So now that you know the basics of how locks work, lets take a look at different some different methods. If you are looking for instructions on how to pick specific kinds of locks, or if you would like to contribute information on how to pick a specific kind of lock, please visit the specific locks instructions page.
Three Main Techniques For Lock Picking
If you’re interested, here’s some books on lock picking techniques. There are three main techniques, single pin picking (SPP), raking (aka scrubbing), and jiggling. The latter two methods rely heavily on proper use of the tension wrench, while the former relies on feeling whether pins are set or not. If you were wondering, lock bumping and padlock shims are not technically lock “picking”, and so are not discussed here. Also, picking the two most common security pins, mushroom pins and spool pins, is briefly discussed at the end.
Single pin picking can take a long time, especially if you’re new to the trade. With this method, you try a constant tension and attempt to set each pin one by one, usually using a hook pick. The time consuming part is finding the correct order in which to pick each pin (recall that locks that are “easy” to pick are so because of deviations in their production in which the pins are not aligned perfectly). Also, it can be difficult to find the correct tension, too much and the pins will bind and become overset, too little and the pins won’t set when they reach their shear point. To figure out the order in which the pins set, I recommend first feeling the pins with the hook without any tension, to learn their unique springy-ness and locations (as well as how many there are!) The first pin which sets is usually the easiest to identify, but make sure your not oversetting it! Once you have the first pin figured out for sure, start with it and try to find the second pin. I recommend apply a strong tension, and pick them in a systematic way; start with the first, then go back one by one, picking each pin SLOWLY – do that a few times then change the order so that the second one is last – or something systematic. Once you get used to the lock, you should be able to feel when each pin sets – the plug will turn slightly, the pin will lose springy-ness and you will hear and feel a click or crunch of the plug hitting the next pin.
Single pin picking is frustrating to beginners, they don’t know if the pins are set or overset (because they haven’t picked enough locks to get a feel for it). For newbies, I recommend scrubbing or raking. Most of the different picks in your newly bought kit are made for this lock picking technique. To scrub, push the pick up on the first pin (or last) and push it all the way back (or pull it forward) across all the pins. Usually you can set one or two pins this way. It is also a good way to find out which pin sets first (by feeling for loss of springy-ness) and then you can go back and try the Single pin picking technique. While it is relatively easy to set a few pins quickly, it is difficult to make sure you don’t overset them – use lighter tension if you think you may be oversetting them. Use stronger tension if you’re not sure any of the pins are setting at all.
Raking should be a fast process, rake the pins a few times with one tension, then start over and try again (maybe changing the order, back to middle to front, front to back to middle, etc.) If you’ve tried for awhile using a constant amount of tension, try a different tension. Also try different tensions when your pick is at different positions within lock, pins can vary dramatically on the amount of tension they require even within the same lock. I can’t stress this enough, the success or failure of your raking depends on how well you can find the right tension for the right pin.
Jiggling is perhaps the most effective lock picking technique for beginners – most of us picked our first locks by sticking the pick in and jiggling it around. That’s not to say that jiggling relies on randomness and luck, proper use of the tension wrench is as vital to this method than it is for raking. Vibrating pick guns, manual pick guns, and bump keys all use the random jiggling method but with one key difference, those techniques slam against the pins like a pool ball, propelling the driver pins up into the shaft while you apply tension. When jiggling with a lock pick you must be able to feel when the pins are set, stop jiggling there and move to a different part of the lock. Vary tension always.
Special Security Pins Lock Picking
Some locks have special security pins in place of the driver pins, the most common being spool pins and mushroom pins. Spool pins look like a spool of thread, mushroom pins look like mushroom with the stalk in the pin-hole. These have a tendency to falsely set, they fall into the shaft and get caught. The good thing is these are easy to identify, the plug will rotate much more than if you had simply set a pin, the other pins won’t set, and the security pin will usually feel stiff, won’t lose its spring-ness completely (but in this case I mean that it will not budge, not that it moves freely without resistance). When this happens, loosen up the tension very slowly while pushing on the security pin very strongly. When the pin has all but realigned with the shaft, pushing it up with enough force should cause the pin to set properly. The security pins should be the last ones you pick after you have set the other pins. See my videos page to see how to pick a Master lock No. 140 which has a spool pin.