Introduction: Making Lockpicks From Hacksaw Blades

Picture of Making Lockpicks From Hacksaw Blades

NOTE 1: In the state I live in it is not illegal to own lock picks. Make sure to check out the regulations where you live to make sure you aren't breaking the law!

NOTE 2: There are a lot of steps that use a high speed rotary tool , and a few open flames in this instructable. Please use proper safety equipment and be careful not to injure yourself or anyone else. Be sure to wear goggles or safety glasses, as there is a LOT of metal dust made during the process as well.

I recently attended a few TOOOL meetups and got interested in "locksport" or lock picking for fun, and if you get good, competition! I looked online, and a set of basic lock picks is pretty cheap(under $20), but I also found a bunch of templates for making your own using hacksaw blades.

I already own most of the tools required, and Harbor freight has 50 hack saw blades for $5. Each blade can make 2 picks. So instead of paying $20 for a set of picks i can make my own for about $10, and have 45 hacksaw blades left over, plus the pride of knowing "I made that!"

Sounds like an obvious choice to me.

I entered this instructable into both the "Tools" and the "Apocalypse Preparedness" contests. Please vote for me if you like this Instructable!

Step 1: Tools

Picture of Tools

You are going to need:

a long handle pair of pliers or (preferably) vice grips

blowtorch (or a stove if you are patient)

Dremel rotary tool with cut off disks, sanding disks and the red(aluminum oxide) grinding drum.

sand paper

small set of metal files

a marker

a small vice(optional)

a small wood block to sand/grind on(optional)

Step 2: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

Hack saw blades (1 for every two picks you want to make)

Propane for your blowtorch

Template for the picks you want to make. You can find tons on Google image search. I just free handed mine, but I took the shapes from the templates, instead of fixing them to the blades.

Step 3: Break the Blades

Picture of Break the Blades

Measure the halfway point of the blades (usually around 6 inches) then snap them in half. The steel is hardened to prevent wear during sawing. This is awesome if you are trying to cut stuff WITH the hacksaw, but if you are trying to reshape the blade its awful. Your tools will wear down more quickly and take longer to get the job done. The one advantage is that it makes the metal brittle, so you can grab it right in the middle and snap it like a twig..

Step 4: Clean the Blades

Picture of Clean the Blades

The next step in the process is to sand off the paint that is on the blades,(if any) and then wipe them down with some clean water. I used the sanding drum attachment of my Dremel for the bulk of this job, and did cleanup work with a sheet of 150 grit sand paper. I use a small block of wood to keep the blade from vibrating or jumping around while I work on it with a Dremel. Sorry, this isn't the best picture.

Step 5: Break Temper

Picture of Break Temper

As I mentioned, the hack saw blades are made from hardened steel. This means that if you were to try and file or shape the metal, it would be really, REALLY hard to do. In order to make the steel softer and easier to work with, you need to break the temper of the steel. Time for one of my favorite tools - THE BLOWTORCH!

Just grab the end of the blade with some vice grips or long pliers and then hold it in the flame of the blowtorch until it is orange hot. When I did this, I had to move the blowtorch back and forth and work the length of the blade for several minutes.

Once it is orange hot, put it in a heat proof container to cool for at least 15 minutes. Be VERY careful as the blades are still hot once they have stopped glowing orange.

I don't actually own a blow torch, so the first pick I made I used my stove. I have a stove that uses a 2 piece burner, and if I take off the top plate, I get a foot long flame that shots out of my burner. I wouldn't recommend this method, as it take a really long time, and it gives mediocre results at best, but if it's your only option, you can look into it. Be sure to have a fire extinguisher on hand, regardless of methodology used. Safety first!

Step 6: The Grind

Picture of The Grind

Bust out your Dremel again, and load up a red grinding stone. Take a freshly cooled blade, clamp it in either a bench vice or some vice grips, and grind off all the blade teeth.

At this point you will have a half of a hacksaw blade covered in soot from a blow torch, and scratches and burrs from the grinding stone. That's OK, because the next step is to smooth it out. Load up your sanding drum and sand off all the soot and burrs. When you are done, the piece should be shiny, and smooth. Don't worry if you have tool marks or scratches, as you will be scuffing it again. At this point you just want it to be easy to handle, so make sure it is free of sharp edges or burrs, and you are ready to move on.

Step 7: Laying Out You Design

Picture of Laying Out You Design

I have an old door knob for reference, but you can use one still in a door to mark the length for the actual work end of the pick. You want it to be long enough to reach from the front of the knob all the way to the "neck" of the knob. Start measuring from the end of the blank that is flat, this will leave the rounded end on the pick to make it comfortable to hold while using. Decide what type of pick you are making, and draw that in on the end of the pick. then draw an arc from the top of the pick down to the pick tip you drew on earlier. Start just before the line you drew and go all the way down near the "handle". I can't describe it well, so look at the image. This is the rough outline of your pick.

Step 8: Cutting

Picture of Cutting

Load a cutting disk into your Dremel, and start making cuts from the top pf the pick down towards the layout lines you have drawn on the pick. This is to make it easier to remove sections of the metal without having to "bury" the cutting disk in an inch and a half of steel. Once your groove are cut, come in at a 45 degree angle and start cutting out all the metal tabs. Once all the tabs are gone, use the cutting disk and grinding drum to refine the shape of the pick. Be sure to support the steel on the shank of the pick, as it is only 1/4 inch thick at most at this point. A high speed rotary tool will tear it off in a second of you aren't careful. We actually had to change this pick from a hook to a half round because the tip cracked during the shaping process.

Step 9: Refine and Shape

Picture of Refine and Shape

After you have cut out the rough shape of the pick and gotten as much done with the cut off disk, swap out the cutter for the grinding stone again. Use the grinding stone to smooth and shape the shank of the pick as well as the pick tip, until it is the shape you want. Again, grinding and other shaping done with a high speed rotary tool can damage the metal in a blink, so be careful. Let the tool do the work, don't force it, and don't use a high speed. I never put my Dremel over a 3(of 5) when working on these. Don't worry about getting things perfect with the grinder, because once you have refined the shape you will be sanding and then filing it some more. I use the sander drum on the Dremel and some small files to finalize the shape. I use the wooden block for support where I can, especially when using the hand files so I don't bend the shank out of alignment. Its ok to have a slight bend in the pick, you can just bend it back when you are done, but too many bends back and forth weakens the metal so it is best to void it if possible.

Step 10: Thinning Out the Shank and Head

Picture of Thinning Out the Shank and Head

Hack saws are just a little too thick to be picks, so once I have finished cutting grinding and filing, the last thing I do is sand both sides with the Dremel and a sandpaper drum. Not only does this thin out the metal, but it also takes out a lot of the scratches and marks from the shaping process, and you can "blend" the sanding marks in to the sanding marks from when you cleaned the metal after heating. This gives a uniform look to the finished picks and makes them easier to insert into the key way of the lock.

Step 11: Repeat!

Picture of Repeat!

Just repeat the process for every style of pick you want. I recently finished my basic picks, and will be starting on my advanced picks(or rakes as they are known) soon. It took me about an hour to an hour and a half to finish each pick, but I was learning the process as I went, so the more I make the quicker I get.

I hope you enjoyed this instructable, please let me know if you have any questions or advice!

Thanks for checking it out!

Comments

BoltLocksmith (author)2015-09-30

Love that!! great illustration!!! locksmith washington dc

Thanks! I am not a great photographer, by any means, so I appreciate it.
Also, thanks for checking out my instructable!

acurto (author)2015-03-01

I would make my own but unfortunately I don't have access to any of those tools that are needed :(. I'm curious, though - where can you find lock picking kits online? I've looked around before but could never find anything and if I did they were very expensive. My family is constantly locking themselves out and I've always thought it would be cool to have a kit and learn how to pick a lock lol.

QazW2 (author)acurto2015-09-08

you do n't "need" power tools to make lockpicks. just some metal, preferably hardened steel like hacksaw blades, and a file. the standard rectangle flat file works but the triangluar file is better. i used the specialized triangle file used to cut keys by hand (same as a normal triangle file but with one of the three corner edges ground down abit and smooth thus really a trapazoid)

a small vice to hold the metal steady is nice but in a pinch you can just use your hands.

it should be noted that while most pick sets look the same there is no set way a pick set should be made. along with the bent piece that is inserted in barrel to put pressure on the pins, there will be a probe and sawtooth rake but after you understand the technique you might decide to fashion your own set of picks better sensitive to the technique you personally prefer

JoshS1 (author)acurto2015-04-11

Dealextreme £4 Aus $8 USD $6-7

DachsieMommie (author)acurto2015-03-01

Try Amazon.com. That's where I got mine.

bigdaddycole (author)acurto2015-03-01

My friends have bought premade picks and kits from Southord.com. You might be able to make your own with hand files or a grinding wheel, but the Dremel is the best tool I personally own for the job. Thanks for checking out my instructable!

bigdaddycole (author)2015-03-09

Hey, Sorry it took so long, But here is my first attempt at a rake. Thanks again all, foot checking out my instructable!

NCRattler (author)2015-03-03

Banggood.com great kits, cheap. Google and any other search engine, type in "lock pick tutorial" or "lock pick images" for templates at top of Google as "images". MIT barely touches the subject. Download free books all over as well. Seek and you will find. 40 years a locksmith and Safe Technician, I can tell you it's all out there. You want to carry and use the tools, take a correspondence course and get a card stating your enrolled. Then join a Locksmith Assoc. and make it a business. Observe the laws of your state. Your competition will be watching you intently. Us old timers will help. Good luck to all. NCRattler

bigdaddycole (author)NCRattler2015-03-04

Thanks for checking out my instructable, and also for the great tips on where to buy and how to get started. Some good stuff in there:)

NCRattler (author)bigdaddycole2015-03-04

Your very welcome. Bill

tomatoskins (author)2015-02-26

These look great! I've always wanted my own lock pick set.

bigdaddycole (author)tomatoskins2015-02-26

Thanks for checking out the instructable! I have to say, its a lot of fun if you like making small objects, which I sort of do. I hope you make a set! If you do, please send me a pic!

praneil (author)bigdaddycole2015-03-01

Do you know of any good resources if someone wanted to learn the sport of lock picking?

bigdaddycole (author)praneil2015-03-01

assemblyrequired posted a link in thier comment about the MIT Guide to Lock Picking, I would read that first. Its what I read years ago that first piqued my interest. Also, http:\\TOOOL.US has some resources and may have a chapter near you where you can go to meet people who will help you learn. Thanks for checking out my instructable!

soundgod06 (author)bigdaddycole2015-03-02

Piqued your interest lolz

assemblyrequired (author)2015-03-01

Very nice! I've actually tried to make a set of bogotas with hacksaw blades, but I found the metal to be too brittle... I've heard feeler gauges work rather well. Also, on legalities: As you said, it depends on where you live... In most cases, you can carry but if you attempt a crime with them in your possession that's an offense. The internet has led me to this: http://www.lockpickguide.com/legalityoflockpicks.... which gives a state-by-state breakdown of all that. Also, the 'MIT Guide to Lockpicking' is a pretty well known guide that describes how to actually use these things. Here's a link to the PDF: http://www.lockpickguide.com/legalityoflockpicks....

Best of luck, and have fun!

I am actually going to start trying to make takes this week. They a clearly more complicated geometries though. I have read the first few chapters of the MIT guide, and various other guides online, but thanks for petting the link. Also, thanks for reading my instructable!

Thanks for posting it, I enjoyed it!

Sorry, that should say "make rakes" not takes.

alexmac131 (author)2015-02-28

it should be noted in canada it is a criminal offence

Actually, not quite--

"In Canada, possession of lock picking tools, with the exception of key
duplication tools, is legal. Lock pick tools fit in the same category as
crowbars or hammers, meaning they are legal to possess and use unless
they are used to commit a crime or if it is shown there was intention to
commit a crime."

According to the Wikipedia entry on lockpicks they have the same legalities as most of the US states, as in legal to own as long as you don't do anything illegal with them.

taj1994 (author)assemblyrequired2015-03-02

That's at the federal level, but it varies from province to province.
For example, in Alberta (where I live), British Columbia, and
Saskatchewan, you need a license to legally own lockpicks

bigdaddycole (author)alexmac1312015-02-28

Thanks for checking out my instructable! There is definitely a need to be sure you are permitted to have these where you live, and that's why I recommended you check for regulations based on your location. Thanks for the info!

jscanlan (author)2015-03-01

You can re-temper the steel after you shape it.

raypsi (author)2015-03-01

In Michigan they have to prove intent, for it to be a 10 year felony

I wonder I didn't see you making a rake, do you think making a rake is doable?

There was this Canadian, at our work, he could open almost any lock with a paperclip and small screwdriver, I seen him do it several times.

gr8 job merci beaucoupe for sharing

bigdaddycole (author)raypsi2015-03-01

I haven't tried making a rake yet, but I'm going to try soon. If it turns out OK, I will post some pics in the comments :) The laws are similar where I live. Thanks for checking out my 'ible!

Kazion (author)2015-03-01

Have you considered re-hardening the picks and then tempering them once you are done shaping and sanding them?

By annealing them (the term for removing the hardness and temper from steel), they become softer, and thus easier to cut and shape.

To reverse, reheat them to a very high temp, then quickly cool them ("quench"), typically in some sort of liquid - oil, water, etc. By quickly reducing the temperature, this makes the metal very hard...and brittle.

In order to remove some of the brittleness, you then need to temper. To do this, after hardening, you would them bring the steel up to a lower temp, somewhere in the 300-500 range, and hold it there for a while, drawing out some of the hardness. This eases the inter structure of the steel to remove some brittleness, but retain much of it hardness. Call it the best of both worlds between hard and flexible.

Properly hardened and then tempered, they would last longer.

The trick is knowing what temp to heat it to for hardening, what quenching method, what temp and duration for tempering. These are all dependent on the type of metal. Hard to know the type of metal from a Harbor Freight saw blade.

For a $5, its probably not worth anything more than a quick reheat and quench, if even that.

Making tools from metal is a fantastically fun thing...and the learning curve almost never ends.

Great `Ible!

bigdaddycole (author)Kazion2015-03-01

Thanks for checking out my instructable! As I mentioned in another comment, I'm just starting out, and I would rather remake a tool that wears out, than snap of a hardened one on accident in a lock, but if I ever get good enough at picking to try it, this is the basis for a great follow up 'ible!

chuggins143 (author)2015-03-01

For those that do fab work, a 4.5" hand grinder with a nearly worn out flap disk would make this project much faster than using a Dremel type tool. Also, someone mentioned that these wear out fast... have you thought about re-tempering them? They are hardened tool steel, just reheat and quench should make them much harder and less susceptible to wear. Just a thought. :)

bigdaddycole (author)chuggins1432015-03-01

I did consider rehardening the steel, but I worry that a brittle pick might snap off in a lock, and as I am at best a well read beginner with no skill or technique as of yet, I would rather make new picks them try to remove a broken one from a lock, but maybe once I am better I will try it. Thanks for checking out my 'ible!

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)2015-02-27

Voted!

Awesome! Thanks so much for the support!

wpierce3 (author)2015-02-26

also look into making picks with varing thickness sometimes a lock will be skinny and narrow so you need the thinnest and most narrow designs you can get away with.

bigdaddycole (author)wpierce32015-02-27

Awesome tip! Thanks, Im just starting out with the whole locksport thing, so every tidbit helps!

wpierce3 (author)2015-02-26

Powellmade... different locks require different picks. and sometimes a lock may need a different pick between a couple different tumblers.

also there are many guides online to lock picking.. Id look into them.

the easiest to start with are brinks brass padlocks these are some of the easiest to pick that I ever tried. after learning to pick locks i don't buy brinks.

after getting good with those move onto the door.

some locks have floating tumblers and all kinds of fun things to get around.

also be careful with a torque wrench they can snap or bend easily.

also if you buy or make I recommend making or buying 3-4 sets they wear out faster than you'd think.

PowellMade (author)2015-02-26

Nice instructable. Neat instructions and explanation What shape do you like best?

I have picked a few locks in my time.
Two things I make pics from are:
-Street sweeper bristles that can be found in gutters.
-Feeler gauges that are used for checking spark plugs.
Both work well. Tension wrench can be made from a bristle that is heated then bent.

bigdaddycole (author)PowellMade2015-02-26

Thanks for reading my instructable! I like the half diamond shape myself, but the small half round is growing on me. Thanks for the construction materials ideas!

I w thinking of trying some feller change stock as well.

curbdiver (author)2015-02-26

You can also use the metal stiffeners in the rubber of windshield wiper blades

snoopindaweb (author)2015-02-26

Great one I've Voted & Fave'd. I'm somewhat lazy, I think I'll get into a vented area and burn the paint off as I break the temper.

Thanks so much for the vote and adding as a favorite! I live in the Midwest and it's just too cold to go outside and burn stuff, so I did it at the dinner table :) Your way definitely sounds easier! More chilly, but easier!

parafoil (author)2015-02-26

For a tension tool I like to use the metal inside a used automobile windshield wiper blade. I made and bought several pick sets online from (if I am allowed to mention them) Southord and have been very happy with them. I use both at work

Also let me say that making picks is a lot easier then learning to use them.

bigdaddycole (author)parafoil2015-02-26

The tension wrench in the pics is actually made from a wiper blade spring :) It was so simple I didn't include it in the instructable, although I might go back and add it as a "bonus round" step later if I can get some photos. Southord has a lot of cool stuff, and my friend actually purchased a bunch of stuff through them. I based my small half diamond pick on their design! Thanks for the tip, and for checking out my instructable!

Dustin Rogers (author)2015-02-26

I worked building maintenance for a while and had utilized paper clips formed as a pick and tension tool to get a few desk drawers and file cabinets open when the keys had been misplaced. It worked, but wasn't ideal. I always wanted to make a real set of pics, but never got around to it. Great write up and links to the templates. I'm going to have to make some now.

Thanks for checking out my instructable! Im just glad someone posted the templates online, otherwise I would have probably come up with some really oversized useless items. (My first attempt was HUGE, and I needed to file it down a lot :))

I'd love to see what you make, please post some images!

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