How to Pick a Lock

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Whether you’re a suave spy or simply a guy who keeps forgetting his keys, lock picking is a handy skill to have. With some practice, you can become proficient enough to never have to make another sheepish call to a locksmith.

1) Move at a Fast Clip

Professional locksmiths have an array of specialized tools for cracking locks. These tools are exceedingly helpful, but only if you had the foresight to order and carry them before you locked yourself out of your apartment. If you’re forced to improvise, round up a few sturdy paper clips and straighten them out.

2) Know Your Enemy

Before you can defeat a lock, you need to know how it works. When you slip a key into a lock, its ridges push up on a series of small pins running into a cylinder. With the right key, all of the pins are pushed free of the cylinder, allowing it to turn and open the lock. Your job is getting these pins to do your bidding.

3) Get the Bends

Locksmiths spend years honing the soft touch it takes to crack a lock. Chances are, you don’t have that kind of time, so it’s best to take a cruder approach called “raking.” Instead of meticulously caressing each of the lock’s internal pins into place, raking uses speed, force, and a little luck to drive them home. To achieve this goal, you’re going to need to bend one end of one of your straightened paperclips into a squiggle. This will be your “rake.” The other, straightened clip will be your “tension wrench.”

4) Aim for the Pins

First, slip your tension wrench into the bottom of the keyhole and use gentle pressure in the direction you want to turn the lock. Then, take your rake and quickly slide it back and forth to jostle the pins into place.

5) Apply a Little Tension

After raking back and forth through the lock, quickly jerk the rake out of the keyhole while attempting to turn the tension wrench. If everything has gone just right, the lock should click open.

6) Keep Trying

Raking is an imprecise art, so your lock probably won’t open on your first try. Be patient and keep at it, and eventually you’ll get back into your house. At which point, you’ll probably discover that your keys were in your pocket all along.
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There’s definitely an art to it. But if unlatching doors and picking open treasure chests isn’t your style, why not put that knowledge to more interesting use and crack open a Dos Equis?

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August 6, 2013 - 8:00am
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