Warning: This guide is solely written with the intention to help someone who has been locked out of their home or been stranded without a key. It is definitely not written to encourage criminal activity. The guide teaches basic steps of how to pick a lock with different tools that are readily available everywhere.
Perhaps you are here because you are learning lock picking as a hobby, or perhaps because you want to advise people about security. Maybe you are here because you want to buy locks for your own needs and ensure that they are safe, or are training as a professional security consultant. Or maybe, you have simply lost the key to a padlock. No matter what your background, this guide will help you learn the basics of different ways to pick a lock with readily available tools like pen, hairpin, pencil, card, knife, etc.
1. With a lock pick set
Many of us would not think of investing in a lock pick set. In reality, a lock pick set is very small and can easily fit into a purse or wallet. It is a good idea to keep a lock pick set in the car just in case you have to face a locked cabinet or room. A lock pick set consists of a lock pick and a tension wrench. These are the only tools one needs to easily pick a lock. And all the other methods of how to pick a lock described below more or less rely on creating these two tools with things on hand:
Here are the steps to pick a lock using a tension wrench and a lock pick:
- Insert the tension wrench into the keyhole and press it down on the small notch at the bottom of the keyhole. Some locks will allow you to turn the wrench into the same direction as you’d turn the key. Try to ‘sense’ how much tension to add so that it creates a small ledge that offsets the plug and enough to catch the pin shafts.
- Next, insert the lock pick and lift the pins one by one until you hear a click indicating that the upper pin has fallen in position. When all pins are in position, the plug will rotate freely and you would have opened the lock.
2. With a hairpin
To pick a lock with a hairpin, you’d need two hairpins. You basically want to be able to create a tension wrench and a lock pick with those pins.
- Bend one hairpin until its two arms are about 90 degrees apart. If the pin has a rounded end at one side, remove it with your teeth. Be careful, you don’t want to injure yourself. Insert one arm of the bent pin about 1 cm inside the lock and apply sight pressure on it so that it gets slightly bent. This forms the pick.
- The other pin, bend it at the curve to form a lever or the wrench. This will go inside the keyhole and provide rotational motion to the lock.
- Now insert the lever into the keyhole ensuring that there is enough room on top to insert the bent pin (the pick).
- Maintain constant pressure on the lower pin (the lever). You should be able to ‘sense’ that the upper pin (or the pick) is able to move the lock’s pin shafts freely up and down. Insert the pick to lift each pin and let it fall again. Some pins will be much harder to push up than the rest.
- You will hear an audible click when the pick is able to align with the ceased pin shaft.
- Identify each ceased pin shaft successively until all of the pin-shafts are successively held in place.
- You can now turn the lever to open the lock.
This procedure is explained in detail in this video.
3. With a couple of paperclips
As explained before, the key to picking a lock with paperclips lies in making the clips perform the job of a tension wrench and a pick in step 1 above.
- Use pliers to straighten out the bends in the first paper clip.
- Now fold the straightened clip in a V-shape and use pliers again on them to join them properly together.
- Bend the joint of the paper clip about 1 cm so that it now looks like the letter L.
- To give strength to the bent clip, twist the two arms of the clip together all the way to the end. Our tension wrench is ready.
- For the second clip, open out the arm of the clip. Use pliers on the tip of the unfolded arm to create a small bump on it. (See this video for explanation). Our pick is ready.
- Insert the tension tool at the bottom of the lock’s keyhole. Create tension in the lock’s shaft with the tool.
- Take the pick and insert it into the upper half of the keyhole.
- Start manipulating each pin to bring them to the right point. You will hear clicks each time that happens.
- When all the pins of the shaft are in the right position, you can turn the lower paper clip or the tension tool and open the lock.
4. With a pen or pencil and screwdriver
This trick usually works on small, flimsy locks with small keys. It might not work on larger locks. You also need a screwdriver for this method of picking a lock.
- Insert the writing end of the pen’s refill in the keyhole.
- Simultaneously, insert the screwdriver in the hole and turn the hole along with the pen’s refill. The lock should open.
Check out this video for a detailed explanation.
5. With a card
A plastic credit card can help you get inside a locked door when you do not have the key. All you need is a standard doorknob, a plastic/laminated card, and stead hands.
- A plastic or laminated card will only open a spring-type lock that comes with a doorknob. It won’t work on a deadbolt.
- Insert the plastic card in between the doorframe and the knob. Some doors have molding which can make this process difficult.
- Holding the card flush against the door frame, start wiggling and pushing the card towards the knob.
- As you push the card in, begin bending it away from the doorknob. Slide the latch back. The door should open.
Check this video for details.
6. With a knife
A sharp knife can be used to open small locks. Simply insert the sharp point of the knife into the keyhole and press down the small hatch there. The lock should open. You can also open a standard doorknob based door with a sliding lock mechanism using a butter knife. Use the same steps as described in the section on how to pick a lock with a card (above). Just use the knife instead of a card.
We hope that you are successfully able to pick a lock with one of the methods described above.