Learning the Art of Lockpicking

Learning the Art of Lockpicking

Whether you take it on as a hobby, plan to join locksport competitions, or prevent yourself from getting locked out of your home, learning to pick a lock can be a useful skill to have in your repertoire. Whatever your need for this craft, it is a lot easier to learn than you would think.

This brief guide will start you on your journey of lock picking.

How a lock works

To begin, we must first understand how a pin tumbler lock works. The anatomy of a pin tumbler lock from the top down consists of the bible where the springs are kept; the shear line, where the bible meets the lock cylinder itself; the driver pins that get shoved up into the springs; and the key pins that fit the bits or cuts of your key. Finally, there is the plug that keeps all those pins and springs in place; this is where you insert your key.

Because the key pins fit the cuts of the key, this makes the pins sit flush with the shear line, which allows the key to turn.

Lock picking tools

A basic lock pick set includes a tension wrench, a hook pick, a half diamond pick for steep angles, a half-diamond pick for shallow angles, a snake rake pick, an S-rake pick, a double-round pick, and long double-ended pick.

The tension wrench is required every time to pick a lock.The hook pick (also known as the feeler) is also used most often when traditionally picking locks. The half diamond and snake rakes are typically used when raking pins, which requires less skill, but also is less successful.

Getting started

Begin by inserting your tension wrench at the bottom of the lock hole and apply slight pressure. The tension wrench is what will turn the plug once the pick you select aligns the key pins with the shear line.

Next, insert a pick of your choosing (a rake will be easiest) at the top of the keyhole, and rake the pins up and out.

Repeat this process until all the pins set and your tension wrench allows the plug to turn. If you find that you’re not having success, apply less torque to the tension wrench, applying too much torque is a common mistake.


Because lockpicking skills take time to develop, the only way to master this craft is to practice, practice, practice.

The art of lockpicking is centuries old and doesn’t have to be a mystery. As long as you have your tension wrench and a pick, you no longer need to worry about being locked out. Happy picking!


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