The reason you have stumbled upon this guide is likely to answer these two questions:
- Is it difficult to learn how to pick a lock?
- How do I learn this craft of lock picking?
In regards to the first question, learning how to pick a lock is in fact a very simple skill to acquire. There is a common misconception that learning how to pick a lock is inherently difficult and requires hours upon hours of sitting quietly in a candle lit room with nothing but a set of lock picks, gobs of patience, and a lock to pick. Furthermore, that you must achieve some Zen like focus to have any success at lock picking. But it is in fact quite the opposite. The basic concepts and techniques of lock picking can learned and applied within hours. It can also be practiced in any environment in which both hands are free, such as watching TV. This all being said, lock picking is still a skill and like any skill, mastery requires patience and practice.
So how do go about learning this craft of lockpicking? The first step of acquiring any new skill is learn the basic theory and techniques behind it. The purpose of this guide is to teach you the very fundamentals of lock picking and written for the absolute beginner. With this guide you will learn how locks work and how to pick them. Furthermore, upon completion of this guide you will have the knowledge to tackle any pin and tumbler lock that stands in your way. With that lets get started!
- Introduction to Lock Picking
- Legality Of Lock Picking
- How A Pin Tumbler Lock Works
- Flaws Are Good: Manufacturing Tolerances
- Tools Required
- The Tension Wrench
- Picking A Lock: Single Pin Picking
- Picking A Lock: Raking
Introduction To Lock Picking
So what exactly is lock picking? A professional locksmith could define lock picking as the art of examining and then manipulating the internal components of a lock with the goal of disengaging the lock mechanism without using the original key. But to the layman, this mumbo jumbo can simply be translated as the act of bumping a few metal pins up and out-of-the-way so they no longer block the lock from turning.
There are many different types of locks utilized today, but all are based on fairly simple concepts. For the purpose of this guide we will be focusing on the most basic and most commonly used lock today, the pin tumbler lock. This type of lock is what you will find on deadbolts, door knobs, or in most padlocks and is exceedingly simple in its design.
Legality Of Lock Picking
Lock picking for the most part is allowed when you have permission by the owner to pick that particular lock or, of course, if you own the lock. In addition, most governments require that intent to actually commit a crime is required. So in most places owning lock picks is not illegal, only using them for ill intent is. In the United States for example, only four states have determined that owning lock picks itself is showing intent to commit a crime and is therefore illegal to own them. These states are Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia. In every other state it is perfectly legal to own and utilize a set of lock picks. For more information on the legality of lock picking in your country check out lockwiki.com.
How a Pin Tumbler Lock Works
Throughout this guide we will be referring to the most common type of lock, the basic pin tumbler lock. The first step in learning how to pick a lock is to actually understand exactly how the lock itself functions and to do so we must first gander at its anatomy.
The simple pin and tumbler lock has five main components. The housing, the plug, driver pins, key pins, and springs. The housing is what contains the entirety of the of lock and hold everything together. The plug is where the key insert is located and contains a line of holes in which the key pins and driver pins are located and held down by the springs.
The most important concept to take away from the anatomy of the tumbler lock is what lock pickers refer to as the “shear line.” This line is the area between the plug and the housing and is the reason why the lock won’t turn without a key. When the key is placed into the cylinder, it pushes the key pins flush with the shear line causing the driver pins to exit the plug. When the gap between the key pins and driver pins is exactly that of the shear line we can then rotate the plug and disengage the lock.
Take a look at this 20 second video demonstrating all of this at work.
This is the basis of pin and tumbler lock picking, to mimic the key by bumping every pin flush with the shear line and then rotating the plug. But why is it that we can do this in the first place and how is it that we can keep every pin at the shear line without the constant pressure of a key? The answer is simply “flaws.”
Flaws Are Good: Manufacturing Tolerances
Nothing is perfect. Nothing can be produced without its flaws or some variation from its ideal design. Everything is designed with a tolerance in mind. It is because of these flaws in production that we are able to manipulate and bypass locks. In the case of the tumbler lock, we have only but to look at the plug.
During production of the plug, holes are drilled to hold the key pins. Ideally these holes would all run down the true center-line of the plug and would be in perfect alignment with each other hole. But again nothing is perfect. Each hole drilled has some variation from both the true center-line and from each other hole. The quality of the lock greatly depends upon the quality and care that is put into drilling these holes. Cheaper locks will generally have a greater variation between holes than that of higher quality locks. In any case, this variation can be as slight as a thousandth of an inch and it’s because of this tiny distortion that we gain our ability to pick locks.
Read the Remainder at Art of Lockpicking