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How to Pick a Lock

Updated February 21, 2017

Ever locked yourself out of your own house? Got a desk drawer with important documents in it but you've lost the key? It's for situations like these (and countless others you would not think about until they happen) that knowing how to pick a lock is an essential skill everyone should know.

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  1. Straighten your paperclip as much as you can. Ideally it will be totally straight, but a few small kinks here and there will not be too big a problem. Bend the tip of one end 90 degrees to form your pick. Place the tip of the flathead screwdriver in the lock at the bottom of the shaft and slide the pick in above it.

  2. Feel where the pins in the lock are by pushing each one up using the pick. They should be hard to push but if they are not, increase the torque you are applying to the lock by turning the screwdriver a little. Ease off on the torque if one of the pins will not move at all, as you need to be able to push them to pick the lock.

  3. Push each pin out of the barrel of the lock in turn. After each pin has been pushed up, gently increase the torque you are applying to the lock; which prevents the pin from falling back down into the lock. Move on to the next pin until all the pins are out of the barrel and the lock can be opened.

  4. Tip

    It is possible to “rake” a lock to open multiple pins at once. To do this, leave a series of bumps in the paperclip when you straighten it. Place the scewdriver tip in the lock as normal and slide the paperclip in above it. Pull the paperclip out fully and increase the torque (but not by too much) at the same time. Repeat until the lock is open.


    Picking a lock you do not own is a criminal offence unless you have the express permission of the owner to do so. Under no circumstances should you attempt to pick a lock in order to gain access to another person's property without their permission. To do so risks imprisonment.

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Things You'll Need

  • Small flathead screwdriver with a thin tip
  • Paperclip

About the Author

April Kohl

Based in the United Kingdom, April Kohl has been writing since 1992, specializing in science and legal topics. Her work has appeared on the Second Life News Network website and in British Mensa's "LSQ" magazine. Kohl holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from Durham University and a diploma in English law from the Open University.

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