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Lundi, 24 Octobre 2011 19:15

Pick a Lock

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Getting Started

Now that you know what you're working with, it's time to start picking.

Insert the short end of your tension wrench into the bottom of the keyway and apply a light turning pressure with your finger.

Now, insert your pick, with the active end (point) facing toward the key pins. Lift each key pin to it's proper height, and the lock will fall open for you.

But how do you know what the proper height is? Or what order the pins set in? Those questions will be what you ask yourself every time you pick up a lock, and the solution will be unique each time. There is no set answer or specific order that will open every lock you face. Each lock has it's own unique pattern of pin heights and binding order.

One Pin At A Time

If locks were perfect, we wouldn't be able to pick them. We would apply pressure with our tension wrench and every pin would bind at once. When we lift up on one of them, all of the other pins would hold the plug in place, and the pin we lifted would fall right back down again. In reality, locks are riddled with tiny manufacturing defects, usually minor enough that we wouldn't notice them with the naked eye, but each difference injects vulnerability into the lock. Perhaps the pin chambers aren't drilled in a perfectly straight line, or some of them are slightly larger or smaller than the others. Maybe the pins aren't perfectly deburred or have simply worn unevenly from regular use.

When we take those abberations into account, and apply our turning pressure again, we'll find that one pin binds before all of the others.

Your job is to find that first, weirdest pin.

With tension applied, insert your pick into the lock and lift up on a keypin. If you feel it springing right back down at you, that is not your binding pin. Move on to the next pin. When you feel a pin resist you, carefully lever it up until you feel it stop.

Once that pin has reached the shear line —and I cannot overstate this— the plug will rotate, just a little bit, near imperceptibly.

When the plug turns, the next weirdest pin will bind, and the driver pin you've just set above the shear line will sit on the shoulder of the plug that has turned beneath it.

Repeat this process for every pin in the lock.

When the last driver pin crosses the shear line, the plug will turn freely for you.

Here's a video to see the process in action:

Pick Locks - Wired How-To Wiki

From Wired How-To Wiki

Photo by dvanzuijlekom/flickr/CC

You've seen it a million times in suspense thrillers: The rogue secret agent who's somehow managed to evade building security approaches a door, looks up and down the long hallway, slips a hair pin inside the keyhole of a door and jiggles it for approximately two seconds before the door pops open with a satisfying click. Oh Hollywood...

In reality there's a bit more to it than that. We asked expert lock picker Schuyler Towne to give us the inside scoop on how to crack your garden variety lock.


To pick a basic pin tumbler lock, the locking mechanism you'll find on the average door, you will need a tension wrench and a pick. There are myriad kinds of each, but to start I recommend a bottom of keyway tension wrench and a simple hook pick, which you can find on lockpicktools.com.

How locks work

Surgeons don't just take the scalpel and cut without knowing what to expect inside first. Neither do lockpickers. Here's a video by Schuyler that illustrates the innards of a common pin tumbler lock.


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