Lock picking is the art of unlocking a lock mechanism by manipulating the tumblers/levers using specialized equipment without inflicting damage to the components. Most locks equipped with levers, pin tumblers, wafer tumblers and disc/disk tumblers can be picked. Most warded locks can be picked...
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Many years ago, locksmiths would manufacture their own picks out of clock spring steel. This type of steel would keep it shape permitting the blade portion of the pick to be made relatively thin with small tips. These relatively small dimension picking instruments would be able to operate within the keyway of most locks.
Picking instrument shapes have evolved over the years. The most common are the half-diamond and the hook. However, the exact shape of each varies by each pick manufacturer.
In addition to the blade shape varying, having a handle or the type of material and shape of the handle varies by lock pick manufacturer. There are lock pick manufacturers that have molded plastic handles, riveted metal handles, rubberized removable sleeves and there are even picking instrument available with custom wood handles.
Some of the early lock picks were built into wood handles to provide more comfortable handling. Over time, a number of manufacturers began producing lock picks and turning tools. Early commercial picks were available with riveted, chrome plated handles. Then came the rubber-dip removable handles and eventually the ergonomic design handles.
Most turning tools are shaped like a letter “L”, with the portion entering the keyway the shorter leg. The turning tool is used to apply rotational (torsion) force to the plug/cylinder of a lock when picking. In addition, the tension wrench is used to turn the plug/cylinder once the tumblers have been picked in order to unlock or operate the lock.
Turning tools come in many different widths, lengths, thicknesses and shapes. Turning tools are available in different widths to conform to the keyway of the lock being picked. For example, Kwikset and Weiser locks have a wider keyway, whereas Schlage and Sargent locks have a narrower keyway. Since the purpose of the turning tool is to exert torsion force onto the plug or cylinder, the tool must be wide enough to bind and not freely rotate within the keyway. The proper width turning tool can make picking a lock easier. Too wide of a turning tool can restrict a portion of the keyway, preventing the picking instrument the optimal access.
In addition, varying width turning tools are available in different thicknesses. There are thin, flexible turning tools of varying lengths. There are thick, rigid turning tools that do not flex and any movement is transmitted to the lock picker’s fingers. I prefer to make my own turning tools from hex wrenches. I grind the side or the top and bottom so the tip is either vertical or horizontal to accommodate the amount of space surrounding the lock. Hex wrenches can be purchased in varying lengths and thicknesses. Cheap hex wrenches are easier to grind down to size.
There are numerous turning tool shapes standard single, double sided, coiled, tweezers type, “U” shaped and those not described in this sentence turning tools.
The best picking instrument and turning tool is the one that you are the most successful with when picking locks. It is important to become competent with one or two picks and turning tools. Having a number of different rakes is important alternative if the lock will not pick. Try each of the rakes; maybe one will unlock the lock.
There are double sided picks for picking double throw wafer tumbler equipped locks. These include the early Schlage “A” or “W” style wafer locks. There are specialized picks available for picking Chicago double throw wafer locks.
Picking a tubular lock requires either two separate tools or a dedicated tubular pick. Specific application tubular picks incorporate the two procedures required for picking, manipulating the tumblers with individual feelers to accommodate different length pins. The second, exerting turning pressure in order to bind and pick each of the pin tumblers.
Tubular picks are available in a variety of configurations. Most of the variations are for the keyway diameter, the number of pin tumblers and their location within the tubular lock. For example, there are seven pin tumbler tubular locks. There are seven pin left offset and right offset tubular locks. There are eight pin tubular locks. There are tubular locks that have “pin-within- a- pin” with even more tumblers. There are large, standard and small diameter tubular locks. For size information, look at tubular key blanks in a key blank catalog. There are tubular locks that are located beneath a shroud. The tubular pick must have a long, narrow shank to accommodate this type of guard.