Monday, September 8, 2014

Lock Picking 101

Kerry Hammond is here today to tell us about her adventure in a lock picking 101 class.

I have always been fascinated by the idea of picking a lock. Blame it on my choice of television shows growing up: Remington Steele, Moonlighting, and Magnum P.I. Heck, even Lucy Liu, as Jane Watson, shows off her lockpicking skills in the show Elementary.  These actors always made it look extremely easy, and I always wondered if that was really the case. I also wondered if you can really use a hairpin, why they always have a tool in each hand, and how long it would really take.

Recently I was able to find out the answers to all of my questions, and even get some hands on experience. I scheduled a field trip for my mystery bookclub, Crime & Beyond, when I found out that a local place called The Concoctory was giving a Lockpicking 101 class. We were even able to buy our own set of picks for a decent price (mine are pictured here, each pick has 2 ends, so there are 4 types of picks in the photo).

I not only learned the basics during the class, but I actually picked a master lock all on my own. I have to say, it was extremely satisfying.  The following information is, of course, solely for recreational purposes. Not only should you NOT try and pick a lock to break into someone’s house or business, but you shouldn’t try and pick your own either. I guess you can damage it if you’re not careful. So practice on locks you purchase at a garage sale or thrift store.

The first basic thing to know is that locks have between 2 and 5 pins. These pins are raised to different heights when you insert your key, and how high they’re raised depends on the grooves in the key. Once the key is in all the way, and the pins are raised to their proper heights, the sheer line is clear and the key is able to turn the tumbler to unlock the door.

In order to pick the lock you need a pick and a tension wrench. The wrench is the L-shaped item pictured next to my two picks. I mostly used the half diamond pick from my kit, see diagram above. You first insert the tension wrench and apply slight pressure toward the way you’d turn the key. As you work the pins, the pressure you are exerting on the wrench should be enough to let you know when you’ve been successful. It will start to turn and unlock the lock. Now insert your pick and feel around for the pins as you move it in and out. You should feel it roll over each one and you can count how many there are.

There are two ways you can attempt to pick the lock. You can use the raking method, which is just pushing your pick in and out at a decent pace. This is done to attempt to pop all the pins into place based on the raking motion. You can use the snake pick for this.

The other way to try and pick the lock is by pushing up on each pin and trying to lock it into its proper place. The problem is, the pins are set to lock in a certain order. You have to push them up in that set order and with the right amount of pressure or they won’t lock in place. You’ll move your pick in and out and at random spots press up on a pin, trying to lock it into place. If you feel it lock, you move on to another. I wasn’t skilled enough to feel them lock in place, but at some point I felt my wrench turn and the lock popped open. 

To further my new hobby, I plan to build a practice station with a 2 pin, 3 pin and 5 pin lock. Who knows, maybe I’ll eventually get as skilled as actors pretend to be on tv. I think I’ll need to buy a nice leather pouch to carry my picks too.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a really fun class and now you own your own set of lock picking tools.