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Many of you will be familiar with MH Maynard and his amazing gorilla lock picking skills. Here at PickPals, we thought we’d get to know him a little bit better with a little interrogation of our own.

We put out any questions you may have to the Australian Lock Sport Guild and got some great questions that we put to Michael.

The answers are great reading and inspiration for your picking.  Like how Michael learnt to pick, his favourite locks to pick and where the future of security is heading.

Lets get to the questions…

1. How did you get into lock-picking and for how long have you been practising?

The first lock I ever picked was the glovebox lock on my dad’s Holden Belmont…that would have been sometime in the late 1970’s.  I was hooked straight off – I couldn’t believe that a lock that was designed to keep me out could be so easily beaten and I started to look around to see what other locks I could beat as well.  There was no internet back then and you couldn’t buy proper tools either so everything I had was homemade, and I had to learn everything by trial and error.  I just picked stuff for fun on and off for years but I got really serious again around 2012 – that was when companies like Sparrows and Peterson started selling decent quality picks to the public, and groups like Toool and UK Locksport and others got going.

2. What is your most favourite lock to pick and why?

I like Mul-T-Locks in general, and the Mul-T-Lock MT5+ in particular, no doubt about it. I love the precision that pin-in-pin dimple locks demand, and  Mul-T-Locks are the best of all of the brands available – they are engineered to amazingly fine tolerances so there’s just no room for error. The MT5+ has the sidebar as well so to beat that thing you need to be incredibly precise with both pin in pin dimple picking AND sidebar slider picking. The other thing I really like about picking dimple locks is that dimple picks are amazingly personal – you can’t just buy one and start picking.

“You have to go through a process of buying and modifying commercial picks until you find the shape that works for you, and I really enjoy that.  A pick that works for me, probably won’t work for you in the same lock – you have to evolve your own style and technique.”
3. Is there anyway, other than lots of experience, to work out the best way to attack a lock. Eg. shimming, raking, SPP, bypass, bumping etc?

Great question.  This goes to the very heart of what I love most about picking locks.  Hopefully Mitch Robert (one of the VERY few guys in the world to beat the Bowley) and I will be running a workshop at OzSecCon this year on exactly this process.

The thing is, experience will only take you so far – after a while you get to know that certain locks have certain weaknesses and that certain modes of attack have got more chance of success than others. But that won’t help you when you face a new lock type, or a very high security lock with no obvious weaknesses.  What you need to do then is learn EVERYTHING about that lock. You need to know more than anyone except the team who designed it.  Buy a couple, new, with keys. Strip them down. Get hold of the original patent.  Look for the flaws, look for the corners they had to cut, the compromises they had to make to produce the lock within a budget. Then try a few things.  Make some new tools.  It’s not cheap, it’s not fast, and it’s not easy…you’ll wreck a few locks, but you’ll end up knowing how the lock can be beaten.

4. What is the most overlooked yet useful pick in your opinion?

Oh man, this is kinda like the whole Ford vs Holden or Wallabies vs All Blacks debate, and I’m going to have to answer it in two parts.

For me the most useful pick in my kit is the Sparrows Tron in 25 thousandths. The Multipick Elite short hook is fantastic as well, and there are a ton of guys who swear by the Peterson Gem…the main thing is that you need to pick ONE default hook from one of the major manufacturers, and put that hook in each and every lock you pick, first time every time. That way, you get good with learning the feedback from that particular pick.  This gives you a huge headstart in feeling what’s going on inside the lock, and you’ll pick way more locks than guys who take a random approach to each new lock they try to open.

The most overlooked pick: That’s easy – the Peterson half diamond. Folks today forget that for fifty years, the half diamond was pretty much the only pick locksmiths used. They used it for single pin picking, raking, dimples, wafers, you name it. It’s an amazingly versatile pick straight out of the box, BUT it also has the massive advantage that it’s a very easy pick to modify for specific jobs.  I have maybe two dozen Peterson half diamonds in 25 and 18 thousandths lying around at home and I’m forever filing bits off them to get me into difficult locks.

5. With all your experience, if you could initiate one change, that lock manufacturers had to abide by to make locks more secure, what would it be?

Well firstly before I suggested anything, I’d ask them to really listen and take on board feedback from the hobbyist picking community rather than getting bent out of shape when we point out flaws. It amazes me that while software companies have an excellent relationship with the hacking community and are forever patching bugs found by the hackers, the physical lock makers are VERY reluctant to listen to lock pickers.  It’s crazy – we’re a massive untapped free resource of potentially profitable intellectual property.

But more specifically…I’d just like to see more manufacturers do the basics very, very well. A standard six pin lock made to good tolerances and with a few security pins plus a tight paracentric keyway provides FAR more security than the average domestic or commercial consumer is ever going to need…and costs very little more to make than a lock with a wide open keyway and standard pins. Which is easier to pick? A German six pin DOM, or a six pin Lockwood with a C4 keyway?  I’d be willing to bet that the DOM costs barely a few cents more than the Lockwood to produce.

6. What is one lock that you would love to pick?

Wow, mate there really are so many.  I’m pretty good on standard pin tumbler locks, sidebars, and dimples.  But you know what?  I’ve never picked a difficult lever lock in my life. Disc detainers are a bit of a mystery to me as well.  And as you know, I’m really interested in safe locks and military stuff at the moment too.  I’d love to be the guy who figures a way to beat the Chubb Manifoil Mk 8 – and this is a lock so classified by the British Government that there isn’t even one in the public domain –

“I’ve never even seen one, only heard about them.  This is one of the best things about lockpicking – no matter how good you get, there’s always one more difficult lock to beat…”
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