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Lockpick basics: How to Pick Locks Part 1

Updated on February 25, 2014

Lockpick Basics: How to Pick Locks Part 1

Lockpicking Basics series

The aim of this five part Lockpicking series is to get you from an uneducated Picker, to opening Pin and Tumbler (the lock you have on your door and most padlocks) locks in minutes without any hassle. This Lockpicking series can act almost as a Lockpick Textbook. You can print this series out and use it when you need it, to troubleshoot any problems you may be having when trying to Pick Locks. I will include all the theory you will need in this, however you can skip straight through it and jump into the practical lessons and get Picking!

A Short Hook Lockpick, the most commonly used type
A Short Hook Lockpick, the most commonly used type


Lockpicking is a skill that was once deemed a secret art by many. An elusive ability that only master Locksmiths or thieves understood and mastered. However, with the introduction of the internet, information is being exchanged at astronomical speeds, and the once cloudy and confusing art of Lockpicking has become more accessible for the average person. Here are some Key Terms that you can refer to throughout your Lockpicking journey so that you don’t become awfully confused.

Short Hook Pick
The most common type of Lockpick. This pick has a short hook at the end of it, and usually a metal or rubber handle. Used for manipulating one Pin at a time.

A View Showing the Driver Pins on the bottom making contact with the key, pushing the driver pins upwards. The gap between the pins meets the Sheer line and will allow the plug to turn freely
A View Showing the Driver Pins on the bottom making contact with the key, pushing the driver pins upwards. The gap between the pins meets the Sheer line and will allow the plug to turn freely

Single Pin Picking
A technique where one Pin at a time is manipulated while torque is applied to the plug using the Tension Wrench.

Tension Wrench/Torque Wrench
An integral part of Lockpicking that many spy and Bond movies overlook. It is essentially a thin piece of stainless steel that has 2-4 cm of its end bent at a 90 degree angle. This tool is placed at the bottom of a Pin and Tumbler keyway. Varying amounts or Torque/Tension are then applied to the keyway while the Pick manipulates the pins.

Pin and Tumbler Lock
The most common type of lock encountered. This is the lock your house door handle has, and nearly all padlocks. First patented by Linus Yale Jr. A very cheap and sturdy way to add security to any situation.

The part of the lock that turns. It houses the Key pins, and a key turns the plug when used in the correct lock.

Pins in a lock are what stops the lock from turning without the Key. They are what the Lockpick manipulates in a lock, so that you can turn the Plug with the Tension/Torque Wrench. There are two types of pins, Key Pins and Driver Pins. The pins are separated, and when the gap between the driver and Key pins reaches the Sheer line, the Plug is able to rotate.

Key Pins
The pins that the key comes into contact with. They are the pins that you can see when you look into a lock. The key pins are different sizes to one another, which is why there are different sized peaks and troughs on a key.

Driver Pins
Driver pins sit above the Key pins. The driver pins are usually the same size, but can sometimes come in Security Pins (More on this later) form. The driver pins sit above the Sheer Line when they are set, or when the Plug is turning.

Sheer Line
The Sheer Line is where the gap between the Driver and Key pins needs to reach in order to let the Plug rotate. The Plug will only rotate when all the pins have reached the Sheer Line.

This is a type of Lockpicking technique that uses Rakes to run over the Key pins very fast while torque is applied to the Plug. This makes the Driver pins bounce up and hopefully become stuck above the Sheer Line.

Security Pins
Special types of Driver Pins that make picking a lock more difficult. The most common type is called a Spool Pin.

3 Must Have Lockpicks to get started

In conjunction with a Lockpick, you will need to create a Tension/Torque Wrench. These come in any of the sets that you can buy on
1) Short Hook
- has a short hook on the end for manipulating single Pins

2) Snake Rake
- Has a ‘snake’ shape on the end that is used to rake multiple Pins for quick entry. This Lockpick is shown in the photo, and you can see where it gets its name from

3) Half Diamond
- Used for either Raking or Single pin picking. A very versatile Lockpick to own.

These Picks can be purchased very cheaply from in the ads adjacent. Opt for Southord models as they are generally very Beginner friendly.

How a lock works

I assume that most of you skipped right past all of those terms, and that alright, because at the moment, they really won’t mean a whole lot to you.

When a Key is inserted into a lock, the little peaks and troughs that are on all keys lift the Driver Pins within the lock. The first pin is known as Pin One, and so on from there. When the correct key is fully inserted into the lock, the peaks and troughs lift the Key Pins just enough so that the gap between the Key Pins and Driver Pins reaches the Sheer Line. The Pins are being constantly pushed downwards by small springs that sit above the Driver Pins. When the gap between the Key pins and Driver Pins reaches the sheer line, there is nothing preventing the Plug from rotating within its Hull. This is basically how a Pin Tumbler lock works, pretty simple. This is why Picking these Locks is even easier! Reckon you’re ready to start Lockpicking? Check out part two to get right into Lockpicking Basics!

To start Lockpicking, go to PART 2 Here


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    • Haiden William profile image

      Haiden Clark 3 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

      Thanks, there really aren't enough in depth tutorials for beginners that explain the terms and theory

    • Arioch profile image

      Gordon D Easingwood 3 years ago from Wakefield, United Kingdom

      Definitely an interesting article