Lock-Picking Techniques for Beginners

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Lock-picking is an increasingly common activity among hobbyists. Accidents happen, and sometimes people lock themselves out of their homes or lockboxes. Repeatedly hiring a locksmith is costly, so for people eager to learn how to pick a lock themselves, these lock-picking techniques for beginners ensure successful lock-picking every time.

The Tools

Successful lock-picking involves several important tools, including a tension wrench, half-diamond pick, hook pick, ball pick, rake pick, decoder pick, and potentially a bump key. Any beginner locksmith or lock-picking enthusiast must know how these tools differ before getting their own. These tools are predominantly used for pin tumbler lock-picking. High-quality lock-picking kits come with metal picks welded between stainless steel handles to make them more comfortable to use.

The Tension Wrench

The tension wrench is used to apply torque to the plug of a lock to hold any picked pins in place. Once all the pins are picked, the wrench turns to open the lock. There are two types of tension wrenches: bottom of the keyway and top of the keyway. These terms refer to where to apply torque on the lock.

Picking with a Single Pin

Single-pin picking involves using the tension wrench and hook pin to bump each individual pin one at a time until the plug gives completely. Single-pin picking is best used against padlocks and door locks. To pick with a single pin:

  1. Locate the binding pin. Insert the tension wrench to bind the first pin. You must keep tension on the plug during the entire process. Insert the hook pick into the top of the lock and lift it up slightly. Most pins should be relatively easy to lift except the binding pin, which will feel stiff until you release the tension.
  2. Raise the binding pin above the shear line. Gently lift the binding pin. When it reaches the shear line, it will give slightly, and you may feel a slight click through the tension wrench.
  3. Once the first pin is set, the plug can turn until it hits the next furthest pin from the centerline. This next pin requires the same process as before.
  4. Continue to apply pressure on the tension wrench and repeat the same steps as before to locate each binding pin and set it. Once all the pins are set, the plus will gibe and fully rotate.

Picking with a Rake

Raking is significantly easier than single-pin picking. This process involves applying tension on the plug, inserting a rake pin toward the back of the lock, and quickly pulling across the pins with an upward force. This causes the pins to bounce above the shear line. To use a rake-pin:

  1. Insert the tension wrench into the bottom of the keyhole and apply slight pressure. Insert the rake pick to the back of the lock and apply upward pressure against the pins. Snap the pick out and bump all the pins on the way out.
  2. Repeat this three or four time until all the pins set and the plug gives. Adjust the tension accordingly.

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