Thursday, January 17, 2013

Getting Started With Lock Picking

By Jason Bevis and Brad Antoniewicz.

Lock picking is a hobby I first picked up many years ago and seem to always regain interest in. There's just something about being able to open a lock without a key that calls to my inner hacker. This article is for those who are interested in getting started with lock picking but aren't entirely sure where to begin.

The Tools

Like most hobbies, you'll need to invest a couple dollars in some tools and equipment. The lock pick villages at security conferences are a great place to pick up equipment. The Open Organization Of Lockpickers (ToooL) are always there and have awesome kits available for purchase. Here are some buying recommendations when you're first starting out. ToooL is recommended a lot because they are big supporters of the community, that being said, I promise, I'm not funded by them and their tools are good :)


ToooL's Beginner's Blend Pick Kit will run you $30.00. It contains the following:
  1. Standard Hook
  2. Euro Slim Hook
  3. Thick Half Diamond
  4. Thin Half Diamond
  5. Snake Rake
  6. Bogotá-style Wave Jiggler Rake
  7. Standard Tensioner
  8. Twist-Flex Tensioner

While the tension tools in ToooL's set are great to start off with, also look into the "Pry Bar" Tension tools offered by Peterson. They're unique in that they allow you to apply tension on the top of the keyhole rather then on the bottom which can get in the way.

It just wouldn't be right to leave out SouthOrd's 14 Piece MPXS-14 kit. It was one of the first sets I ever bought and has lasted me for years!


Practicing is really important, but if you're always practicing on the same lock, you won't really advance; so its equally important to learn different locks. Some require little or no tension whereas others require a significant amount of tension. Here are a couple to get you going:

ToooL's Basic Training Lock Set is $80.00. It will probably only take about 10 minutes to pick all 6 of the training locks even without any real training. Although it may seem at first seems there is little value in purchasing this training set, most people going back to these locks for practice.
ToooL's Advanced Training Lock Set is $55.00. It includes lock cylinders with 4 different security pins (mushroom, spool, etc.). Buying these is a luxury, but having a chance to go through all 4 locks is beneficial. It should take less than 5 minutes because all the locks only have one pin. There is value in this set, but probably not worth the money initially. It is good to run through them at least once which you can almost always do at a lockpick village
Master Locks can be found anywhere. Basic ones such as the 4 pin are typically easy even for a beginner (scarey when you think of how many places use Master locks). These locks can be purchased at any hardware store, pharmacy, etc. Most master locks appear to be easy however sometimes there are different pin settings and locks that can be more difficult.
U.S. Lock an be purchased at most hardware stores, locksmiths or on the internet. The one in the picture is much more of a pain then the Master because it has one "difficult" pin that makes life hard when using the standard tension wrench in ToooL's 8 piece set.
The Schlage Everest with the check pin (the little hole on the rear of the lock shown in the picture) is indeed challenging for a beginner. You'll find some YouTube videos where it takes hardcore enthusiasts five minutes (that's a long time, for them) to get into it. This one is particular good because he takes apart the lock and explains the key difference. Also notice the special tool he created to help with the check pin.

If you find yourself encountering the Schlage Everest a lot, Peterson Locksmith Tools actually has a special tension tool just for these locks.

If you can get past the Schlage Everest then try a Medeco lock. Many of these are used for fireman lock boxes to gain access to multiple apartment building units. Notice the special keying in the image below (from A local locksmith told me one cylinder would cost $80.00 and they're really hard to pick.

The Basics

There is a ton of online resources to help you understand how locks work and how to pick them. We've thrown together a quick demonstration of using the hook and rake to pick on the of ToooL starter locks.

Schuyler Towne put together a really great set of videos that'll teach you a lot - he even shows the internals of the lock as its being picked.

lockpicking101 is another great site for information and getting in touch with lock picking enthusiasts in your area.

The Law

Beware - Lock picking can be frowned upon by authorities. The two laws every lock picking enthusiast should follow are:
  1. Never pick a lock you don't own
  2. Never pick a lock that's in use
The Legality of lock picks, possessing burglary tools, lock picks by state article from The Lock Pick Guide attempts to summarize the U.S. laws of lock picking and is a must read if you plan on getting started with the hobby.

Lock picking is good to learn and understand how to protect items physically. Understanding how to Lockpick will help gain knowledge of the specific weaknesses.


  1. Anything about shims or bumping?

  2. Yes its important to note that you should be carefull and only pick locks that are yours or with permission. Else you can get in trouble. They can even arrest you if you are behaving suspicious while wearing lockpicks so be carefull and always ask permission from the owner!!