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Lock pick tools lie in a legal gray area, the instruments of both hard-working locksmiths and potentially a stealthy burglar or two. Some people even make lockpicking a hobby — “The Open Organization Of Lockpickers” (or Toool) includes thousands of members worldwide and holds yearly competitions. They’re all devoted to tools that may be illegal where you live.

So what do you Toolmongers think? Are these valid tools for getting yourself and others out of a jam? Or, are these handy little picks and torsion wrenches the tools of nogoodniks out to steal that new plasma TV hanging on your wall? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Lockpicking Tools [LockPickTools.com]
U.S. Toool Club [Toool]
Jack Knife Lockpicking Set Via Amazon [What’s This?] [What’s This?]


29 Responses to Hot or Not? Lock Pick Tools

  1. Dale says:

    It’s a fun hobby. I have dabbled in it off an on over the years in my spare time, starting wtih small barrel locks and progressing to padlocks and door locks.
    I’ve never owned a ‘bought’ set of tools. If you have a file, you can make a set from hacksaw blades.
    I obviously don’t use them with criminal intent, and I don’t carry them around with me, but I am still surprised that so many people think the lock on your car or house will keep people out.

  2. SuperJdynamite says:

    Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman made a hobby of safe cracking.

  3. Christian says:

    It’s a great hobby. I have a Southord set that I make use of from time to time just to fool around with a box of old door locks and padlocks. It’s akin to a physical form of hacking. There is almost a limitless amount of information you can learn and it can take a lifetime to master. But it wont make an honest man a thief.

  4. I think the fact that you can still pick a lock is a testament to lock makers laziness. They have relied on the fact that only a very small community has historically had the right information and tools. Now with the internet, everybody has access to the information and tools, put they haven’t changed their ways.

    There is a saying in crytpography — ” there’s no security in obscurity” — that I think applies in this case also. They have obscured how their locks work and depend on law to make anybody who owns the tools suspect, and they call their products secure, when in reality the locks are only secure if somebody who has full knowledge, access, and tools still can’t open the lock.

    I also agree with Dale that you can have the best quality lock made, but as long as your house is made out of something that can break (like glass) or cut with a sawzall (like wood), a thief can get in if he wants.

  5. Fred says:

    I can recall only one instancewhere a customer wanted to save a piece of locked cabinetry and we had to call a locksmith. seene the tools – but not worth learning the trade or getting the necessary licenses.


  6. Brown Dwarf says:

    Most of the patterns in any set aren’t useful. All you really need is a hook and maybe a rake or two.

    Although I have occasionally picked a lock where the key had gone missing, most of the time I just use the things for fun.

    It’s been said that the best lockpick is a brick.

  7. ryan says:

    I misplaced my lockpick set, but I used it for fun, just to have the knowledge of how a lock works.

  8. McAngryPants says:

    I bought a “bump key” set off the internets last year. was fun until I opened all the locks in my house…then felt really concerned about my security situation


  9. Zathrus says:

    They’re cool, and outlawing them is just utterly silly. All but a few locks can be “picked” far more quickly and reliably using a bump key. Or, as others mention, by ignoring the lock and going through a window, etc. (which is what real thieves are going to do, unless you’re the target of spies, etc — who are going to use a bump key nowadays anyway).

    Benjamin — it’s pretty much impossible to create a physical lock that cannot be picked or otherwise contravened. There are some products that make it exceptionally difficult, and they’re used in appropriate settings, but they also cost hundreds of dollars per set, vs $20+ for your average homeowner lock. And, again, it doesn’t stop the bricks.

    Realistically, as with many things, locks only stop those who don’t care that much about getting in. They’re not a real deterrent — except to my 2 yr old who hasn’t figured them out yet. Thankfully. That’ll last about another 6 months if her older sister is any guide.

  10. Dan Lyke says:

    Put me in the “it’s silly to outlaw ’em” department. Someone with lockpicking tools wants to get in without doing damage to the surrounding enclosure, be that a car, a house, or whatever, a thief generally doesn’t care, and a brick is a heck of a lot faster.

  11. Wesley says:

    A tool is a tool. A hammer can be used to break a window but it can also be used to build a house. Tools themselves have no moral value except the use we put it to.

  12. McAngryPants says:

    Quick! outlaw hammers!!

  13. Mr P says:

    Bump key is the way to go. Bump key will even work on muti-lock. So if you want protection from a bump key get a hi security Medeco.

  14. I keep a retractable lockpick in my car toolbox. I bought after I locked my desk drawer key in my desk drawer. No way was I sending out a company-wide email to see if anyone else had the same tumbler number.

  15. Odo says:

    I keep a folding lockpick set at my desk for when one of the great-n-mighty overlords loose their office or file cabinet keys.

  16. tmib_seattle says:

    I’m a supporting member over at lockpicking101.com. Lockpicking is a great hobby, but doing it right and actually learning to pick takes time and a lot of practice. Lots of folks learn to pick a few simple locks and never go beyond that.

    One thing that folks at lockpicking101.com try and promote: don’t learn by picking locks in use, and never pick a lock that you do not have permission from the owner to pick.

    I’ve got a pretty good set… (I guess I should add my lockpicking pics to the toolmonger flickr pool) but I’m still pretty new at picking.

    Anyone that owns lockpicks should do their research and learn what the laws are in their state/province/country.

    Here in Washington state, it’s pretty reasonable. Picks are treated as tools, just as a hammer or screwdriver. Possession or carry of them is not illegal. However if you are in the act of committing a burglary or are evidencing intent to commit a burglary* and are found in possession of lockpicking tools, then you are guilty of posession of “burglary tools” which is a gross misdemeanor (on top of what other burglary charges you’d be facing.)

    Seems reasonable to me; if you’re not committing a crime with them, they are not illegal to own or carry.

    *note that the statute I read specifcally states that simply being in possession of lockpicks is not evidencing intent to commit a burglary.

    It really is a fun hobby though; picking a new lock is much like a physical puzzle like a rubik’s cube or one of those twisty puzzles with the nails bent into odd shapes. There’s a similar feeling to cryptography as well, as the height of the shear point of each pin can be equated to a numerical value- finding the right height and right order for each pin is much like decrypting a code. And of course there’s a lot of tactile dexterity and feedback involved that takes a while to really learn.

    I’d recommend that anyone interested in the hobby check out the forums at lockpicking101.com; read through the tutorials there and practice, practice, practice.


  17. Eric Dykstra says:

    I too have a set of bump keys, mine have actually saved my butt a few times.

    Funny thing about them is that the better the lock is constructed the easier the bump key works. In nice locks with close tolerances the pins jump right out of the way, older gunked up locks can be a pain.

  18. tmib_seattle says:

    Oh one other note, if you’re new to the hobby, do yourself a favor and avoid tools like the jack knife lockpick set linked here. It’s a useful way to carry picks on you all the time, but is much more of a tool for an experienced picker. A lot of picking is the feedback you get through your fingers on the handle, and trying to learn using the jack knife type of pick is very counter-productive. It simply isn’t small or light enough to provide the same level of tactile feedback that a good set of individual picks does.

    Once you get good with a regular pick set, then something like this would be worthwhile to keep in your pocket, but as your main set of picks while learning, forget it.

  19. Because of the tricky legal status of lockpicks, I’m going to call them Not hot. The knowledge of how locks work, and how to improvise with materials on hand, is much more valuable. For instance: If you’re working with straightened paperclips, the burr on the end is probably a problem. Drag the tip across concrete as a crude grindstone.

    Practicing with real picks is probably a good idea, to get a feel for how things are “supposed” to work before you have to do it with one hand tied behind your proverbial back. But honestly, when you lock yourself out, you’re likely to be on the opposite side of the door from your picks anyway, so in the long run, you’re better off with a solid understanding and a resourceful scavenger’s eye.

    Side note: How often do lockpicks show up in comics? http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/archive_page.php?comicID=49

  20. ambush27 says:

    I don’t own a set of lockpicks, but I have practiced on old padlocks with pins and such, its quite fun. I can easily pick a four pin padlock with a pin and a screwdriver.

  21. Scote says:

    “I bought a “bump key” set off the internets last year. was fun until I opened all the locks in my house…then felt really concerned about my security situation”

    Bump keys are an amazingly effective, stupid-simple way to open locks. Locksmiths have known the technique–and the accompanying complete vulnerability of almost all pin tumbler locks–for decades but kept it to themselves for alleged security through obscurity.

    Bumping your own house locks for fun, though, is a bad idea. Bumping is very destructive to lokcs.

  22. ToolFreak says:

    Picks are hot, as the technical way to open locks, preferably of the damage-free kind of picking. I myself prefer using less traditional tools when opening locks for those who have locked themself out. Tools which are faster at opening locks, and aren’t illegal anywhere…yet.

  23. Lockdude says:

    As the saying goes, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Just because someone has a set of picks or bump-keys doesn’t mean they are bad.
    It would actually be quite easy to make locks unpickable, but so long as people are willing to buy locks that are, corporations won’t bother with the extra expense. Smarter customers will make the security issue be just a mention in the history books. When you write an article about all the new toys in a car, do you ever say much about the changes made in car lock technology? Transponders have made it much tougher to steal a car, and this same technology could be adapted to home security, too, if we insisted.

  24. Dnice says:

    SuperJ mentioned Richard Feynman. For probably the best safe cracking story of all time, get a hold of a copy of Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! and read the chapter about how he steals the secrets to the atomic bomb as a practical joke. It’s fantastic.

  25. Crapface says:

    Where do you buy them for $30?

  26. Jim says:

    Yeah, todays criminals are too lazy to learn how to pick a lock. They just kick in the door or go through windows. Lock picking has become more of just a hobbyist activity.

  27. EUGENE says:

    i have imported 2 sets of lock picks from the USA with the intention of starting a hobby in lock picking. I am not sure if the possession thereof in South Africa is illegal or not.

  28. Joe says:

    I think that lock picks should be legal to own, except if your a felon, on the Meth program, etc and of course if your in the act of committing a crime with them. I don’t own any , but this is my thoughts. If your on probation or parole you shouldn’t be walking around with 3 foot bolt cutters either.

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