Introduction: Yet Another Lockpick Instructable

Picture of Yet Another Lockpick Instructable

So maybe lock picks have been done, but this instructable should hopefully cover a technique which i haven't seen on instructables.
I'm not going talk down to everybody about the legal stuff involved with this,I quite frankly don't give that much of a damn, I just like making things. Just don't be an idiot.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Here's what you'll be needing:

Blow Torch: This will be used to harden and temper the metal.
Vice: Not necessary but damn usefull.
Pliers: For holding hot bits of metal.
Junior Hacksaw Blades: I don't think quality of blade makes too much difference so just go for the cheapest.
Files: These will be used for shaping the picks. A large coarse file for doing the basic shaping and some smaller needle files for the fine work are recommended.

Step 2: Snap the Blades

Picture of Snap the Blades

First take the junior hacksaw blades and snap off the top and bottom then snap the blade in half.

If the blades are cheap they may bend more than snap so try and keep the bending of the piece you'll be working on to a minimum by holding the side you'll be working on in a pair of pliers as you bend it.

Step 3: Softening the Picks

Picture of Softening the Picks

If you try and file the blade now all you'll get is a whole load of blunt files. So first we shall soften it!

Hold the blade in the pliers and heat it with the blow torch, the idea is to heat the blade till it is evenly glowing then evenly cool it as slowly as you can by moving it away from the flame, this allows the crystalline structure of the metal to recrystallise into large crystals (or something of that nature, was never great at chemistry), which makes the blade softer and easier to work with.

It may also be wise to do this outside, not in your room next to your decidedly flammable sofa.

Step 4: Removing the Teeth

Picture of Removing the Teeth

It's amateur dentistry time! Take a file and remove the teeth of the now cooled sections of saw blade, they should file off easily, if not try softening the blade again but cooling it slower, if that fails try another make of junior hacksaw blade.

Step 5: Rough Out the Shape

Picture of Rough Out the Shape

Take you larger files and begin roughing out the shape of the picks, i used a hand drill to drill a hole into the pick for attaching to a keyring.
See the picture below for a mildly good "blank" shape.

Step 6: Doing the Fine Work

Picture of Doing the Fine Work

It's a good idea taking some time on this step to get it just right, once the picks are hardened and tempered you won't be able to file them all that easily again.

A selection of needle files is a good idea, although you can probably get away with doing most of the work with a single rat-tail file.

It's quite easy to find pick shapes on the internet, I recommend making a selection of different types to practice with.

Step 7: Hardening the Picks

Picture of Hardening the Picks

This is where the magic starts to happen, at the moment the picks are pretty soft so will flex and bend all over the place if you try and do anything with them. We will now harden them.

Take the pick and heat it with the blow torch again until it all glows red, then plunge it quickly into some cold water. This makes the crystalline structure of the metal reform quickly into small crystals (or something of that description) and will cause the metal to become very hard and brittle.

Be carefull when handling the picks not to bend them or the will probably snap, especially around the thin metal bits.

Step 8: Clean the Picks

Picture of Clean the Picks

Cleaning the picks makes the next step one hell of a lot easier, i used a dremel-esq rotary tool to quickly sand off the oxide and make the picks nice and shiny.
Now that the picks have been hardened you might get a couple of sparks so try not to lose an eye.

Step 9: Tempering the Picks

Picture of Tempering the Picks

If you try and use the picks after they have been hardened they will probably snap in locks and create a great deal of unwanted fuss, this step will temper them and make them more springy.

This is probably the hardest step, but with a bit of care and practice you should be able to do it really quickly.

Turn the blow torch on at a very low setting and slowly bring the pick near the flame, as the pick heats it should start to turn blue, move the pick around trying to get it all to turn blue without heating any part of it overly, and definitely making sure none of it glows.
Once most of it has turned blue move it out the flame and let it cool in the air.

If this step goes wrong go back to step 7.

The pick is now tempered and once cooled should be fairly springy and when flexed should return to its original shape without staying bent of snapping. To be honest i have absolutely no idea what happens to the structure of the metal to give it this property, feel free to comment if you do, i would rather like to know.

Step 10: Fin

Picture of Fin

You can now use a dremel-esq tool or sandpaper to clean the picks again or leave them looking blue (make sure the dremel doesn't heat up the metal too much or it can ruin the temper).

Sling them on a key ring and walk around feeling like James Bond.

The internet has many resources for learning how to pick so go and enjoy!


allangee (author)2016-07-18

Don't walk around with them on a key chain! Most places it's illegal to even possess lock-picking tools. A lot of burglars will dispose of their picks once through the lock. If they caught they can always (try and) say that they heard a scream/shot/etc, tried the door and it was unlocked, so went in to check. Doesn't work if you the jewelry box is empty and your pockets are full though!

Aikidoboy (author)2014-06-20

My set of picks. Used normal sized hacksaw blade and bench grinder instead of files for these. Also made a tension wrench through pretty much the same process, except I bent the thin part 90°. Pretty satisfied with the result, great 'ible!

usafbrat (author)2013-06-08

can you make them out off any thin metal

ishner (author)2013-04-04

you don't need a blowtorch
a gas stove works fine

lockpicken (author)2012-04-23

Naiss Lockpicks!

Jordan Dyck (author)2012-02-01

ok so in the begining you cut off the hole on the origonal hack saw blade. why not take a short cut and use that one?

Kasaron (author)2009-06-07

It's very easy to temper things in your regular gas oven, provided you don't plan on having any kind of differential temper. For spring steel you actually don't want to blue it, because then it'll make the hardening totally useless, I'd say aim for something more like an amber color. Set your oven to 450-500 degrees, toss those puppies in (on something so it's easier to remove them later) and bake for about 15-30 minutes. They should have an amber/brown-ish color to them, then, which means that you've gotten it right, and that they're not too hard, and not too soft.

heathbar64 (author)Kasaron2012-02-01

So! Kasaron, How about doing an ible on hardening and tempering! I I only have a very basic understanding, can't remember the colors for different tools etc. Have you tried case hardening by quenching in used motor oil?

Rozarius (author)Kasaron2009-11-25

This wouldn't have any adverse effect on any food you cook in said oven afterward, due to fumes or somesuch, would it?

Kasaron (author)Rozarius2010-02-13

Actually, no. Since the hacksaw blades are made of metal which does not react adversely in such conditions, it would be identical to having the metal grates or even a cookie sheet left in a running oven.

xerxesx20 (author)Kasaron2009-08-09

Useful tip, everybody has an oven of some sort or access to one (or some other cooking apparatus), thanks for the addition. My brother once gave some curtain rings an "antique" look about them using a pretty bloody hot oven for a few minutes.

batman96 (author)2012-02-01

Yes kids, when you make lock picks you untemper them with a propane torch in front of a blanket and couch in your living room.

Great ible, just be careful

reddevved (author)2011-08-01

Or if your lazy (like me) and have some money (unlike me) you can buy them online.

impisces71 (author)2011-05-12

Good instructable, but do you mind my asking what your total length is and the length from handle slope to pick tip is?
I've been seeing a lot on other sites saying to give about 1 1/2" from handle to pick tip and leaving about 2 1/2" handle assuming you use a standard 12" hacksaw blade broke/cut into three 4" pieces.
Thanks for the tut and look forward to your reply.

Modarius (author)2011-01-18

Nice instructable, I just finished making a half diamond pick. The annealing and tempering processes worked like a charm.

ChromeEagle (author)2011-01-09

Nice instructable, but for me the point of lockpicks was for when i lost my keys, so if it is on my key ring... and i lose my keys... well, you see my problem, but on a serious note, nice instructable helped me a lot.

_-MacGyver-_ (author)2010-12-21

Instead of critisizing him folks, why not applaude him. This is very well done. Thanks for the fabulous Instructable }{itch :D

mtg1001 (author)2010-11-14

your mom goes to collage.

bromanuzak (author)2010-04-02

what abut a tension wrench?

pgd5000 (author)bromanuzak2010-10-23

that is exactly what i thought

Don,t try this at home (author)2010-07-16

What is the width of your lockpick after you file it down

Ok wow but how do you know what pick does what

TwistedButSane (author)2010-05-26

Could this process work with a gas stove top?

samando (author)2008-07-13

Unfortunately there's no easy way to explain tempering, but I'll try... When you soften (anneal) the steel, you were right in saying the grains grow larger. However it also has to do with the structure of the carbon and iron molecules in the steel. There are three basic structures to worry about at this point - ferrite, cementite and pearlite. Ferrite is more or less pure iron, and cementite is like really brittle cast iron. Pearlite is made of alternating bands of ferrite and cementite, kind of stripy. For the type of steel used in hacksaw blades, when it's in the soft state it's mostly big fat pearlite grains bordered by cementite. When you heat it above 721 degrees celsius all the carbon dissolves into the ferrite, so you're left with what's called austenite. This is where there's a cube shape of iron atoms, one on each corner, with a carbon atom in the middle. Now this can't exist below 721 degrees. When it's hot, the iron atoms spread further apart (you know how things expand when they're heated), which is how the carbon atom fits into the cube. When it's cold it doesn't fit. If you cool it slowly the carbon can escape, and it'll end up back how we started, the large pearlite grains and cementite. If you cool it quickly though, by dunking it in water, the carbon is trapped. This means the iron cubes are bent out of shape around the carbon atom. On a larger scale, this makes the crystal structure look really spiky and jagged. This is called martensite. Martensite is very hard, but very brittle. Pretty useless for something like a lockpick. What you're doing by tempering is allowing some of the carbon to escape the cubes and form back into pearlite, which is much stronger, though softer, than martensite. So you have pearlite for strength and martensite for hardness. Hope that was understandable, sorry to ramble on!

cirano (author)samando2008-12-02

Detailed explanation for those among us who are a little more curious. Thanks!

samando (author)cirano2008-12-02

.......... actually, i'm sad to say that that was my brother, i'll see if he can comment

vestie (author)samando2009-08-10

Too... Much... Late at Night. Need to sleep and reread to understand. (thanks for the explanation).

xerxesx20 (author)samando2009-08-09

It's not a bad explanation at all for such a tricky (to say the least!) subject to explain.

Nicely done.

Jonny Katana (author)samando2008-07-14

I used to be very into knifemaking, and this is a very, very solid explanation :)

}{itch (author)samando2008-07-13

That was fantastic explanation! thank you.

phoenix124 (author)2008-08-17

wow, very nice! you dont just show how to cobble together a crap set of metal toothpicks, you go through all the steps of making a decent pick.

xerxesx20 (author)phoenix1242009-08-09

Haha, priceless. :-)

Wish I'd thought of that.

wheatstone (author)2009-06-07

I would take the last step and heat it and lay it in a pile of sugar... that would give it a nice case hardening. I use this method on nuts with relief grooves to chase a set of new threads on whatever.

toilofday (author)2009-06-07

you're using the basics of what we need for this project but the real deal is the tempering oven. I'm working on making a rough plan to build one. I just don't know where I would get ceramics. never put mesages on the board when you've been drinking lot of ummm redbull

thirst4know (author)2009-04-19

I made my picks out of stainless steel welding rod. I have a tension rod and a simple hook type pick and they work pretty good for the minimal design. Happy picking!

Iridium7 (author)2009-01-24

I believe that this sill is useful for say when you are locked out of your house and you need to get inside. Even though this kind of thing is illegal i believe that it can be a good hobby.

musicninja17 (author)Iridium72009-04-10

Its completely legal in most states if you have no intent to break into something that isnt yours. Opening your own doors is legal.

milamber (author)2009-02-15

has some useful hardening/tempering tips

chiok (author)2008-07-12

The structure of metals is pretty much made up of crystals. Hacksaw blades are quite hard and represented by fairly large crystals. By heating to red hot and then cooling slowly (normalising), the crystals become small and the steel is softer for forming. Quenching in cold water or oil after red hot makes big crystals again which are hard but brittle. Tempering reduces the crystal size for ductility but retains some hardness. That's the simple science I believe. Well written instructable though, a torque wrench and finer tools will give you better results I think.

Vertigo666 (author)chiok2008-07-12

Hardening is usually done in oil, or another carbon-rich source, isn't it?

Jonny Katana (author)Vertigo6662008-07-14

The carbon content of the quenchant has little to no bearing on the finished structure of the steel. Oil is just used because it cools more slowly than water, so the shock of the temperature change is minimized while still hardening the steel quite a bit. However, for metal this thin, it really doesn't matter what you quench it in.

pedalmonkey (author)Jonny Katana2008-12-01

I disagree. The secret to the famed Damascas steel during the time of the Crusades was that the sword blanks were reheated and then plunged into the body of a live slave. Yecch. The process was later stolen and refined by the Spanish whereby stacks of fresh animal hides were used. What these grisley practices accomplished, other than thinning the slave herd and wasting good leather, was to quench the steel in a high nitrogen and carbon medium. The resulting blades were light, hard and flexible, often shattering the blades of opponents. You're right about retarding the quench speed in oil, but the addition of carbon to steel does still occur in the quenching process. For a better explanation, please see Alexander Wegers's book, "The Complete Blacksmith".

Jonny Katana (author)pedalmonkey2008-12-01

And by the way, that is an excellent book.

Jonny Katana (author)pedalmonkey2008-12-01

When you harden steel, you first bring it to a state known as austenite, which exists at around 1400 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature and molecular structure, a process known as case hardening can be used to impregnate the surface of a low-carbon steel object with carbon. This process would indeed lead to a blade is both hard and flexible. However, the archaic version of this process requires leaving the blade at this high temperature in a carbon rich environment for hours, whereas quenching lasts a matter of seconds. While I'm sure some negligible amount of carbon transfer occurs by using a carbon-rich quenchant, I wouldn't be surprised if the Damascene metalworkers you referenced "cooked" the swords in the body of a slave and then reheated/quenched the blades during the next step, but I just do not see how quenching in the aforementioned medium would produce appreciable results.

Vertigo666 (author)Jonny Katana2008-07-15

Oh okay. never paid attention in middle school metals class anyway.

raumthemad (author)2008-07-17

May be a dumb question, but can I use a lava lamp to heat the hacksaw blades, py putting them down in next to the bulb? I don't have a torch...

Spinergy (author)raumthemad2008-08-27

You can anneal {soften} the metal with a lighter or candle and some time, but to re-temper you need a torch to get the piece hot enough long enough all over. Good news is you can pick up a butane mini-torch for under $10 at many discount tool shops [eg: Harbor Freight}. They'll also have the files you'll need for cheap.

berky93 (author)Spinergy2008-11-04

um...what is that link to? it just says "eg:"

Spinergy (author)berky932008-11-12

Hrmmm... wasn't a link, not sure why it shows up as one. Anyway, the torch/ files mentioned can be had from They have a lot of "junk" tools, but some of their stuff is good quality for the $$, and they run 25-50% off sales all the time.

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