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If you can’t find the key to success, pick the lock!

Some of you might be thinking, “Why should I learn how to pick a lock if I don’t plan on breaking into people’s home?”

Hey, get me that pick, check out the other pick! No, the shorter one! Sounds familiar yh? What are all these about the different types of lock picks, you’d ask yourself?

What are the best lock picks? What’s the big deal about a squiggly pick? Is there really a difference between a deep hook and a flat hood? 

What do I stand to gain by investing my money into these different types of lock picks? Will it benefit my ability to open different locks? What will it do to my lock picking skills?

All these questions are usually of great concern. Before we move into the primary purpose of this article which is explaining the different types of lock picks, we would answer these key questions posed above. 

Danke!

THE TRUTH ABOUT LOCK PICKS

There’s a little bias that influences many newer pickers. I would try and make things a whole lot clear to you. You really want to know about it? Keep reading!

The sincere truth, you don’t need all the lock picks to massacre the majority of locks.  Honestly, most lock picks are fluff and are more like variations of the same tool with very minute difference in how they slaughter the lock.

One of our contributing authors Iferika would always put it best “Lock picks are like fishing lures, they are meant to catch the fisherman, not the fish” 

The truth is that your shiny new fishing lure with golden, blue and red feathers, polished with the best metal spinners and scent of fresh dog turds looks like it would ABSOLUTELY bring in the killer catch, but in reality it is not likely more appetizing than any of the other lures you already have in the eyes of the fish.

This mindset that tools make the player is a catastrophe that has stormed the hearts of men that partake in fishing or lock picking. Having the right tools be it lures, or bait is fine, but it doesn’t make one the best fisherman. In the same vein, having the right lock picks for the right locks doesn’t make one the greater lock picker.

Why? This mindset is based on expectations, assumptions. It leaves out what is important- like knowledge, practice, skill, technique and more practice.

When these expectations and assumptions are not met after a new lock pick fails to easily open that lock, a feeling of disbelief and frustration which ultimately reduces the urge to lock picking sets in!

For the newbies, its best to stick with a couple of types of lock picks. Improving your skills, techniques is about developing your senses and of course recognizing patterns based on those sensations.

When learning how to pick a lock, using different 18 different tools will only give you 18 different variations of the same feedback. You’d agree with me that it’s quite difficult to learn new things when the information you receive is always changing. Even when the urge to get the whole pick ever made sets in, for the sake of being a beast at what you do, RESIST IT; more so when you’re a newbie.

More practice will make you progress faster than spending extra cash on getting more picks. 

We’re not saying it’s a crime not to have different variations of picks but for better efficiency and better skill, it’s recommended that you start with a few! However, one of the great joys of lock picking is collecting different lock picks and trying out new pick profiles. You never know which picks your favourites will be!

Just don’t fall into the mental trap of thinking that a particular pick profile will make all the difference in your progression and skill.

So, with that settled, let’s cover the more common lock picks, their intended use, and their strengths.

SIX TYPES OF LOCK PICKS

Lock picks come in many shapes and sizes, as well they must. Any locksmith could tell how difficult it is to pick a lock without a pick of the right size. In picking pin tumbler locks, there are essentially six different types of lock picks designed around the two basic styles of lock picking. 

These two styles are the single pin picking and raking! They require different techniques matched of course with an ideal pick design

Having started on a great note, let’s take a great look into many of the more common types of picks within each style of picking

SINGLE PIN PICKING

Just like its name implies, it is the act of picking a single pin, one at a time.

Lifting individual pins one at a time needs a tool that is quite thin and of course precise. Hence, pin picking tools here are designed in the shape of a hook. There are however some exceptions to this rule as we will see shortly.

We have three fundamental categories of picks that are very ideal for single pin picking: I call it the S.O.D

  1. Shorter hooks
  2. Offset hooks
  3. Deeper hooks

We would go over the advantages of each category and take a great look at some of the popular and useful picks embedded within each of these categories

SHORTER HOOKS

Since single pin picking is a sport of pinpoint precision and finesse, all within a teeny-weeny keyhole, the best picks will be those that

  • Can easily influence a single pin at a time
  • Are nimble enough not to bump anything else unintentionally

STRENGTH

This is the power that shorter hooks exude. Their short nature allows us enough space to manoeuvre in any direction with a keyway, yet long enough to reach and of course set pins. 

WEAKNESS

Despite being amazing, it has its own drawbacks. The issue of overset or under set pins can be a real source of headache to beginners. How does this happen? This happens when we encounter shorter cut pins that are stacked behind longer cut pins. Sometimes setting these tricky short pins can be a real pain using a shorter hook as they just don’t have the reach to push the short pin to the shear line without also lifting the longer pin as well.

Therefore, let’s look at two popular variations of the shorter hook and one that isn’t a hook, but still adequately falls under this classification!

THE STANDARD SHORT HOOK:

The standard short hook is needed in a game of pinpoint precision and agility. It is ideal for single pin picking of most pin tumbler locks. 

However, the standard short hook’s greatest weakness is a pin that is drastically shorter cut than the pin before it. But with enough practice and a little cleverness, we can typically finesse our way through these tricky pin situations. 

Due to its shorter profile, the standard short hook allows one to easily manoeuvre in both open and tight angle keyholes. It is the most used and versatile tool in any lock picker’s arsenal. Know this, know the mastery of lock picking itself; have this, have the mastery of lock picking.

In addition to the above mentioned, it has other uses like; zipping, rocking, bitch picking, reverse picking.

Hence, if there was one single pin picker you need to get, it definitely is the standard short hook!

STRENGTH WEAKNESS
It is a strong overall pick
Radically short pins behind radically high pins
It is agile and manoeuvrable

THE GEM

Another popular pick ideal for single pin picking is the gem. It has a short hook to which a short but pointy tip is attached to its end. The advantage of this is that it provides more reach without sacrificing any of its manoeuvrability and agility of the short hook.

Since it has an extended tip, the gem is typically a  good pick to have when dealing with paracentric keyways, heavy warding or locks with radical biting. Its less clunky nature makes it easier to locate pins and stay within the pin chamber-this is of course a real benefit for newbies that are yet to have a good grasp for the spacing between pins

Because both the end of the pick and the tip of the key pins are pointy, pins can sometimes slip while being lifted. However, this is not much of a big deal. The only problem this brings is the confusion and frustration some newbies may have to deal with.

The gem has other uses like zipping, bitch picking, reverse picking, rocking.

Regardless, the gem is an amazingly fantastic pick that strikes a great balance between the short hook and a deeper, more obstructive hook, like the deep hook.

STRENGTH WEAKNESS
-Strong overall pick Pins can slip due to pointy tip
-Offers more reach that the standard short hook

The Half Diamond

When you search for a hybrid pick between a gem and a standard short hook, the half-diamond pick plays that role perfectly. The half-diamond pick is not necessarily a hook but has been used more like one.

It shares some semblance with the gem in that it has the awesome benefit of being able to quickly locate and set pins

Just like the gem, it acts like a ramp that allows pins to lift slowly and descend in a very controlled and coordinated manner. Therefore, allows us to quickly locate and set binding pins by simply dragging the pick across the pin stacks. 

However, the half diamond has a wide base and is particularly a fat pick. Owing to its wide base, it can sometimes be clunky and hard to manoeuvre within the keyway. This issue however only becomes prominent when trying to reach shorter cut pins that are between longer cut pins. It sadly just doesn’t have the reach nor precision to squeeze between pin stacks and reach extremely short pins.

Also, the half-diamond however has difficulty in fitting into keyways that are paracentric, small or have heavy warding due to its particularly tall pick.

STRENGHT  WEAKNESS
Quick at locating and setting pins Difficulty in radical high-low-high-low bitting
Used for low quality locks Difficulty in paracentric keyways, heavy warding

Has a poor reach

DEEPER HOOKS

Despite the versatility, power and agility of the shorter hooks, they sometimes just don’t have the reach needed to easily get around tricky pin configurations nor other lock conditions such as the “heavy warding”.

However, if we add a little length to the end of our hook, we’ll find that these headache-causing situations can quickly turn into an open lock.

Let’s look at the standard deep hook

THE STANDARD DEEP HOOK

Another masterpiece ideal of single pin picking. This masterpiece however has straightforward or clear-cut design as it simply has a short hook, but with more length and therefore reach.

Hence it makes it very easy to pick those sneaky short pins that are hiding behind longer pins.

These picks are particularly impressive in dealing with extremely paracentric keyways or those with heavy warding.

However, even though deeper hooks such as this one are excellent in tricky situations, they truly do make poor primary lock picks due to their big and bulky nature. 

But it’s always good to have one — or an offset hook — handy just in case.

STRENGHT WEAKNESS
Used for radical bitting Super small keyways
Perfect for paracentric keyways Are weak primary picks
Can be used for heavy warding

OFFSET HOOKS

Since we know that the benefits of shorter hooks are their maneuverability and agility, we sometimes lack the reach that’s required for trick bitings. Deeper hooks have that extra reach we need sometimes however they significantly lack in maneuverability. 

Therefore, the need to have a pin pick that has the best of both the shorter hooks and deep hooks whilst still minimizing their flaws arose.

What can we do? Is there something out of the ordinary we can come up with it?

Here comes “Offset hooks” to the rescue!

Some say it compensates for the flaws in the other two types of hooks. Surely, I agree with them. An offset is a type of pick that “offsets/compensates” and extends the tip of the pick in a gradual manner. Consequently, we have a pick that is precise, deep and most importantly not overly clunky nor intrusive in the keyway.

Since the end of the shaft of this hook gradually curves, these picks can rotate and pivot around pin stacks, making it fundamentally easy to set those short cut pins that are tucked behind longer cut pins-even in the rear of the rock.

Anyway, let’s look at the two very popular offset picks!

1.) Peterson Reach

One of my all-time favourite picks, the Peterson Reach pick is perfect for single pin picking. With an extremely slim overall profile it excels at reaching and setting pins in tricky configurations, such as radically short pins that are tucked tight behind extremely long pins. 

Additionally, its round and slim shape allows it to easily pivot and curve around pin stacks, even while lifting pins in the rear of the lock! More so, also has the benefit of a round tip that reduces pin slippage and gives an overall smooth picking experience. 

And finally, if you ever feel the need to emotionally damage yourself, the reach is also a very effective tool for rotating pins in high-security locks such as the Medeco Biaxial.

However, there is a downside to this awesome pick. Since it is a uniquely stretched out piece of metal it is much more fragile than most other pick profiles – which naturally makes it more prone to breaking. 

Though, I’m yet to break one currently, I have a strong feeling that’s it only a matter of “when” before it happens.

Therefore, if you are a beginner with a heavy hand, I believe that this is a fair warning that you’ll want to be gentle with this one! Importantly, try and keep it out of locks that are rusted or corroded as the components in those locks will sometimes need more force than the good old reach can provide!

Danke!

STREGNTH WEAKNESS
-Radical bitting They are fragile
-Paracentric keyways Should not be used with corroded or rusty locks
-Heavy warding Heavy tension
-Tight keyways
-Rotating pins

2.) Deforest Diamond

There’s usually no middle ground for this fascinating pick. It’s either you love or absolutely hate it. There’s no being lukewarm.

Let’s look at the profile of this pick. This is one of its show-off points. The beauty of this pick is the profile and how it affects the pins changes as one alters the angle

When slightly angled, this pick offers a similar slope to that of the gem – which gives us the benefit of being able to slide it across pins. Additionally, this makes the pick slightly more manoeuvrable because we don’t have to lower it as far to get it under each pin stack.

However, when we begin to remove the angle, the tip of the pick begins to flatten out and rise which makes lifting pins very easy and reduces any chance of slippage. And because it has a very wide offset, it easily pivots and curves around pin stacks without touching them, making setting those short pins in the back an easier task!

However, all of these perks packed into one pick does come at a cost. It is a fairly bulky pick that sometimes doesn’t quite fit into smaller or paracentric keyways.

STRENGTH WEAKNESS
-Radical bitting Small keyways

Paracentric keyway

RAKING

This is the use of a lock picking tool that attempts to move multiple pins at once. This method is made for speed and efficiency with low-security locks, and locks with keys that have calm bitting (the pins do not fluctuate between the highest and lowest depths). 

It is an erratic and volatile style of lock picking whose purpose is to manipulate as many pins as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Therefore, we typically use picks that are long and have many points of contact within the lock. Theoretically, the more points of contact you have with the pins while raking, the quicker you will set those pins and open the lock. Hence, the most effective rakes are those that touch more pins more times.

STRENGHT WEAKNESS
-Easy to learn -Little control over lock manipulation
-Quick results for newbies -Extremely hard to identify the lock’s internal security
-Instant gratification -Little success with high security locks
-Very effective on low-security locks
-Quick access to locks whose keys have calm bitting

This in no way means that the more radical and longer rakes are the final answer as the efficiency of any rake depends greatly on other factors such as the biting of the pins. On the other hand, the simplest of designs are the most effective at getting the work done

There are a lot of ways to use a rake. However, we will look at the three main styles that majority of picks fall under:  

  1. Scrubbing
  2. Rocking
  3. Zipping

SCRUBBING PICKS

Perhaps the most popular method of raking is a technique referred to as scrubbing. It can be used with nearly any shape of pick. Scrubbing is a simple method of raking that resembles the scrubbing motion of, let’s say, scraping in an in-out/out-in motion on the tips of the pins.

Raking should be thought of as your short-range shooter; your pinch hitter. But enough with the analogies and metaphors, let’s get on with the technique.

Bogota

Very few of the common pick shapes around today can be traced back to an original designer, but this cannot be said of the Bogota Rakes. These rakes have been found to be so exceptionally effective that they deserve special mention when discussing rakes.

This is arguably one of the most powerful and commonly used rakes out there today. Aside from being effective, the economy of design is quite remarkable. A set of two picks includes a Bogota Rake and Bogota Pick (modelled much like a half diamond). 

The handle end of each tool doubles as a tension wrench, allowing the user to be prepared to open many locks with just these two tools alone.

The Bogota Rake is best used, as Iferika describes, with a “jittery motion”, as though the user had consumed too much coffee. It is more powerful when the angle is changed while raking. This makes setting those short cut pins in the front or back a breeze. It’s also a very useful pick to use in a rocking manner (our next raking style!)

What makes this rake so effective has a lot to do with the rounded and polished peaks that reduce friction and allow it to slip and slide within the lock like a buttered-up fat kid farting through space.

Also, it has triple peaks which can manipulate several pins at the same time and with each pass through the lock has the chance to set each pin three times — except for the rearmost pins.

As odd as this might sound, the rakes have been found to be strikingly effective on many common pin tumbler locks by many both hobbyists and professionals alike. The rakes are particularly effective against locks with a high/low bitting – something many types of rakes cannot claim. However, like all rakes, it’s basically useless against any moderate-quality locks with deep cut security pins and will sometimes struggle against locks with very high tolerances. You’re not going to rake an American 1100 — at least not easily.

Other use include; rocking, zipping

Pagoda” by SouthOrd or “Bogie” by Peterson are the other names for the Bogota!

STRENGTH  WEAKNESS
Radical bitting Not suitable for security pins

Snake rake

A snake rake gets its name from the shape of the pick head. It should come as no surprise that the rake resembles that of a snake or the letter “S”.  This style of rake is among the most popular amongst avid raking aficionados.  

It is one of the oldest styles of rake and to this day still makes many pickers’ list of best pick profile. Being a household name in many beginner and advanced lock pick sets, it is a very powerful rake to have. 

This rake has only two tiny peaks of different heights. Its effectiveness comes from is smaller profile. Unlike the Bogota, the snake rake is very short. This not only gives it the ability to be used at various and more extreme angles while raking, it can also be used in smaller or more paracentric keyways.

The “C Rake”, “Squiggly Rake”, or “Double Rake” are other names that the famous snake rake has been called. Nevertheless, most lock pickers refer to it as the snake rake

ROCKING PICKS

Rocking is the second category of raking. 

In this, the goal is always to lift pins to the shear line. This is a very simple and gentle method in which the picker continually changes the angle of the pick within the keyways.

A method that was designed to be used with almost any pick; however one particular pick was designed with rocking in mind.

The City rake

This is ideal for rocking. Known by other names like “L-Rake” or “Long Ripple”, it gets its name from its resemblance to a city skyline and has a very similar profile to that of the bitting of a key.

Slightly used differently when compared to the other typical rakes, the city rake is used in a rocking rather scrubbing manner.

However, while rocking Similar to jiggling but with almost no in/out motion under tension can be applied that ensures that the different peaks have the chance to touch and set other pins. A combo of rocking and mild scrubbing will turn this pick into a very powerful little tool!

Lock picks

The rocking motion affords it to rotate around the centre of its profile making it very effective against locks with longer pins in the front and back and short pins in the centre. 

Despite all you stand to gain using this rake, however, like all rakes, it performs poorly against locks with tighter tolerances, smack keyways or security pins. 

ZIPPING PICKS

This is the last but not the least in the category of raking. It has one goal which is to violently bounce pins to the shear line by forcefully pulling the pick out of the keyway while applying an upward force on the pins. A variety of picks can be used to achieve this, the short hook and half-diamond surprisingly inclusive

However, some several picks have been specifically designed to maximise the bouncing force applied to each pin. Consequently, has increased the success rate of them setting.

Batarang

This is ideal for zipping. It is popularly known as the “S-Rake”, “Triple Rake”, or “Camel Rake”. Practically, one of the few picks that was designed with the zipping style in mind.

Made up of two peaks, it provides it with two chances to set each pin per zip and each pick is radically sharp so that it can violently throw pins to the shear line.

Lock picks

However, it’s not all perfection as there are some shortfalls to its efficiency. Its tendency to break where the beginning of the rake meets the shank of the pick is one fatal flaw of this pick. Consequently, this pick is weak against tighter keyways, paracentric keyways, heavy warding, rusty and corroded locks, or essentially anything that has a chance of snagging the pick on the way out.

Reinforcements have begun at the bottom of these rakes. This was started by manufacturers to help diminish the aforementioned weak point.

CONCLUSION

The very essence of this guide is to clear confusions for those looking to get into this amazing craft. For all newbies, be rest assured that all or any of these 10 lock picks will not only serve you well but may be all you’d ever need. If I were you, I’d stay away from all those huge or low-quality sets of picks and get hold of a few picks that are high in quality and very useful.

Remember there are no hard and fast rules to this. The first picker to turn their hook upside down and use it to rock pins was likely thought an idiot, but today it’s seen as such a powerful technique that’s used by thousands! Practice makes perfect!