

 The legal stuff

Before we go into how to pick a lock, let’s get something straight. This guide is not to be used for opening locks that you shouldn’t open. It’s illegal. And dumb. So be sure to stick to the ‘lock pickers code of conduct’ and stay tuned for our FREE eBook on the legal side of lock picking in Australia.

How to pick a pin tumbler lock

Alrighty, you eager beaver. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: it’s time to pick a lock!

We’ve used a pin tumbler lock (see it in action in the video above) because it’s the most commonly used one in lock picking. And it’s an easy one when you’re starting out.

Which lock pick set should you start with? We recommend the PickPals Intro Lock Pick Set. Check out other lock pick sets and practice locks.

 How does a pin tumbler lock work?

 You need to know how a pin tumbler lock works, cos otherwise you won’t be able to pick it.

Bit of pub trivia for you – pin tumblers have been around for over 6000 years! And the basic mechanism hasn’t really changed in that time.

There are only a few parts in a pin tumbler lock:

  • Core: also known as the plug. This is what the key goes into. It turns to open.
  • Pins: on top of the core are holes, which the pins go into. When the key is inserted into the core, the pins try to stop it from turning.

A word about the pins: these need to be the right length to fit the notches in the key. So when the key goes in, the pin will only go to the top of its hole (the ‘shear line’). If the pin is too long or the key is incorrect, the lock will stop the core from turning and the lock from opening. See a demo of this in the video above.

It’s all about figuring out how to get the pins to the right height. How do we do that? We exploit the tolerance of the lock.

What does that mean? Well, we have to make one of the pins bind or ‘talk to us’. We do that by rotating the core just a tiny fraction. We get it to the sheer line (you might feel or hear a click, or feel the pin stop moving). And then, repeat it for the other pins.

This is what happens when you put the right key into the right lock. The key pushes the pins into the right position, and the door unlocks. When you pick a lock, you do the same thing, but without a key.

It’s as simple as that.

But it’s also not as simple as that! Those are the basics, but there is a true skill to doing this right – and on more complicated locks.

How to pick a lock

It takes a little bit of knack and patience to pick your first lock. But after that, you’ll get a feel for it, and it’ll become more second nature.

The easiest method for learning how to pick your first lock is called, raking. The below method will focus on this technique.

Let’s go through all the steps:

  1. Put the tension wrench in the bottom of the lock

Get your tension wrench. You need to use it to place tension on the core, while the pick does the jiggling. Most locks and all our practice locks turn in a clockwise motion. It’s really important to be very gentle and light on the tension otherwise the pins can’t move. Our video explains more.

Put the wrench in the bottom of the keyhole. Add a tiny amount of pressure, turning in the same direction as the key would turn (if you were using one). Don’t be heavy handed, otherwise the pins will stick beneath the shear line.

 

  1. Put the pick in the top of the lock

With tension applied, get your pick, insert it into the top of the lock, and slide it all the way in. Very gently move the pick back and forth, you should be able to feel the pins moving.

  1. Scrub the pick

What do we mean by scrub? Basically ‘rake’ the pick back and forth. Be sure to keep putting a little pressure on with the wrench at the same time. When you pull the pick back, be sure to lift it up. This will put pressure on the pins.

Do this action until all the pins are set into position. Still not getting anywhere? You might have put too much pressure on with the tension wrench. So ease off, reset the pins, and go again with light hands.

Congrats, you just picked your first lock!

Practice makes perfect picking!

 Those are the basic steps for picking almost any lock. But because lock picking is a skill, you’ll get better at it the more locks you (legally) pick.

Grab yourself a few practice locks (they’re clear so you can see the pins) and have a go at practicing lock picking whenever you’re bored or have free time – like when you’re watching TV.

Remember, stay calm and keep the tension light. The more relaxed you are the more success you will have and most importantly,  have fun!