How Lock Picking Works

by Robert Fox

When most individuals go out, they bring five to ten keys along with them. You may have many keys for the home, one or a couple more for the car, a bunch for the workplace or dorm on your keychain. Your keychain is a prime example of how common lock tech is: You presumably come into contact with your locks on weekly basis.

The primary reason we employ a lock generally is to offer a feeling of security. However, in movies and on TV, spies, investigators, and thieves can simply unlock a lock, often with only a handful of paper clips. Admittedly, this is a disturbing thought: Is it really conceivable for someone to unlock a lock that easily?

How Lock Picking Works
How Lock Picking Works

In this post, we'll look into the very real practice of lock picking while also delving into the intriguing mechanics of locks and keyways.

Lock-picking is defined by locksmiths as the control of a lock's elements in order to unlock a lock without the need for a key. To learn to pick a lock, you must first grasp how a lock and key function.

Locks are available in a variety of forms and sizes, with several inventive design modifications. Examining one basic, sample lock will give you a good concept of how the method of lock picking works. The majority of locks are built on concepts that are very identical.

How Lock Picking Works
How Lock Picking Works

The most common lock for most of us is the traditional deadbolt lock seen on front doors. A moveable bolt or latch implanted in the door allows it to be stretched out at the side of a standard deadbolt locking. This bolt is parallel to a notch in the framing. When you twist the lock, the bolt stretches into the frame notch, preventing the door from moving. The door slides easily when the bolt is retracted.

The only purpose of a deadbolt locking is to make it easy for someone with a key to move the bolt while making it hard for anyone without a key to operate it.

How Lock Picking Works
How Lock Picking Works

Picking Locks: Cylindrical Locks

A cylinder lock is used in the majority of deadbolts. The key in a cylinder lock rotates a cylinder which further rotates a connected cam. When the plug is rotated in one direction, the cam pushes the bolt, allowing the door to open. When the plug rotates in the other direction, the cam releases the bolt, and the spring clamps it into place, preventing the door from opening. There is no spring operation in a deadbolt lock; instead, the revolving cylinder moves the bolt forward as well as backward. Because it is far more difficult to force the bolt through the side of the door, a deadbolt is safer than a spring-driven latch.

Picking Locks: Cylindrical Locks
Picking Locks: Cylindrical Locks

Lock Picking: Pin-and-tumbler Locks

We know that the right key positions the pins in a pin-and-tumbler locking such that all of the lower pins rest in the cylinder's plug and all of the higher pins rest in the cylinder's housing. To pick this kind of lock, just slide the pin pair into its proper position one at a time.

The choosing process is comprised of two major components:

• Picks - Picks are long, thin metallic pieces that curve up at the end. Picks are being used to reach inside the lock and raise the pins.

• Tension wrenches - are available in a multitude of forms and sizes. They are not really complicated in terms of functionality. A thin flathead screwdriver is the most basic kind of tension wrench.

Lock Picking: Pin-and-tumbler Locks
Lock Picking: Pin-and-tumbler Locks

Picking Locks: Wafer-tumbler & Tubular Locks

We examined pin-and-tumbler cylindrical locks. This kind of lock may be found anywhere, from homes to padlocks. They are so famous because they are affordable yet provide enough protection. There are around a million distinct pin setups for a conventional pin-and-tumbler locking with 5 pins. Given the variety of lock brands and lock types, the chances of a thief possessing the same keys as you are minimal.

The wafer tumbler locking is another frequent form of the cylinder lock. They function in the same manner as pin-and-tumblers, except with thin wafer-shaped tumblers instead of pins. Picking wafers is precisely the same as picking pins; in fact, picking wafer-tumbler locking is somewhat simpler since the keyhole is bigger.

Picking Locks: Wafer-tumbler & Tubular Locks
Picking Locks: Wafer-tumbler & Tubular Locks

Lock Picking- Rekeying and Master Keying

One fascinating feature of pin-and-tumbler locks is that they may be re-configured to accommodate an existing key. The benefits are self-evident: You can install new locking to your house or company without having to buy a lot of new keys.

To produce a new key for an existent lock, cut a pattern of notches in the key such that each of the top pins is raised slightly over the shear line. Basically, you carve a sequence in the metal that corresponds to the design of the lock's pins. To modify a lock to suit an existing key, just work in the reverse direction: alter the sequence of the lock's pins to fit the sequence of notches on the key. If the lock is built with a universal keying mechanism, any locksmith may quickly re-key it. Locks may easily be re-keyed at most hardware shops. You could see how re-keying functions in this simple lock arrangement.

As you open the cylinder's shafts and unload them, you'll find springs and small pins. The top pins are all precisely the same size. The rest of the pins (the bottom pins) will be of varying lengths to correspond with the key's notches.

Re-keying a padlock is a straightforward procedure. All of the pins in the cylinder are removed by the locksmith. Then the locksmith picks new lower pins that exactly fit between the key's notches and the shear line from a stock of replacement pins of different sizes. When you enter the new key, the lower pins will push all of the top pins slightly over the shear line, enabling the cylinder to easily revolve. (This procedure may differ depending on the structure of the locking.)

Lock Picking- Rekeying and Master Keying
Lock Picking- Rekeying and Master Keying

The Picker Codes in Lock Picking

The Picker Codes in Lock Picking
The Picker Codes in Lock Picking

Skilled lock-pickers may need a few paper clips and a simple screwdriver, but having the right equipment makes the process easier and faster. A tension wrench and a variety of picks are included in a basic lock-picking toolkit. The biggest difference between the picks is the curvature of their heads. Different heads are more suited to certain types of locks and picking procedures.

Some lock pickers may use an electric picking gun. A pick pistol is made up of one or even more vibrating, pick-shaped metal bits. These lengthy bits of metal are inserted into the locks in the same way as a pick is. The pins rise when the metal components shake.

This operates similarly to scraping a lock. As the picks shake, you spin the cannon, catching some of the pins at the shear line. These gadgets will sometimes unlock the lock in a couple of seconds, and other times they will not function at all. Most professional lock-pickers skip these gadgets because they eliminate the puzzle-solving aspect of the procedure.

Lock picking is an important ability for locksmiths since it allows them to bypass a lock without damaging it. If you locked yourself in your home or forgot your key, a locksmith can simply let you back in.

Lock-picking abilities are not extremely prevalent among thieves, due to the abundance of other, easier methods of getting into a home. Only thieves who need to hide their tracks, such as detectives and investigators, will bother picking a lock.

The professional lock-picker, also known as a hacker, is a person who works in the middle ground between the locksmith and the thief. Their code, similar to that of professional computer hackers, is to pick locks just for the sake of picking locks, and nothing else. Of course, intruding on private property is against the law and also wrong no matter what the purpose for doing so. In the event that an individual attempt to pick a lock that belongs to someone else, he or she will very probably be detected and prosecuted for breaking and entering.

It is possible that learning the foundations of lock picking will change your whole outlook on locks and keys. Lock picking demonstrates clearly that ordinary locks are not reliable mechanical devices. They provide a level of security that may be readily evaded or broken. The majority of locks are in place just to protect the honor of law-abiding residents and to prevent criminals. A determined burglar can gain entry into almost any structure if he has the proper equipment.


About Robert Fox

Rob Fox is a former hydro worker, who used to teach self defence in Miami for 10 years. His hobbies include cribbage, golf, locksmithing, and cooking.

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