Surreptitious entry tools
Lock-picking is the craft of opening a lock without the original key,
commonly performed by analyzing and manipulating the components of the lock,
in such a way that the lock is not damaged and can be used again.
Although lock picking can be associated with criminal intent,
it is generally accepted as an essential skill of a legal locksmith
as well as that of hobbyists.
In clandestine warfare,
lock picking is sometimes used to
surreptitiously enter a room or a building.
A lock pick set generally consists of several
torsion wrenches and a variety of pick tools,
each with its own specific shape. Depending on the type of
lock, the lock picker chooses the desired tool(s) and manipulates the
pins inside the lock, using the torsion wrench to apply a controlled rotational
force to the cylinder. 1
The image on the right shows a typical set of lock pick tools in a
convenient leather wallet, as used by hobbyists, locksmiths and spies.
Please note that the posession of these tools is illegal in some countries.
Always check you local laws.
Contrary to popular believe, picking a lock is not simple and requires
many hours of practice and in-depth knowledge of the inner secrets of
a lock. Unlike in movies, picking a lock can take anything from a
few seconds to several hours. This basically makes lock picking unsuitable
for burglary, as it would simply take too much time.
Using a crowbar would be far more efficient.
Please note that Crypto Museum only advocates legal use of these tools.
Stay within the law.
This example assumes the lock being a so-called pin/tumbler lock.
- Torsion wrench
- Half-diamond pick
- Hook pick
- Ball pick
- Rake pick
- Slagel pick
- Decoder pick
- Cross pick
- Bump keys
- Warded pick
- Pick gun
- Snap gun
Below are some examples of lock picking that have been applied to
equipment in our collection. In most cases it involves opening or
activating a machine without damaging it. Without lock picking,
the equipment would have to be damaged, in which case it would have
lost its original historical value. This demonstrates the usefulness
of lock picking as a profession or as a hobby.
A cross lock is a special type of cylinder lock, that may have pins at
two or even all four sides.
Generally speaking, a cross lock can be opened relatively
easy by an experienced lock picker by means of a so-called cross pick,
except when mushroom pins are used inside the lock, in which case
opening it can take several hours.
The image on the right shows Dutch lock picker Walter Belgers opening
an Hagelin C-446 cipher machine
of which the keys are missing. He managed to open it
in just a couple of minutes without damaging the machine or the lock.
A special craft within the lock picking trade, is that of opening a lock
without manipulating it, by creating a new key from a so-called blank.
In this case, a polished blank key is inserted into the lock and some torque
is applied. The key is then examined for miniscule scratch marks,
after which a hand file is used to modify the key.
The image on the right shows a KESO key that was created from a blank by
lock picker Barry Wels in 2010 for our
Hagelin HC-570 cipher machine
of which the original key was missing.
Perhaps the most valuable key in our collection is that of the
the 4-wheel Enigma that was used during WWII inside German U-boats.
The original key of the machine was missing, but fortunately it was
However, after trying someone else's key, the lock closed and could
no longer be reopened. Luckily, in 2008, lock picker Barry Wels
managed to create a new key
from a blank, again by using impressioning.
In this case, ink was used to register the scratch marks.
Barry Wels is now a professional lock expert .
Some people enjoy defeating locks recreationally, in which case it is
referred to as locksport .
Its enthusiasts can learn a variety of skills
including lock picking, lock bumping, impressioning and various other
techniques and skills that are tradionally only known to locksmiths.
Many basic and advanced lock pick sets can be bought readily on the
internet from a variety of sources, with a varying degree of quality.
Especially prepaired demo locks and practice locks are also available from
various sources, but it would be wise the join and consult existing
enthusiasts and locksport organisations first. In any case, you should check
the legal status
of the posession of lock pick tools in your country first.
Although the possession of these tools is legal in most
countries (or unregulated), there are some exceptions .
It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Locksport followers often gather in sport groups to share knowledge, exchange
ideas and participate in a variety of (international) recreational activities
and contests. Examples of such contests are the annual Defcon (North America)
and LockCon (Netherlands), both attracting hobbyists and travelers from around
the world. If you are interested in recreational lockpicking, a good starting
point might be the website of
The Open Organisation of Lockpickers (TOOOL), or the
at Art of Lock Picking.
But please do not forget to check your local laws first.
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Friday 24 October 2014. Last changed: Tuesday, 13 June 2017 - 10:57 CET.