How To Pick a Lock



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Locked yourself out of the house? Most common pin and tumbler locks can be picked with a little luck and finesse—so before you call a locksmith, try this.

To complete this How-To you will need:

A paperclip or safety pin
A tension wrench (sometimes called a torque wrench)
A second paperclip

Warning: Only pick your own locks—or you could wind up in a lot of trouble.

Step 1: Get a paperclip


Get a paperclip or safety pin and bend it straight. Now make a slight upwards bend at the very end.

Tip: You can buy a professional lock pick set at a hardware store. There is a basic size intended for American locks.

Step 2: Insert the wrench

Insert your wrench into the lower part of the keyhole—that is, the side opposite the one where the key's teeth would go in.

Step 3: Determine direction

Figure out which way the lock needs to be turned to open by turning the wrench clockwise and then counterclockwise. You'll feel which way has more give.

Step 4: Turn the lock

Turn the lock the correct way with the wrench, putting slight pressure on it. Hold the wrench in place.

Step 5: Insert the paperclip

While keeping pressure on the lock, insert the end of the paperclip into the top part of the keyhole.

Step 6: Feel for pins

Feel around the keyhole with the paperclip until you locate the pins. If you're picking a common door lock, there will most likely be at least five of them in a row.

Tip: Before you start, many experts suggest "raking" the lock. Straighten your second paperclip, put a few bends at the wire's end, and—with no pressure on your wrench—shove it to the back of the lock. Now pull it out quickly, pressing against the top of the lock while gently turning your wrench. You might just set a pin or two that way.

Step 7: Push up

Now for the actual "picking." One at a time, push each pin up with the paperclip. Try to feel for the moment when the pin reaches its "unlocked" position. You should feel a slight give—or even hear a faint click.

Tip: Start with the pin furthest away from you—then move on to the next.

Step 8: Increase the pressure

As you go, apply slightly more pressure with the wrench until you have all the pins lifted up.

Step 9: Turn the wrench

Now turn the wrench fully. Voila! The lock will pop open.

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