Instructables

How to pick a common cylinder lock

Step 1: Find a lock

Picture of Find a lock
Get yourself a secondhand lock, or a cheap padlock.

You want a Yale style keyway. Avoid anything off a car or other vehicle, since they are generally wafer locks. If you are in the UK, avoid getting a lever lock, you want either a rim cylinder, or a euro cylinder.

To start off, get the cheapest and loosest, most rubbish lock you can. This will make your first attempts far more likely to work.

Suitable ones are shown below (but some of these are very hard to pick!)

The first is a System Vario A from EVVA. You don't want to start on this, but it shows the shape of a euro style lock cylinder. I'll be showing you one of these today.

The second is an ERA rim cylinder, a good starter lock, in it's cheapest form.

The third is my training lock board, which is simply 3 32mm holes with the three locks fitted, then put in a clamp. You don't need an Instructable for that.
The top one is a Yale X5, the second is a standard Yale, and the third is some 6 pin restricted section.

The fourth picture is so you know what a euro cylinder looks like, side on.

Step 2: Unsuitable locks

Not suitable are the following:

The first is an ERA Fortress. This is a lever lock. (Americans only use these on high end safes. Many British doors have these fitted.)

The second is a Master combo padlock. It doesn't have a keyhole. But I'm sure you worked that out.
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stasterisk6 years ago
Steak knives are good cheap lockpick blanks
_soapy_ (author)  stasterisk6 years ago
Not very cheap, and generally too thick. Far better is either a set of shims or feeler gauges, which come in a range of thicknesses. The other option is either the wires off of street sweepers, or, my favourite, the stainless steel strips out of old windscreen wipers. I'll perhaps do a 'Make a pick' Instructable later on.
hacksaw blades make good blanks.
_soapy_ (author)  bradwerd6 years ago
They are ok, but I find that they are too brittle, even if you don't let them overheat when grinding them down. Best to go for big arcing curves with them, otherwise you might well end up trying to fish the end out one of your locks! I recommend going for the £1 shop packs of blades, as the good ones will be "bi-metallic" which means the teeth will be hard, but the rest will be really soft and not much use to you, as it will just deform. You want the cheap ones that shatter, as they will be rigid enough for a good pick. Snap the foot long blade into either two or three bits and grind the teeth off, for your blanks.
I made four with a hack saw blade. They work really well. When you are grinding them, you need to keep dipping them in a cup of water to fix overheating.
I bought loads of hacksaw blades, and only use them for this. They're crap at sawing, all hte teeth shear off within the first few strokes.
_soapy_ (author)  Vendigroth6 years ago
Then they are pretty much perfect, then. :-)
Yup! After a bit of instructable-following, i had a fairly good set of picks! (_)
SO... you like half life??
Xenel sean_cats4 years ago
Really off topic but i love that game!
Redgerr Xenel4 years ago
yep it is, gman for the win?
I picked a really small lock before, I guess it was 3 or a 4-pin lock, I just lifted the front-most pin and tada! I went "WTF! WEAK LOCK WHO MADE THIS THING?!?!" In case you're wondering what lock, it was the lock to a CAI (computer-aided instruction) unit that we needed to close, but then the key got lost so my friend left me to my lock-picking doom, but it didn't turn out to be my doom in the first place. By the way, would a tempered piece of wire (say, from a paper clip?) work? It's the closest I have to a shaped hacksaw blade. I seriously need it since the 2nd floor door to my bedroom is somehow always closed (yes, a cylinder lock). Now I know...
Your disclaimer sounds remarkably similar to a certain form...I smell L P 1 0 1.
This worked awesome! I was able to pick the very first two seargent and greenleaf padlocks that I tried, it was just like in the movies! But, when I tried to pick the one on the third shed the tension wrench thingy that I made broke and went inside the lock and when my dad got home he was mad as heck and started pacing back and forth (I think he keeps guns in there :-0). So to anybody thinking about trying this, unless you want to be grounded for two weeks with no computer and almost give your dad a heart attack DON'T use the windshield wiper blades to make the tension wrench thingy like I did. (I think they're allot cheaper in the US cuz when you bend em they don't flex they just stay bent). Anyway, this instructable taught me stuff I won't ever forget and I'm sure I'll use again someday. Even though it was my fault I give it 4 stars.
noahh4 years ago
I have what is probably a dumb question. when you say "Never, ever pick a lock you rely on" do you say this because it could break and ruin the lock, or does it just mean not to rely upon these as a substitute for keys? Thanks, Noahh.
You can't ruin a lock by picking it. You can only mess a lock up if you manage to break the pick or if something gets stuck in the lock whilst picking.
With "never pick a lock you rely on" is meant that you can't feel secure anymore if you manage to open your car or front door with a simple pick (and in less than 5 seconds, perhaps).
Ah, I see. Thanks for making that clear!
yankeee74 years ago
can you post templates somewhere or tell me where you got templates so that I can know the dimensions of the lockpicks?  I am trying to make my first lockpick set, any other advice?
girderland4 years ago
Great Job on the Instructable! You taught me lockpicking with it! After some additional research about "binding pins" and the purchase of a lockpicking set, I already managed to pick a heavy german Abus lock several times! However, I found 5 Abus locks in our garage, they're the same, they all have just one same key. Anyway, I managed to open one in 20 minutes, then 30, and finally 2. But I can only open that one of them. With the other ones, there is the problem that just 3 of 5 pins are binding and can be fixated. I always get stuck with 2 pins, raise the tension, but still no binding. what to do in this case?
minhocaloka5 years ago
WOW, totally useful!=D
tnx man!=D
splat325 years ago
you made these? they look like the pair i have from southord. cept my kit didnt come with a king or jiggler but it has like 12 other picks lol anyways. GREAT JOB MAKING THESE THINGS MAN
_soapy_ (author)  splat325 years ago
Thanks! These were actually made with a bench grinder and a bit of care, and a file. I started with feeler gauges, split them down into the thicknesses I wanted, and worked from there. Rough it out with a metal marking pen on the side, and grind the big areas away, plunge cooling into water every ten seconds or so, to keep things cool. Once the blanks are roughed out, either carry on, and dip more frequently, or swap to a hand file with the blank in a vice. Polish them up with a bit of wet and dry 600 grit, and work higher if you want to get a mirror finish. Don't try and force a stuck pin, drop your tension, or they may well snap. Most bought picks will bend first, but these tend to snap, like most homebrew picks.
splat32 _soapy_5 years ago
yeah, have em make a broken key extractor cause im guessing this instrucable is meant for "getting into your house when your locked out" but they key extractors help some
acctually, its alot easier to just use a modded hair pin thingie and some sort of tension wrench to open mild padlocks, i can open a yale in less than 2 seconds with them
_soapy_ (author)  maple grover5 years ago
Not to knock that, but certain locks with certain pinnings are trivial to open, while others of the exact same make and model are near impossible.
milamber5 years ago
templates to size top page works best (not mine)
Pick-Templates.pdf(612x792) 364 KB
jdeere125 years ago
what are those tension wrenches made out of?
_soapy_ (author)  jdeere125 years ago
Wiper blade insert. If you want some, go to a garage or find a car owner, and ask about the old wipers. Then you can strip the steel insert out with a knife and some pliers, depending on the type. The best type are the ones with the two thinner strips that don't need a knife. The bigger ones have a thick bit of steel that rusts and isn't much use.
mr.space5 years ago
dont try with paperclips, the metals too flimsy
just use a 3/4 stick or a pineapple and a bag of water all taped to the lock.
romstar365 years ago
you can buy them for under $20 bucks online.
or make them instantly for nearly free. no shipping time or paypal/ credit card needed.
This is a great exercise for the brain! Thanx, and I like Galaxy Quest, too! :}
turner226 years ago
quick question...if i were to snatch some wiper inserts from a friends car, would it render the blades useless? btw, awesome instructable.
For all those folks out there with all the questions, there is a lot to learn about picking locks and locksmithing in general. Like anything else it can get pretty involved, yet just about anything can be compromised with enough effort. I'm a "Certified Locksmith" myself, and in the short term, became frustrated with learning on my own. I proceeded with formal learning through the Foley-Belsaw Institute, and found that learning on my own was much easier after knowing the insides and outs. There are even books with the exact measurements for drilling through vaults to open them using the same instrument a doctor uses to look into your ear (and yes, for bank work, you will need specialty drill bits for the hardened steel). So for the serious folks, I'm sure Foley-Belsaw isn't the only place to start, and to get any where close to getting as good as _soapy_, you'll need some formal training thrown in there somewhere! Just remember, once you're known as a locksmith, you could also be known as a "potential suspect..." formal training or not!
Charles IV6 years ago
I have picked every lock I can find in my house including those really annoying really small locks and I think this is a great instructable. Although I think you only need a finger pick which you call a hook.
yes i aggree with you i have made just about every shape pick you could possibly think of but now all my pick set consists of is two slightly different shaped hooks and two tention wrenches made from wiper inserts and i have yet to find a lock i can not open!
_soapy_ (author)  chalky6 years ago
Ah, well, if you want some more, harder locks, I've got hundreds of them. Everything from a second to rake up to "unpickable by mortal hands". Try getting a few dimple locks. You can get the no-name ones for cheap, and go all the way up to the Multi-lock interactives (which aren't that hard once you know how) and then things like the Kaba Gemini, with (iirc) 10 active pins and 4 passive pins to beat before you get it open!
Great part about finding the one pin binding. i was having a hard time with single picking, but it works and makes alot more sense now! 5 stars!
vchb26 years ago
Fascinating! Can't wait to try it. Thanks.
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