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Steve Arnold's article "An Introduction To Lock Picking"

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My interest in breaking locks is based on three things. Firstly, I was always amazed and somewhat envious of characters from films that could easily penetrate any room. The mastery that they possessed was always under the cover of secrecy, which made him even more attractive. And later I was very surprised that even with a simple set of tools, a little knowledge and practice, almost anyone can open most of the locks.

I was also interested in all kinds of puzzles and riddles for a long time, which is also close to opening locks (after all, a lock is the same mechanical riddle). Even when you fully understand the device and the principle of operation of the lock, an attempt to open it without a key will require great ingenuity, concentration and dexterity from you.

Here I would like to remind once again that an attempt to open the castle without the knowledge of the owner (especially if this is done in order to illegally penetrate someone else's property) can lead you to the dock.

However, sometimes there are completely legal situations when you need to open a door without a key (for example, if you have lost the key to your own door). In this case, it can be very unpleasant to break the door, resulting in undesirable damage and subsequent repair. Whereas, with little time and patience, most ordinary internal locks can be easily opened.

In this article I want to describe a popular type of locks with a cylinder mechanism of a pin type. This type of locking mechanism is found all over the world and is used both in padlocks and locks for internal doors. The illustrations in this article will help you figure out what parts a lock consists of and how these parts can be manipulated. Keep in mind that you can ruin the castle as a result of your experiments, so I strongly recommend that you stock up on this old and already unnecessary castle. In addition, on the old lock you can safely change the sequence of pins, which will allow you to increase your skill.


Mechanical locks have been around for thousands of years. Previously, locks belonged only to wealthy people, but they were very simple in design and, compared to modern locks, they were very easy to open.

Mass production of door locks began in the early 18th century. As the design of the locks became more complex, an engineer named Jozef Brahmam invented, as they claimed, an unbreakable castle. In 1767, this castle was presented on the storefront with a statement that the first one to open this castle would receive 200 guineas. Since the castle had nearly 500 million combinations for the key, it is not surprising that no one has been able to do this for 64 years!

Public interest increased as the struggle between the factory and artisanal production of castles increased. In the mid-19th century, the market for door locks expanded rapidly, and each company struggled for its market share, claiming that they produce the most reliable mechanism. Talented locksmiths came up with increasingly reliable mechanisms. So the name Jeremy Chubba is associated with his wonderful version of the lever lock, the most common now in mortise locks.

A.S. Hobbs was an American locksmith who came to England in order to "make a name for himself." At that time there was a lot of rivalry between the American and English castle manufacturers. The arena for their ballet was, of course, London, and it was there that Hobbs arrived to establish itself. First, he “attacked” Chubba Castle, opening it quickly and with apparent ease, to the great dismay of the company that produced it. Then everything was prepared so that Hobbs tried to open the famous castle of Joseph Brahmah. Hobbs worked on the castle under constant surveillance for 44 hours for 10 days. Finally, the castle was opened, and Hobbs could repeatedly close and open it. A.S. Hobbs became famous and flourished in this country as a wonderful locksmith.

Castles and security were of great public interest and were of great importance in the art of escapiology, which was formed into a popular hobby of the time. Escapeology is the art of getting out of handcuffs, tightly enclosed spaces, etc. Harry Houdini was one of the most famous masters of this art. At that time, opening locks became completely legal entertainment and ceased to be the prerogative of locksmiths or criminal elements.


This type of lock consists of a body and an inner cylinder. Several holes located along the body coincide with the corresponding holes in the cylinder. This allows the rods that are located inside the housing to fall into adjacent holes in the cylinder. The rods are supported by springs, so that when the key is not inserted into the locking mechanism, they automatically extend into the cylinder and prevent its rotation.


When you insert the correct key into the locking mechanism, the rods are installed in a position that allows the cylinder to rotate inside the housing. This movement locks or unlocks the lock.


A key inserted into the lock advances the rods until their upper surface aligns with the outer surface of the cylinder. The key does not directly touch the rods, but its profile is transmitted to the rods through the pins. Each pin may be different in length to reflect the key profile. As a result, the pins fill the wavy profile of the key, allowing all the rods to align with the outer surface of the cylinder.

This type of lock is mainly made of soft non-ferrous metal such as brass. Quality locks can have six or more sets of rods / pins. The rods can be of various designs to increase the reliability of the lock. Standard rods are cut from a round bar and have a straight cylindrical shape. In order to complicate the opening of such locks, sometimes some rods have the shape of a mushroom or the shape of the letter "I". Cheaper locks or old castles with spaced mechanisms are more likely to be opened.


To carry out manipulations with the lock, two types of tools are needed. The first is called the “rotator” (approximate translation from English by Tension Wrench) and is designed to apply rotational force to the moving part of the lock. The second tool is the master key itself, which is necessary to install the pins in the required position.

The rotator is inserted into the bottom of the key slot and has a 90 degree bend at the base to form the handle. This allows you to apply a slight but constant rotational force to the lock cylinder.

Lock picks come in a variety of designs, depending on the tamper technique used. Lock picks with thin or dotted ends are used to act on individual pins. Those that have convex or rounded ends are used for methods of influencing several pins (see section on opening technique below). The master key should be thin and narrow so that it can be inserted on top of the rotator and reach the pins.


The third tool, which can also be often used, is the ejector of a broken key. There are several types of tools that take out the wreckage of the key and release the key hole.


Whichever method is used, you must first insert the rotator into the bottom of the key slot. Then a slight lateral pressure is applied, i.e. rotational motion is applied to the lock cylinder. You must be careful to apply this movement in the right direction - in the direction of unlocking the lock. At first glance this seems obvious, but, unfortunately, the right direction is not always known, and the wrong way will lead to wasted time.

Impact on single pins.

While a small load is applied to the cylinder, the rods are sandwiched between the cylinder and the housing along the line of their connection. The rods and pins are most often made with a small tolerance in size, and in combination with wear, this leads to a difference in the thickness of these parts. This means that at least one of the pins will be clamped more tightly along the connecting line of the cylinder and the housing than the rest. Using a master key with a point end, you need to sort through all the pins to determine which one is pressed harder than the others. Then you need to press on this pin until you feel a slight rotational movement of the cylinder. While the pin, pressing on the rod, lowers it to the line of connection of the cylinder and the body, the cylinder rotates slightly and clamps the next most tightly seated pin / rod.

The same operation is performed with each rod, while the rotator must constantly be under load. Each time, the rod that is pressed most tightly is selected. When all the pins are lowered to the desired level, the cylinder will turn and act on the lock mechanism.


This is a very neat method that requires a lot of dexterity. Remember, only practice will help you comprehend it!

Impact on multiple pins.

This method uses a master key with a rounded end for passing along the pins. In this passage, the master key raises and lowers the pins / rods and at the moment when the surface of one of the most tightly seated rods is aligned with the line of the inner surface of the housing, the cylinder rotates slightly, etc.

I find this method random and not very effective, working mainly on old worn locks.


In order to make such locks more difficult to break, new types of rods were invented. Typically, two rods in the lock are made in the shape of the letter "I" .


These devices give a false movement when using the single exposure method, which greatly complicates the process of opening the lock.

In this case, the method of acting on several pins is more applicable.

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