Introduction: How to Open Tubular Locks

I show how tubular pin tumbler locks work and how they can be opened using tubular lockpicks. A tubular pin tumbler lock, also known as an ace lock, circle pin tumbler lock, or radial lock, is a variety of pin tumbler lock in which six to eight pins are arranged in a circular pattern, and the corresponding key is tubular or cylindrical in shape.

Tubular locks are commonly seen on bicycle locks, computer locks, elevators, and a variety of coin-operated devices such as vending machines. Tubular pin tumbler locks are generally considered by the general public to be safer and more resistant to picking than standard locks. This is primarily because they are often seen on coin boxes for vending machines and coin-operated machines. However, the primary reason the locks are used in these applications is their lack of the depth requirement that most other locks require.

Such locks can be picked by a special tubular lock pick with a minimum of effort in very little time; it is also possible to defeat them by drilling with a hole-saw drill bit. Standard tubular-lock drill bit diameters are 0.375 in (9.5 mm) and 0.394 in (10.0 mm). To prevent drilling, many tubular locks have a middle pin made from hardened steel or contain a ball bearing in the middle pin.

While the process is simple and can be mastered with practice, lockpicking requires a great deal of patience. It can be a hobby as well as a practical skill. Locksmiths define lock-picking as the manipulation of a lock's components to open a lock without a key. To understand lock picking you first have to know how locks and keys work. Most locks are based on fairly similar concepts but they do come in all shapes and sizes, with many design variations. This is for educational purposes only.

Lock picking is the art of unlocking a lock by analyzing and manipulating the components of the lock device without the original key. In addition, ideal lock picking should not damage the lock itself, allowing it to be re-keyed for later use, which is especially important with antique locks that would be impossible to replace if destructive entry methods were used. Although lock picking can be associated with criminal intent, it is an essential skill for a locksmith, and is often pursued by law abiding citizens as a useful skill to learn or simply a hobby.

The diagrams and information on tubular locks:

Step 1: How a Tubular Lock Works

The tubular lock uses the basic pin tumbler system, but with some differences. Key pins are pushed in horizontally instead of vertically. The shape of the key is circular, open in the center, and has grooves that are cut into the outsides of the circular shape. Once the key has been fitted correctly in the keyhole, it will depress the key pins to the correct depth and the key can be turned opening the lock.

- The key pins (red) and driver pins (blue) are pushed towards the front of the lock, preventing the plug (yellow) from rotating. The tubular key has several half-cylinder indentations which align with the pins.

- The protrusion on top of the key fits into the rectangular recess in the lock, causing the indentations to properly align with the pins. When the key is inserted, the gaps between the key pins (red) and driver pins (blue) align with the shear plane separating the plug (yellow) from the outer casing (green).

- With the pins correctly aligned, the lock may turn.

Step 2: How to Use a Tubular Lockpick

- Tubular locks can be picked by a special tubular lock pick with a minimum of effort in very little time.

- The tubular lock pick has a handle attached to a piece of circular metal that will fit the key-way. On the circular metal, there are a number of needles also known as pick wires that can be protruded or retracted.

- You will need to get a pick with the correct amount of needles for your lock (most often 7 or 8). Those wires will be controlled from the L-shaped bends. The needles can be secured in place; there should be a threaded bolt that can be tightened or loosened. There is also a metal ring that is meant to realign all of the needles to the same height.

- Now that the tubular lock pick is calibrated you can pick the lock. To do this, place the pick into the lock, making sure to evenly apply pressure straight down.

- Insert the pick into the lock slowly, allowing the picking needles to map to the corresponding pin stacks. Slowly apply left to right turning torque to the pick and the lock should pop open.

- Once the lock is picked, secure the pick wires in place and the lockpick can act as a key. You can also use a decoder to find out the exact key code and make a replacement key.

- If this does not work after the first few tries begin to press the L bends on the needles in a similar every other pattern. This process should not take too long. If the lock does not open after 2 minutes take the pick out of the lock and re-calibrate it.

- If you cannot pick your lock with this method the lock might have variable spring pressure, or if you cannot fit the pick into the key-way, you will need a different tool.

- You can also pick tubular locks by single pin picking.

Step 3: Watch the Video

The same information just in video form.

(The video may not show up for mobile viewers)