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One of my uncles loves to tell the tale of how he acquired much of his impressive collection of fine Snap-On tools and the four-foot-wide roll cab they came in. As he tells it, back in the sixties he purchased the full cab from a dealer who was going out of business, and had somehow wound up with the full chest, no key, and apparently no idea about the value of its contents. Price? $200. He bought the cab, dragged it home, popped it open with one of the few tools he owned (a lock pick set from working with a towing company), and was the proud owner of a fully stocked dealership tool set at about a 97% discount.

Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but he does use a pick set to open his tool box, claiming he’s nostalgic and never saw the point of getting it re-keyed. Picks are useful little devices, if you can get a set that isn’t from a shady dealer. Look for stainless steel pieces with good metal handles, which should cost around $30, and you usually won’t go wrong. Johnny Law may frown upon owners, but in the right circumstances, they can save some serious headaches. Practitioners claim that lock picking is as much an art as welding, so maybe it’ll morph into a hobby as well as a practical skill.

LAB 11-piece Mini Pick Set [Lock Picks by Brockhage]
Clear Practice Locks [Lock Picks by Brockhage]
Professional Picking Tools [Lock Pick Shop]

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9 Responses to Forget The Hairpins

  1. Eeyore says:

    Lock picking is already a hobby in certain circles.

  2. numb3rsix says:

    @Eeyore: Yep, a pretty fun one too. Although I am terrible with them and never practice, I have a pocket knife style set of picks that is pretty cool. You get a few common picks and torque wrench. I could easily rake open the deadbolt on one of my first places with it(IE it had a crappy lock), almost as fast as using a key. Anyway, I keep the tool around just in case, it comes in handy once in awhile. Scrap metal can be easily made into a rake style pick and an ground down alan wrench makes a good torque wrench if you want to try it out without any investment.

    Jack Knife Lock Pick

  3. river1 says:

    lex are you looking to change careers?

    first the safe cracking earphones, now these. next you’ll be showing a slim-jim. LOL

    later jim

  4. Mike47 says:

    All sounds like a free ticket for 3 hots and a cot at the Graybar Hotel.

  5. toby says:

    You ought to feature the latest entry tool for cars….a Kevlar airbag is slid between the body and door. Once inflated with a hand bulb a long tool is used to press the unlock button….as a former tow truck driver I found it fast and easy. I never used a slim jim or other in-door device again!

  6. Joe says:

    They are handy to have but they do take practice to use.

  7. Davo says:

    I used to rent a place, that was previously owned by a locksmith, and sometimes his trade magazines and catalogs would still get delivered to his old address. They were full of all kinds of great tools, really unique and inventive stuff.

  8. TMIB_Seattle says:

    Hrm.. a bit of recycling content here. Long time Toolmongers may remember that you covered this back in March:

    I’ll repeat my comment there:

    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.


  9. Peter W says:

    This is a tool that will pay for itself, many times over.

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