Author Topic: Advice for learning to pick locks  (Read 4023 times)

Offline raveneye

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Advice for learning to pick locks
« on: January 22, 2013, 12:01:45 PM »
As one of my skills for 2013, I decided to add picking locks to the list.  Having gotten through the initial learning curve, I figured I would provide some feedback for anyone else who wanted to give it a try.

First of all, don’t "learn to pick locks."  Instead, "study amateur locksmithing."  Picking locks is something crooks do to steal stuff, while locksmithing is an important profession that helps people protect their stuff.  When a friend or relative asks what you are doing with all those old locks, a simple turn of phrase can get a far more favorable reaction.

Next, the equipment.  On the advice of a poster on one of the lockpicking forums, I decided to order just a few tools from Peterson International (www.peterson-international.com) instead of a full lock pick set.  This is what I got, and they turned out to be quality tools, and all I needed to open nearly any lock I have tried to pick so far:
Hook1 Rubber - Carbon Steel (H1-RCS) - http://www.peterson-international.com/picks.html#Classic Series Picks
Peterson Gem Rubber - Carbon Steel (PG-RCS)  - http://www.peterson-international.com/picks.html#Classic Series Picks
Peterson Pry Bar - 0.050 thick (PPB) - http://www.peterson-international.com/tensiontools.html
Peterson Pry Bar Lite (PPB-LT) - http://www.peterson-international.com/tensiontools.html

I also picked up a small articulating hobby vice to hold the locks at different angles while I worked on them.  The vacuum base is worthless, but for picking locks, it worked fine:
http://www.harborfreight.com/2-3-4-quarter-inch-articulated-vacuum-vise-3311.html

For locks, I started with some gun locks and padlocks I had laying around the house.  I also hit up a couple of Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores in the nearby area.  You can find old door locks there for $2-$5 each and expand the size and diversity of your collection very inexpensively there.

For instruction, I just searched YouTube for "Lockpicking" or "Pick Lock" and spent an hour or two watching different videos of people demonstrating and explaining how it was done.  Learning the skill is about 10% understanding what is going on inside the lock, and 90% getting used to the feel of the picks as they move the pins inside the lock.

EARLY ON, SET YOURSELF UP TO SUCCEED.  New locks that are clean and smooth are easier to pick than older ones that are dirty and corroded.  Locks with fewer pin stacks (like 3) are easier to pick than ones with 5 or 6 pin stacks.  YOU WILL LEARN A LOT FASTER BY PICKING AN EASY LOCK OPEN OVER AND OVER THAN STRUGGLING WITH A HARD LOCK FOR AN HOUR WITHOUT GETTING IT OPEN.  If you don’t have any easy locks, don’t be afraid to dismantle a lock, take out all but 2 or 3 pin stacks from it, and put it back together.  If you are still struggling, spraying the lock with some WD40 will help things move more smoothly inside the lock and help you feel what is happening better.

Successfully picking locks is a lot about feeling the pins move, feeling the which pin is binding, feeling it slide into place on the sheer line, and finding the next pin that is binding.  Try closing your eyes and keeping the room quiet to heighten you sense of feel.

Once you are start succeeding, explore.  Try picking each lock in both directions (to the right and the left).  Try mounting the locks at different angles in the vice so they are upside down or at an odd angle.  Try dismantling the lock and rearranging the pins.  Try finding locks with different size and shaped key-ways.  Try picking older corroded locks at the Re-Store without cleaning them.  Try to find locks with security pins, such as spool pins or seriated pins.

Practice, practice, practice.  I keep the picks and some locks by the sofa, and will play with them while watching TV.  There really is no substitute for practice.  A month ago, I picked my first lock open.  Today, I can sit in front of the TV and during a 1 hour show cycle through a pile of 10 different locks and pick each in both directions without much problem.

I hope this is helpful to others who are looking to get started on this skill.  Good luck.

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2013, 12:07:22 PM »
Check out this thread about a practice lock that a member here set up to practice with.
F_M
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Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2013, 12:18:24 PM »
Thanks for sharing your experience.  Just read through and took a look at the tools you linked to.  Looks like about $30 or so to get started.  Plus the vise.

So, is the thinking that you will use those 2 hooks for the vast majority of locks?
F_M
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Offline rikkrack

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2013, 12:23:48 PM »
+ 1 to you both. I had originally not though this to be one of my 13, but since I have added more and more it may be. I am seeing the benefits.
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Offline raveneye

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2013, 12:28:50 PM »
I have a huge padlock, a tiny padlock, a couple of Rugar gunlocks, and about 8 door locks.  Of those, I cannot open only 1 of them with those 4 tools, and that is because it has a wierd zig-zag keyway and deep set pins that I just can't get pushed up far enough.  The Hook1 Rubber - Carbon Steel is my go-to pick and does the vast majority of the work.  One of the locks is a little easier with the Gem pick. 

As for the Pry bars, I would strongly recommend getting both as the locks I have seem to have an even split between which one works best.  Usually one fits perfectly in the lock and the other does not fit or fits very awkwardly.

Offline 4bull

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2013, 01:46:08 PM »
A lock only keeps an honest man honest.
And dont ever tell anyone you can pick or let them see you do it.
It might be cool but your the first one on the list when some things moved ,missing.
I would find muffler rods on the street and work them down ,just the right size .

Offline Special K

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2013, 01:52:11 PM »
TOOOL can help as well. http://toool.us/

Offline Shaunypoo

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2013, 01:58:53 PM »
Don't forget your most valuable tool, for when you don't care if they know:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”  Robert Heinlein

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Offline ncjeeper

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2013, 03:10:28 PM »
 :popcorn:
The early bird gets the worm.....But the second mouse gets the cheese.

Offline endurance

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2013, 04:32:56 PM »
Over the years I've learned one of the most valuable things to go with your lock picks is a small can of silicone spray to get the tumblers moving easily on older locks that haven't been well maintained.  It turns impossible locks into easy ones.
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Offline Waiting in the Weeds

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2013, 10:04:56 AM »
Was looking for inspiration for adding skills, all the advice is excellent here. Looks like I'm adding lock picking ;D
"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect."-- Mark Twain

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2013, 10:09:38 AM »
TOOOL can help as well. http://toool.us/
I just found that there's a local TOOL chapter in my area.  They have monthly meetings.  I've contacted them about it, but haven't heard back from them yet.
F_M
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Offline Jesse2004

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2013, 01:16:37 PM »
I just found that there's a local TOOL chapter in my area.  They have monthly meetings.  I've contacted them about it, but haven't heard back from them yet.

I went to one of their events in my area - where they did a course on locks.  If you are interested in this skill, I can't recommend it highly enough.  They did great work (powerpoint and passing around actual locks) to show how locks work internally and the weaknesses that allow them to be picked.  In addition, they gave some great hands on practice.   The course I signed up for offered a set of tools for an extra 10 or 15 dollars.


Offline goataroo

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2013, 02:02:02 PM »
Thanks for all of the info.  This is on my list of skills to learn in 2013 and other than heading over to YouTube I didn't know where to start. 

Beth

Offline North WI Thriver

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2013, 10:40:38 AM »
I already know how to pick locks, having taken one of those correspondence courses on locksmithing and electronic security eons ago, but your suggestion of places to find old door locks has inspired me to brush up on this skill a little!  Usually I just grab a stool and work on our own house locks once in a while, but it would be good to go get some different brands and types.  Thanks!
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Offline Cedar

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #15 on: April 03, 2013, 01:08:08 AM »
LOL.. I was just telling Z about this thread as I just saw it.. and he remarks..

[22:57:33] Z: did i tell you that the guy that gave us the llamas was a locksmith?
[22:57:39] Cedar: nope
[22:57:43] Z: he picked the lock on the tack room in the trailer
[22:58:03] Z: unclimatically, it was almost completely empty, except for the lug wrench
[22:58:18] Cedar: it was nice of him to do that
[22:58:26] Cedar: oh nice, mystery solved. At least it was not just an empty void. A wrench is good.
[22:58:43] Z: i mentioned that it was locked when i bought it and i didn't have a key, and he offered to pick it
[22:58:48] Cedar: lol
[22:59:42] Z: after "M" mentioned that he thought about bringing a set here (and my mentioning the gross illegality of even possessing them), only then did he mention that he was a locksmith

Cedar
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Offline kckndrgn

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2013, 09:08:31 AM »
While lock picking (locksmithing, what every you want to call it) is a great skill to have, make sure you know your local laws regarding the tools of the trade.  For example, in TN, if you are not a licensed locksmith and you are in possession of locksmith (picking) tools, you go to jail.  Yup, don't need to be using them to commit a crime, just the fact that you have the tools to commit a crime makes you a criminal.

While the apparent intent of the law was to target people making money from from lock "picking" the poorly worded law, make the possession of picks by someone who is not licensed a FELONY!  I do not want to be the test case in this (and I have been told by several LEO friends and acquaintances that they know what the law was meant to do, but will enforce the letter of the law, meaning they would arrest someone for the possession of the tools only)

Unfortunately, TN appears to be the most strict about this.
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Offline Waiting in the Weeds

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2013, 06:24:16 AM »
Thanks for the legal update kckndrgn. Lucky for me it seems from your link that PA doesn't even care to make a law about picks.
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Offline Sonny

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2013, 09:32:24 PM »
I just took a lockpicking class at our local hacker-space.  Very knowledgeable fellow with many tools, he lectures nationally on the topic.  really knows his stuff.  The class is the last Saturday of the month for free!  The videos make it look easy, hands-on shows how difficult it is at first.  Practice, practice, practice.  The 10 year old girl next to me was cruising on the 5 pin lock, and the 60+ year old lady next to me looked like a pro, she said that playing piano and knitting helped her out.




Offline SloSheepdog

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #19 on: May 08, 2013, 03:10:58 PM »
As one of my skills for 2013, I decided to add picking locks to the list.  Having gotten through the initial learning curve, I figured I would provide some feedback for anyone else who wanted to give it a try.
...
I hope this is helpful to others who are looking to get started on this skill.  Good luck.

Locksmithing is one of my 13 skills as well. Thanks for posting this, and including the information, as it has spurred me to start on this skill.
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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #20 on: May 08, 2013, 03:46:39 PM »
I lost the key for a big Master padlock a couple years ago, and too big for my largest set of bolt cutters.  Called a locksmith, who spent about 5 mins trying to pick it before giving up and using a Dremel tool to cut it off.   When I asked him if lock-picking was more an art or a science, he said "both".   Made me wonder if bumping locks might be easier than learning how to pick them?

Offline Cory (NewOldTech)

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #21 on: March 06, 2014, 01:29:11 AM »
So where can I get just a basic set of tools while I'm just trying to learn the trade? I've looked in a few places and they either look really cheap or are too expensive, I'm not a locksmith yet! :)

Offline ericksonrs

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #22 on: March 06, 2014, 12:58:37 PM »
itstactical.com has a ton of supplies...they have cheap and expensive sets at their store including some cutouts and practice locks.

I know Brian Black is friends with Jack but don't know if there is an MSB Discount.

Offline Special K

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #23 on: March 06, 2014, 02:25:27 PM »
I've bought from here but shipping is literally a slow boat from China. Quality was good.

http://dx.com/s/lock%2bpick?PageSize=100

Offline skas

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Re: Advice for learning to pick locks
« Reply #24 on: March 06, 2014, 05:36:53 PM »
itstactical.com has a ton of supplies...they have cheap and expensive sets at their store including some cutouts and practice locks.

I know Brian Black is friends with Jack but don't know if there is an MSB Discount.

+1 for getting the picks sold at ITS.  I just looked, and there doesn't appear to be an MSB discount for ITS...but it is still worth becoming a member at some point.

From there, start by just picking up a cheap qwikset lock and practice, practice, practice....