Picking a Lock

Have you ever pondered the possibility of unlocking a lock? Have you watched a movie where a character picks a lock and wondered about the techniques they use? Well, these experts have honed their skills and utilize a range of tools and gadgets to do the job. Discover some of the tools that have been developed over time in the field of locksmithing, with some tracing their roots back to centuries ago.

Locks of varying complexities require different tools, with sophisticated locking mechanisms necessitating more advanced tools. Thus, a locksmith often approaches a lock like a carpenter or metalworker would and chooses the tools based on scientific laws of mechanics and locksmithing.

In this age, locksmiths need to utilize electronic and computer technologies to open electronic locks. This means that they use a range of devices such as grinders, milling machines, and cylinder crackers. They also need door cracking tools to open solid wood and metal doors, and air wedges to gain access through windows and doors. If the locking mechanism is damaged, a plug spinner may be used, alongside electric lock picks, pick-guns, and wafer lock pick tools.

A circular wrench tool is a common tool in the industry, with its spring mechanism causing circular rotations that compromise the locking mechanism. Feather wrenches are also popular and have a spring and better features than tension wrenches. Additionally, locksmiths often use tweezers as a tool.

The Ball Pick

These round tools are a staple of the locksmith’s arsenal. The ball pick will present in two different forms. In any locksmith kit, there will either be a single or double ball pick. These types of picks are used forward, wafer, and disc tumbler locks. The first tool to be chosen will be the single ball pick. The double ball pick is used on locks wherein the single ball pick was unsuccessful. Both of these tools have a flat rounded tip that is handy for bi-directional picking. The tip of the double ball pick has two different sizes of circles that make the tip look like a snowman.

Broken Key Extractors

This basic tool is used to get damaged key and lock parts out. Over time, keys may break due to infirmities in the metal or they may break because the user of the key was impatient when turning the key and caused the break! In any case, a professional locksmith will invest in a variety of kinds of key extractors. There are 3 tool kits, 5 tool kits, and 7 tool kits. Each of these kits provide a variety of styles and gripping actions that can remove most all keys from a variety of locks.

Hook Picks

A hook pick has a hook at the tip that is used for a variety of locks. Based on the style, a hook pick may also be known as a Gonzo Hook, Rocker Hook, or Gem Hook.

When locksmiths are attempting to pick a lock they will use one or more methods. They may choose to do single pin picking or raking. The type of method used depends on the lock being picked and the damage already caused. Single pin picking is considered to be the best method and the one requiring the most skill. This type of picking gives more control over the lock and can tell you more about what is going on inside the lock. With a hook pick, single pin picking requires the manipulation of pins individually. This method takes the longest amount of time and can be the most tedious of the two styles.

Pick Guns

Pick guns are used to open pin tumbler locks and are used in concert with tension equipment. They may be electronic or manual. They are also known as a snap gun, lock pick gun or electric lock pick. This device calls upon the use of a steel rod that is inserted into the lock. The gun fires the rod against all the lock pins at the same time. This frees the cylinder and allows it to be turned and removed by a tension wrench.

Half-Diamond Lock Picks

This tool is very versatile and is used for picking individual pins, raking, wafer, and disk locks. The head of this pick is triangular shaped and looks like half of a diamond. A set of these tools includes three half diamond and one full diamond picks. This tool will have several angles that are either steep or shallow allowing the locksmith to manipulate a variety of inward sections of the lock.

Tools for Automobiles

The most versatile tool used in opening cars is a single pinprick. The standard hook pick can move wafers and sliders. A disk detainer pick is necessary for controlled rotation. Meanwhile, a decoder will be necessary should you encounter a wafer or car disk detainer. A decoder is a tool that has an easily taught system of opening locks by discovering the bitting of the working key. Jiggle keys are used on wafer locks along with some motorcycle starters. Rocker picks are made of thicker metal and work on different lock profiles than jiggle keys. Tryout keys are used in cars and are just generic keys that require the user to find the correct one to be used.

Tension Tools

Tension tools are used to keep tension on the cylinder so it can be removed. The tension tools for cars look like forceps and fit directly into the keyway. They place an outward pressure which keeps tension applied. Other tension tools will have different profile picks.

Gaining an honorable mention here is the airbags necessary to open the doors of cars. This bag is deflated and inserted into the gap between the frame of the door and the door. It is then inflated gradually, thus widening the gap so that equipment may be manipulated.


If a lock is beyond repair and there is no way to pick it, the final solution is to just drill it out. Most often, a cordless and battery-powered drill is used for this action. It should be mentioned that drilling out a lock is always a professional locksmith’s last resort. Locksmiths pride themselves on being able to open any lock. If a locksmith chooses to drill out a lock, it is not so much because he/she cannot open the lock but that the lock has been damaged and can only be drilled.

Locksmiths use important tools to do important things for you when you need it. A professional locksmith invests in his arsenal of tools often on a monthly basis. Anything can be mastered and any locked opened if the right tool is at hand.

If you have a lock that is giving you trouble, contact us. You may call us at  02895 320646 or use our contact form.

Hi, I’m Daniel Blanchette

Total explorer. Subtly charming problem solver. Bacon nerd. Analyst. Locks fanatic. Food fan.

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