Lock picking is an important trick that one must know, regardless of any kleptomaniac tendencies.
If you don’t believe in its usefulness, perhaps you will listen to Fred Weasley in the second part of Harry Potter, who says, “A lot of wizards think it's a waste of time, knowing this sort of Muggle trick. But we feel they're skills worth learning, even if they are a bit slow.”
Jokes aside, it can come in handy when you’ve forgotten or lost your keys and lack the means or will to break the lock. It will save you the hassle of waiting for a locksmith and paying for something as easy as picking a lock.
In general, when someone talks about a lock, the first lock that pops into your head is called a pin-tumbler lock. It is the most commonly used type of lock in the world. Modern pin-tumbler locks are easy to pick if you just know the trick (and invest in a bit of practice).
So, you are about to learn how to pick a pin-tumbler lock.
Steps to Pick a Lock
Things you’ll need:
- Bobby pin
- Safety pin
Step 1. Understand the mechanism of a pin-tumbler lock
You can only understand the art of lock picking if you understand how a pin-tumbler lock works. To get a basic idea, try this demonstration with your hands. Open the fingers in your left hand and insert the fingers of your right hand in the gaps. Now, if you try to move your left hand, it won’t move unless your right hand moves too.
Imagine if your right hand is fixed or in an immovable position, your left hand will not move as long as the fingers of your right hand remain inside the gaps of your left hand’s fingers.
A similar concept works in a pin-tumbler lock. There is a cylindrical plug inside a shell or housing. This cylindrical plug can rotate freely inside the housing when the right key is inserted, otherwise it remains immovable because of the driver pins (fingers of your right hand) that are attached to the fixed housing (fixed right hand) by a spring.
The driver pins (fingers of your right hand) go inside the holes in the plug (gaps in your fingers of your left hand) and make it immovable.
Now, the holes in the plug also contain some pins, called the key pins. Key pins are of different sizes and the driver pins, which are of the same size, rest on top of them. They are called key pins as they come in contact with the key and lift the driver pins above the holes in the plug at the shear line, so the plug can rotate freely. The shear line is the space between the plug and the housing.
A key has cuts at different depths, corresponding to the height of the key pins. A long key pin will need to lift the driver pin only a small distance to get it out of the plug hole (above the shear line).
Therefore, the key cut corresponding to a long key pin would be small, to only lift the key pin a small distance and lift the driver pin above the shear line. So, a key lifts all the driver pins above the shear line leaving the plug to rotate freely.
When you pick a lock, the same principle is applied. But, you need an additional tension wrench to provide a constant turning force to the plug as you lift the key pins to move the driver pins above the shear line. As soon as the driver pin moves above the shear line, its downward movement is restricted by the circular pressure or a turning force that rotates the plug enough to keep the driver pin from falling down. While the key pin falls back.
Step 2. Make the tension wrench
To pick a pin-tumbler lock, you will need a tension wrench. It’s not something you have to go to the hardware store to buy. You can make one using a simple bobby pin.
Break a bobby pin into two halves. Now, use a pair of pliers or your hands to bend one half at about a quarter of its height. Make the bend perpendicular.
Your tension wrench is ready. It will apply a steady force in the tumbler as you pick the lock.
Step 3. Make the lock pick
In addition to a tension wrench, you need a lock pick. Again, you can make one using a simple household item – a safety pin.
Hold the safety pin and use a pair of pliers to bend the far edge, near the pointy end, upward. You can do it manually too, by applying the pressure near the tip of the safety pin using a table.
Your lock pick is now ready. It will move the key pins upward.
Step 4. Insert the tension wrench and apply pressure
Insert the tension wrench in the plug and apply a circular pressure in the direction in which the lock opens. It is usually the clockwise direction. Keep the tension wrench steady.
Step 5. Insert the lock pick and try to open the lock
Now, insert the lock pick inside the plug and try to push the pin tumblers or the key pins upward.
This here is a tricky process. As you move to the next pin, one by one, keep increasing the pressure on the tension wrench slightly.
The last pin might prove a bit tough to raise. In that case, lighten the tension on the plug a little bit and try again.
Once all the driver pins are above the plug, rotate the tension wrench and voila, your lock will open.
- First and foremost, you must exercise discretion with this skill. Use lock picking to help yourself in an emergency or a neighbor stuck outside his or her house. Do not malign this art in a felony.
- The art of lock picking lies in the art of providing the right pressure on the tension wrench. It is, in fact, the pressure on the tension wrench that determines how easily you will be able to open the lock.
- Position the tension wrench so it remains only in the lower part of the plug while you are applying the pressure. This way the tension wrench will not block the way of the lock pick inside the lock.
- While you loosen the tension on the wrench to lift the driver pin, the pins on the front might fall down. In that case, you might want to increase the pressure again and try to lift the driver pins in the front.
- This process requires time and patience. It’s only with practice that you’ll be able to pick locks easily (as in real locks where you cannot see the inner workings). The right amount of tension is hard to determine, so keep trying until you get it right.