I have put together a guide to help you through the process of picking a pin tumbler lock open along with the theory of the lock so you can picture in your mind what is happening and what to look out for.
The basic Theory
Basically when you are trying to pick a lock you are looking to take advantage of the inaccuracies and imperfections of the lock during the making/production of the lock from the factory.
When the lock is made, small holes are drilled into the top of the lock cylinder that the intended for the pins to be inserted into, due to the nature of drilling on curved surfaces, the drill bits tend to slip slighty from side to side untill they begin to bit and start to penetrate the cylinder.
If you were to look at this row of holes for the pins from either end very closely you would see that they are not straight, only slightly out of alignment but enough for you to take advantage of, this is the starting point of lock picking.
When a tension wrench is inserted into a working lock and turned, it will turn very slightly but not alot, remember the pin alignment not being straight? well this means that most likely one pin is preventing the lock from turning and is “Binding” whilst the other pins are still moveable to a degree.
The idea is to apply a turning force to the lock whilst picking the pin that is binding, thats basically it in a nutshell.
Sounds easy, why cant everybody do this? well they probably can but just dont know how and although it sounds easy in real life it can be very difficult and requires alot of practice to become any good.
The Practical side
There is a little bit of a process involved and alot of different tools you can use but for this explanation i will describe using hand picking tools as this is the best way to learn and so you have a better understanding of what is going on.
You will need two tools to effectively pick open a lock, a lock pick and a tension tool, many types exist and you will build a preference for which pick for what lock, this comes with experience and practice , Also the same applies to the tension tool. Ok off we go.
1- Know your lock: when you come across a lock you want to pick you need to know 2 main things really, what way does it need to turn in order to open? and how many pins does the lock contain? most pin tumblar locks contain 5 pins but 6 pinned lock are becoming more common. If you dont know then you can find out by using your pic.
Insert your pick into the lock without any use of any kind of tension tool being used, gently feel for each pin down the barrell and count as you go along, maybe doing this a couple of times to be sure, once your sure of how many rows of pins the lock contains stop and remember this number.
Knowing which way the lock opens isnt always as easy, generally 95% of cylinders in nightlatches turn clockwise to open the lock, its the nightlatch on the back of the door that determines which way the key must be turned not the lock barrell itself. If its a uPVC door the the key is turned away from the door being viewed from the top, so if the handle of the door is on the right hand side as you look at it then the lock is turned anti clockwise and if the handles are on the left then the key is turned clockwise to open it.
2- Choosing the correct tools for the job, very important when trying to pick harder locks, try to use a pick that is freely moveable in and out of the lock without too much friction or interference as this will reduce your ability to feel what is going on inside the lock itself.
Also try to use the appropriate tension tool, i prefer long ones as you get more feel but you dont always get to use these when your out in the field, try to use a tool that doesnt fill to much of the lock preventing the picking tool to enter freely and not too small as it moves to much and becomes lose when picking the lock, if the tensin tool moves when your picing you could undo all the work you have done already.
Lubricating the lock before you start can be done but be carefull not you use anything too thick, only lubricate if needed, this also will come with experience.
ok so now its a matter of getting picking, insert the tension tool first allowing for the holding of the lock if needed and also applying slight pressure on the tool in such a way that the tension can be increased or decreased with ease.
Now insert the picking tool, having already counted the pins you should know roughly how far in the tool needs to be inserted to reach the furthest pin.
Whilst applying pressure feel each pin in turn, when you reach a pin that doesnt move pick it, you will normaly only need to lift the pin a milleleter or two, assuming you have picked the binding pin and the pin has lifted you should be able to feel slight movement in the tension tool.
If you cant lift the pin your probably using too much pressure on the tension tool so ease off slightly, one tip is to only ever apply sslight lifting force with the pick and always ease off with tension too until the pin lifts, be carefull not to take all the pressure off of the tension tool though.
It maybe worth taking note of the pin number you have picked, you may find when picking again it will pick in the same order of pins, so if it was the pin atthe front then pin # 1 and so on.
You may hit a wall if you overlift the pins as you will find the lock stops picking, if this happens ease off the tension tool and start again, it maybe worth starting from the first pin you picked as all pins may have fallen back into place.
Repeat this process untill you think you have picked all the pins, you will know when you have because the lock will open, if not try again and be especially aware of the turning of the cylinder with the tension tool.
I warn you now some locks are much harder than others and it will be easy to become discouraged if attempting one, i would recommend a clear plastic starter lock that are available by myself and other companies through Amazon, use these locks to build your confidence and increase your skills before moving onto harder locks.
Be Patient, concerntrate and Goodluck
I have included a link to my Amazon pages if you wish to purchase a starter kit as i say they are very usefull in learning how to pick a lock successfully.