Lock Picking Techniques to Pick Different Types of Locks

Written by steve johnson
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Lock Picking Techniques to Pick Different Types of Locks
If there's a lock, chances are, there's a technique to pick it. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Lock picking techniques come in several methods depending on the type of lock being picked. Before learning this skill, be sure to understand the basics of how locks work to easily apply the concepts on how to pick each. Lock picking takes time to practice and only patience can help you become a skilled lockpicker. Don't pick locks that don't belong to you. That can be a crime.

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Pin Cylinder Lock Picking

A pin cylinder lock uses movable cylinder pins with different sizes and lengths. This set of pins prevents a lock from being opened if a person uses the wrong key. Picking cylinder locks requires two pieces of equipment: a lock pick and a tension or torsion wrench. Common picks for cylinder locks have a long hook end and a flat handle. A torsion wrench is a simple bent piece of metal that a lock picker inserts on the plug of a lock to hold picked pins in place. A lock picker uses pressure and feeling to know if a pin is in place. It takes a lot of practice for a beginner to acquire this skill.


Raking is another lock picking method used on pin cylinder locks and wafer locks. Instead of a hook pick, raking requires another type of pick known as a "snake rake." Snake rakes have tips with wavy lines and a lock is picked by moving the snake rake back and forth quickly to vibrate the pins rapidly until each pin aligns. A torsion wrench also holds the aligned pins in place.

Tubular Lock Picking

Tubular locks use cylindrical keys, but the mechanism inside is the same as a pin cylinder lock. It has a set of movable pins that line up when the right key is inserted. Commercial washing machines, vending machines and other coin-operated appliances commonly use tubular locks. Although tubular locks have the same mechanism that cylindrical pins have, you need to have a special picking device solely made to pick tubular locks. This device looks like a tubular or cylindrical key with several movable pins. To use this device, simply insert it on the lock's plug and turn it slowly. Each pin will slide and detect the required alignment to open the lock.

Combination Padlock Shims

Combination padlocks -- locks that have a rotating dial and require a combination of numbers to open -- can be picked by using padlock shims. Unlike other locks, regular combination locks only have a locking device that you can disengage easily when you use padlock shims. These shims are thin metal sheets with a protrusion that's about three to four inches long. To open a combination lock, insert a padlock shim between the hasp and the body of the lock and twist it quickly. If you apply enough force, the locking mechanism will disengage and the lock will open.

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