We all know you can open most cheap padlocks with a shim made from an aluminum can. Well, perhaps we didn't all know, but such is the case. However, when I'm standing outside my gym locker after working out and realize I've bonehead forgotten my combination or key, chances are I don't have a premade shim or a pair of scissors, razor blade, marker or a template on me. However, I can probably find a can around the place. Here is a way to make an inferior but working shim using only a can and your hands.

DISCLAIMER: Obviously only do this with your own locks or for others you know have rightful access to what you are opening yet somehow managed to get locked out.

Step 1: Flatten Out the Can

Flatten the can somewhat, either the whole thing or one side. Just squeeze it until it's fairly flat, try not to crumble it too much, we're hoping to get a fairly flat piece of metal out of the deal.

Step 2: Make a Point and Rip

Fold the flat part sharply into a point. Perhaps wiggle it back and forth a few times until the metal starts to give a little, showing through the label. Then flatten it and rip it as one would a piece of paper.

Step 3: Keep Ripping

Keep ripping through the can until it's mostly severed. It will rip easily once the initial tear has been made. If you can, attempt to get one (or more) sides fairly straight as this will be useful later. Be careful, this stuff is pretty sharp, so try not to brush against the edges or corners.

Step 4: Remove Top/bottom

Rip off the top and bottom, leaving you with a nice sheet of aluminum. Toss top/bottom if you'd like.

Step 5: Reduce to Small Piece

Keep doing the same thing you did at first, fold a small point, possibly wiggle it a bit and tear as straight as possible. Reduce it to a piece about half an inch by three inches. It's not terribly picky, but one side needs to be as straight as possible. If it goes bad, pick another sliver from the larger piece and try again.

Step 6: Form Final Shape of Shim

Tear, by the same method, a slit down the center of the piece about half way through it. Fold the outer end in half. Repeat on other side. How long/wide the middle needs to be depends on the lock a bit, it needs to wrap around the piece locking it about half way and need to be deep enough to do into it far enough to unlock it. It's helpful if you can angle both tears a bit away from the center, perhaps even get it a little wavy. Try to deform the center part as little as possible, it needs to stay flat.

Step 7: Use It

Wrap it around the side of the lock that has the hasp below. Pinch it a bit to the side of it, forming it around and flattening it as tight to it as possible. Slide it down, holding the two folded parts. When you feel the catch below move, slide the lock open. Slide the shim itself off and discard.

Step 8: Done

Grab your clothes, keys, whatever else you locked up and move on with life. Remember your combination or keys next time so you won't have to keep doing this.

Brief (and rather poorly shot, my apologies) video of me doing this start to finish.
this is basicly what someone did a wile ago. but more 'ruff ', like quicker but not as good.
and the guy that posted that a while ago stole it from i-hacked.com the original poster
The other guy said it was an idea that had been floating around on the internet for some time
It's been known for at least 50 years. You know, before the internet, in these funny things like computer screens, but that you have to turn over bit by bit, they wrote things about things like this.
Certainly the old MIT lock bypass stuff mentions it (i.e. the '60 hacking OGs). Shims in general (not from a can in particular) are probably as old as locks themselves, i.e. ancient Egypt or so. Been reading up some more on picking and bypassing (interesting stuff) but for the lame padlocks usually used on lockers etc this is probably still the way to go (or, if wanting to skip the prep, doing it more for fun, etc lockpickshop.com sells much better pro-mades by the pile. I'm not associated with them, just a happy customer of other supplies).
Just because someone else posted a similar Instructable, doesn't mean they shouldn't post their version. They have taken the time to document something they did and everyone is welcome to post their version.
Just so it's clear, I'm not at all offended - there is a version (which I linked) and perhaps more out there (on the site, obviously there are more online as a whole). It's obviously not an original concept, I've heard suggestions about it since around '88 or so when these things were mostly text files on BBSes. It's a solid idea though and I thought I'd expand on it a bit. Never any harm in that..
It's been known for at least 50 years. You know, before the internet, in these funny things like computer screens, but that you have to turn over bit by bit, they wrote things about things like this.
I disagree. This is much more detailed, easier, and this shim actually worked better for me than the other one. Plus you don't just carry shims around wherever you go... I hope.
well i do say the part that goes into the lock is better, its flat :-). and no i never carry these around! lol
They do seem to work a little better (for me) with a more tapered front and more precise cutting. Avoiding the sharp angles also makes the metal tear less during use. I sat and played around with it (as well as wrote it up) for exactly the reason I gave in the intro - when I actually *need* a shim, I don't have one or the means to make one. Someone with more nefarious motives would probably be better of working a little harder with more tools, but.. well.. that won't rescue my gym clothes.<br/>
I cant get this to work it bends when i push it down and suggestions
Not all locks shim, some are (thankfully) built to resist such easy attacks. A flat top on the catch with a slant on the bar (i.e. the hook going in) fixes this nicely, the only reason it works ever is sloppy design or design built to save those precious few cents per lock. If it isn't that, then just try to get the metal flatter. If it's a lock it doesn't work on, google "bypass methods" or just bite the bullet and buy a bolt cutter and a fresh lock.
this is awesome I used this for the lock of my bike and it worked great 5/5
this is really cool, lots of detail, good pictures and all. but great instructable!

About This Instructable




Bio: Mostly a programmer and random computer guy, but like to mess with hardware and other real life objects sometimes.
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