Introduction: DIY Lock Picks

Picture of DIY Lock Picks

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I locked myself out of my house the other day... D'oh! It would've been easy enough to break a window, but hey it's my own home. So I decided to try and pick my way in. I used a pair of garden shears to cut up a hose clamp which I used as a pick and tension wrench. Even though it was a very crude piece of work, it did the job!

So I decided to polish my impromptu lock picks into something more presentable. Now that I'm not locked out of my home, I was able to use these things to make a simple lock pick and tension wrench:

Hose clamp
Safety gear

Don't have a Dremel? Like I said, I made picks using rusty garden shears, so I'm sure you can be resourceful, too.

I've entered this into the Spy Contest. These may not be the most sophisticated lock picks, but a spy must be ever resourceful when a situation becomes dire (like locking oneself out of one's own home...)

This is just an example of how I made some simple lock picks. There are many different designs and materials out there. I hope this Instructable inspires you to make something for fun in the way you want, not necessarily copy what I did here. And of course, use lock picks for entertainment purposes only. Enjoy!

Step 1: Prep the Hose Clamp

Picture of Prep the Hose Clamp

I chose to use a hose clamp to make these lock picks for a few reasons. Hose clamps are made from very thin and rigid steel, which is ideal for picks, and the slotted part of the band can be easily cut with a Dremel or even good quality hand tools. Hose clamps are also inexpensive and easy to find at hardware stores. And perhaps most importantly, it's what I found lying around in my backyard the first time!

Begin by completely unscrewing the hose clamp and laying it flat as shown in the second photo.

Step 2: Cut and Shape the Pick

Picture of Cut and Shape the Pick

If you have a vice, secure the flattened hose clamp in it. I did not have a vice, so I held the clamp in place with a cinder block. Use the Dremel to cut a thin 5" strip of from the slotted part of the hose clamp. Hold the loose end of the clamp with pliers. And of course, use safety goggles, dust mask, and protective gloves.

Next, use the Dremel to clean up the pick (2nd picture). If you don't have a Dremel, use a file. Use pliers to give the end of the pick a slight upward bend. I also ground one of the ends of the pick into a semi-circle - this helps the pick get under the pins (3rd picture).

Step 3: Cut and Shape the Tension Wrench

Picture of Cut and Shape the Tension Wrench

With the hose clamp still in the vice (or smooshed in place by a cinder block), cut another 5" off for the tension wrench (picture 2). Use the Dremel one more time to cut a few of the 'teeth' off of the end of the hose clamp (picture 3). Finally, use a pair of pliers to bend the end of the tension wrench (picture 4).

Step 4: Apply Sugru + Video

Picture of Apply Sugru + Video

Use the Dremel or file to clean up any rough edges (this is only necessary for the parts that are inserted into the lock because the rest will be covered in Sugru). I also bent the end of my pick just because it allows for a better grip.

Finally, apply Sugru to any part of the pick and wrench that will not be inserted into the lock. Rub a small amount of dish soap over the Sugru to achieve a smooth texture.

As a novice lock picker, being able to easily grip the picks greatly reduces hand fatigue. It's also just plain comfy, and hey, who doesn't like to use Sugru at every possible opportunity?

Let the Sugru cure overnight, and then you're finished!

Here's a short clip of the lock picks being used on a cheap 4-pin padlock I bought at a thrift store for practice:

Step 5: Ideas for Improvement + Resources

Picture of Ideas for Improvement + Resources

There are a hundred ways to make a good lock pick - this Instructable is simply what worked best for me with the tools and skills I possess. However I'm sure there are better ways to make lock picks. More than a step-by-step tutorial, this Instructable should be used as a jumping point for your own creative designs. Maybe it would be a good idea to leave one of the 'teeth' at the end of the pick to help push the pins out of the tumbler. I've also read that grinding an allen wrench or screwdriver down to key-width makes for a good pick.

Here's a helpful guide on how lock picking works, which can be downloaded in PDF format for free:

Have fun being a maker, and be smart about how you choose to use lock picks!


jack002 (author)2017-06-03

I have used bike spokes, you smash them with a hammer on an anvil, also metal inside used wiper blades is great

stealthop (author)2016-05-07

I think hacksaw blades would be the way to go . Great instructable very intuitive .

tpeters8 (author)stealthop2016-05-09

sitting here trying to think of something that might be just a little stronger and you nailed it with the hacksaw blade idea. thanks!

stealthop (author)tpeters82016-05-09

The cool thing about hacksaw blades is you can get em in various widths including but not limited to 0.025 for american locks and 0.015 for european / paracentric locks. Also you can get different grades of steel .
I hope this helps , enjoy ?

Jack of Most Trades (author)2012-06-10

Nice 'structable, and congrats on your success first time in.
Just goes to show that locks are only for keeping honest people honest...

is it true that a good dead lock can't be picked because the bolt is to heavy or hard to move with the pick? I heard that once but that doesn't sound very true after reading about lock-picking.

Btw...thanks for regenerating.

mce128 (author)adam 1012012-06-13

An actual DEADLOCK mechanism can't really be picked from the outside without doing quite noticable damage to the door and lock. This is due to the DEADLOCKING mechanism being contained completely inside the lock and having NO interface on the outward facing side of the lock. I am oversimplifying this a bit, but not much.

A DEADBOLT OTOH, whole 'nother story... there are very few locking mechanisms which are still yet unpicked, and they are not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination and some are even fairly difficult to get depending on what country you live in (ubiquity varies by country due to other locks being popular in other countries.) However, to someone who is VERY well practiced and continues to practice regularly and skilled as well, most locks are not an impediment. It comes back to the old adage "Locks are to keep honest people honest."

mce128 (author)mce1282012-06-13

I think I need to clarify my first statement, a DEADLOCK mechanism can't be picked at all, it can be damaged so as to access it's operational parts making TONS of noise and mess, attracting LOTS of attention.

gozzo68. (author)mce1282014-12-21

deadlocks CAN be picked. The whole idea of picking a lock is to use the picks and wrench as a key. So if it opens with a key it CAN be picked I find dead locks easier than ordinary locks as the heaviness of the mechanism allows the use of less finnese

mce128 (author)gozzo68.2015-04-09

You are thinking of a deadbolt which of course can be picked so long as there is a lock cylinder (some are only a thumbturn on the interior and have no external cylinder or access.) A deadlock, however, is an internal mechanism which prevents the movement of the bolt and is not attached to any external mechanism(s), with the only physical interface being an actuator of some sort that is located on the interior side only. And regardless of it only being on the interior, it is just a knob, slider, button or similar, there is absolutely nothing to pick.

RobbieR1 (author)mce1282015-01-20

Most deadbolts i have ever tried to pick has been fairly easy assuming i have my full LP kit, a lot of american deadbolts can be pretty easily bi passed which a pro would try first. Bi passing is quicker,easier,and more efficient

gozzo68. (author)adam 1012014-12-21

no any lock can be picked, although it takes practice and patience locks with mushroom pins are way harder to pick. Also someone mentioned bump keys in an above comment. Bump keys take A LOT of practice and are very loud. A five pound hammer would be quicker and one single loud thump attracts way less attention. Thieves are thieves because they are lazy. Picking a lock takes work.

slamonella (author)adam 1012012-06-10

No, that's not true.

I like the Sugru handles, too, but you didn't have Sugru with the garden shears for the first ones you made, did you?

No, I didn't - after scraping my hands up quite a bit I found a rag and wrapped it around the pick and wrench.

mce128 (author)LanceMakes2012-06-13

I'm curious... How much does the segru dampen feedback from the pin stacks?

is it true that a good dead lock can't be picked because the bolt is to heavy or hard to move with the pick? I heard that once but that doesn't sound very true after reading about lock-picking.

Skymeat (author)adam 1012012-06-11

Like Salmonella said. It can be picked. Some locks are harder than others.

ThomasN4 (author)2015-03-29

I'd like to point out that this is not picking, it's a variation called raking. Though it still gets the job done on most lower quality locks, if you have a fairly good lock, raking won't cut it.

Though I agree raking is a valuable skill to learn, especially to the beginner, if you're serious about lock picking you should learn to SPP (Single Pin Pick).

LanceMakes (author)2012-06-10

Indeed, I tried to buy lock picks at a local locksmith, but as it turns out one needs to have a locksmith permit to own lock picks... which makes a lot of sense.

ThomasN4 (author)LanceMakes2015-03-29

Actually, one doesn't, usually. Unless the company is feeding you some BS about that, they're just misinformed.

adam 101 (author)LanceMakes2012-06-10

No, it really doesn't make sense. This instructable demonstrates that picks are easy to make. Therefore, restricting their sale does very little to prevent there sale.

lperkins (author)adam 1012012-06-10

Not to mention that very few thieves bother to learn how to use such tools. There are much easier, faster ways to open locks if one doesn't care about causing damage.

mce128 (author)lperkins2012-06-13

INDEED! This is such a common misconception (that burglars are out picking locks.) This is patently absurd. Even if they cased the house in advance, to check out what brand of lock is on a door, there are too many variables to spend time dickering around at the front door picking a lock in view of the world... they are going to try and bypass or break a window or other non-door based entry typically.

ThomasN4 (author)mce1282015-03-29

However, if it's a low-quality lock that can easily be rocked or raked, they would probably lock pick it, just so that it'd seem to the casual observer that he's just unlocking the door with a key. Also, it would make it less obvious that something were wrong for a while, giving him even more time to get away.

lperkins (author)mce1282012-06-14

The typical method of forcing a door lock quietly is a sheet metal screw on a draw hammer and rip the tumbler out. Takes expensive materials and manufacturing processes to make a lock proof against that. And yet, somehow, they don't go around requiring licenses for autobody repair tools...

mce128 (author)lperkins2012-06-14

Yeah, I was avoiding mentioning specific bypass methods such as things like makeshift nose pullers or even proper nose pullers.(That's why I just said bypass generically.) Also, it's not uncommon to try and jimmy the frame, or break glass near the door and use the thumbturn (if there is glass on or next to the door,) or any of the others mentioned above too. There are a myriad of ways to get past doors, windows, etc... it's actually fairly disturbing. Especially when one lives in the US given the typical locks used as opposed to the typical locks used in other countries.

lperkins (author)mce1282012-06-15

The weakest point on just about every home door I've ever seen is the door frame. Most of them are made of wood and won't stand up to a good solid kick from a large fellow. Two kicks at best. On the bright side, $12 worth of steel and an hour and a half with a drill and a jigsaw puts them back in the realm of crawling in through a broken window...

mce128 (author)lperkins2012-06-15

Very true... many door frames are not even properly installed, or are just not strong enough. A little bit of reinforcing goes a very long way.

mce128 (author)LanceMakes2012-06-13

Nice job on the improvisation BTW... As far as needing a permit/license that varies greatly state by state.

mlsjunk (author)2012-06-10

Be careful not to take them off your property as it is illegal to possess burglar tools in most states unless you are a licensed locksmith.

ThomasN4 (author)mlsjunk2015-03-29

If by "most states" you mean four states.

mce128 (author)mlsjunk2012-06-13

Most states don't have a concept of Licensed Locksmith

Spokehedz (author)mlsjunk2012-06-10

I don't know about you, but 8 states and 1 district doesn't make that 'most' to me.

survival of the extreme (author)2015-02-02

They are not cinder blocks any more they stopped making those 60 years ago they are now made of cement

blownfuse4160 (author)2012-06-11

Kudos! Great info! I would like to toss out a bit of info, on possible material that could be used, or so I have been told. Old hacksaw blades! I ran across an old tool room guy, that was collecting the old blades, when someone would come in to exchange theirs on a job site, many years ago. He was saving the old 1's to make pick sets from them,( and making a few extra $$, selling them on the job sites!). So if you happen to have some laying around in your own workshop, and have the time to fiddle around sometime, they might just come in handy someday?

gozzo68. (author)blownfuse41602014-12-21

hacksaw blades are generally to brittle for making picks and snap if you try to bend them into a tension wrench. Just go to or if on a budget

BrittLiv (author)blownfuse41602012-06-13

I agree, hacksaw blades are a really good material (I've uploaded an image of picks I made with one). I tried using hose clamps today, but the pick is to unstable for my taste (maybe the material differs, between different brands). Kudos though on finding a way to get into your house with stuff you had lying around! Have you tried using a plastic card first?

mce128 (author)BrittLiv2012-06-13

Feeler gauge stock works VERY well too.Honestly, if one had to fashion a pick in an emergency, yeah sure use a hose clamp... outside of that, the only time I've really seen people using hose clamps is to make specialized picks for MTL telescoping pin locks. Lots of people use and swear by hacksaw blades though. So, I'm not going to knock it.

Here is a pick I made from starrett 666 .020" feeler gauge stock with a hammered copper and patinated handles.

Barqz2 (author)2014-07-25

can buy anything online from any state no questions

trknust (author)2012-06-10

One other place to get really good material for this kind of thing is an old car windshield wiper. Each of these have a really stiff stainless steel strip that keeps the rubber straight. And it is almost exactly the same size as what you get after cutting out the clamp.
That clamp is a really good idea though. I had never thought of that.

Dastan1996 (author)trknust2014-01-12

Yeah, we usually use those in Italy too (to make lock picks). Really good material for this purpose - and many others!

LanceMakes (author)trknust2012-06-10

so I've heard, though I don't have wiper blades. However, during the last rainy season I noticed that old wiper blades were piled high in the trash can outside a nearby auto parts store. Hmm....

mce128 (author)LanceMakes2012-06-13


ag3 (author)LanceMakes2012-06-10

Anyone living in a major metropolis or a place with a shopping center that uses a street sweeper to clean the lot, keep an eye out. they use spring steel bristles that are great for this sort of utility.

ag3 (author)ag32012-06-10

oh and mini-screwdriver sets work well also.

comp_wiz101 (author)2012-09-10

Thanks for the 'ible! I'm restoring a vintage moped (1970s Motobecane), and the steering lock was locked in place without a key. Your instructions inspired me to make a quick set of picks out of some high-carbon steel wire. A bit of bending and hammering made a tension wrench and pick that lasted long enough for me to:
A) Learn how to pick on my old padlock
B) Unlock the steering lock and remove it

Now the lock is at the lock smith for keying!

cb92 (author)2012-07-10

I manage a 200 year old building. I save all the old locks, good luck picking them. The moving part of the lock is the size of a deck of cards. I make my own keys for the old locks, had one on my workshop for ten years, no worries.
From what I've learned about bump keys and lock picks, I plan to put slide bolts on all the doors but one, and the old lock on the last door. That's how it was done in my building in the old days. They used two to three foot long hooks to hold the doors shut. The eyes were anchored in the masonry and the hooks carriage-bolted to the doors. I save the old hooks, too. Real works of blacksmithing art.
I just ordered a set of bump keys and lock picks online, no questions asked.
The fun thing for the street people to do is to find a padlock unlocked and lock it somewhere else. Maybe the owner of the lock won't notice until it is too late, and put a sub-standard lock on their business.

lovethebackwoods (author)2012-06-22

Very neat DIY, thanks! Some things are fun to create, even "for entertainment purposes only." I was late for work a few months ago when I accidentally locked myself out of my rental car - they only give you one key as a rule, and I am used to carrying 3-4 car keys so I won't lock myself out - but I did, anyway. I called work and explained, got (deservedly) laughed at, then tried and tried to break into the rental car with actual purchased lock picks. Fortunately, our insurance reimbursed me when I finally had to give up and call and wait for a locksmith!

I endorse multiple keys! My dad had a spare house key hidden in the back shed somewhere in a small wooden box labeled Owl Pellets! He had one or two real pellets on the top layer and the key hidden underneath! Strange, though, because he'd go off on a two-week road trip and never lock up the house.

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