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by digital_blue © 2005 Lockpicking101.com The following exercise is one that I feel every new lockpicker will benefit from. I first learned about this exercise in Locks, Safes, And Security by Marc W. Tobias. The point of the exercise is to help a beginner to properly learn how to feel what is happening inside a lock, and to detect a binding pin. Many new lockpickers tend to use what I’ve often referred to as the “poke and prod” method, in that they spend a lot of time poking around in the lock with their pick tools, and along the way they manage to set the pins and eventually, through mostly luck, the lock opens. As exciting as this is for the beginner, if their skills do not develop past this poke and prod method, they will have increasing difficulty as they move on to harder locks. Because lockpicking relies on lifting “the binding pin” to the shear line, it stands to reason that figuring out which pin is the binding pin would be a useful skill. This exercise will help you develop this skill. If you have not already, it is important that you study how and why lockpicking works. Read the LSI Guide To Lock Picking. It is very important that you go through this exercise in a slow and methodical manner. If you rush through it, you may as well just save your time and not bother at all, as you will learn very little from it. Take each step one at a time, and do not advance until you are absolutely certain that you have learned all you can from the stage you are at. In order to try this exercise, you will need: 1) You’ll need a 5 pin cylinder. This can be any 5 pin cylinder that you can disassemble and remove pins. A simple Kwikset cylinder would be fine, though my experience has shown that a beginner may actually benefit even more from a more difficult cylinder such as a Schlage. As you’ll see, you work your way up slowly, so it doesn’t matter at all if the cylinder is currently too difficult for your current level of picking skill. It is important, however, that the cylinder not have any security pins. Picking security pins is the topic for another exercise. Walk before you run. If you need help learning how to disassemble a lock cylinder you can learn more here: http://www.lockpicking101.com/viewtopic.php?t=10505 2) You’ll need a small hook pick (or feeler pick). Ideally, this would be a purchased pick, such as one made by SouthOrd. You could use a homemade pick if you like, but please stay away from makeshift items such as paper clips or safety pins for this exercise. They will only frustrate your learning process. 3) You’ll need a tension wrench
Try applying more tension and notice how the feeling will change as the resistance caused by your increased tension makes the binding more pronounced. but it still has all the basic properties of a fully useable lock. Now you a functioning lock that would. use your hook to lift one. and 5 empty of all springs and pins. of course. then the other pin. But for this stage. in theory. You will feel the pressure from the spring pushing back on the pin lightly. what you need to learn is the difference in feel when a pin is binding and when it is not. 3. 20 minutes Next. It is exceptionally easy to pick this lock in this configuration. Notice that they should feel about the same. You’ll notice. Get to know this feeling well. With no tension applied. Next. STAGE 2 –Approx time. that by applying tension with the wrench and lifting this one pin. Do not lift so high as to hit the shear line and open the lock. Don’t move on until you can clearly distinguish the difference between a pin that is binding and a pin that is not. As you slowly lift the pin. apply light tension to the plug and use the hook again to lift the pin very slowly. notice how different the feel is. 4. disassemble your lock removing all pin stacks but the first one (the stack closest to the front of the lock). use your pick to lift the pin while applying no tension at all. You will detect the resistance of the pin dragging across the sides of the chamber. leaving chambers 2. though there will always be one that binds more than the other. take the lock apart again. this time in position 2 (second back from the front). (Note: on some poorly manufactured locks. as it is precisely what you will be feeling for later when trying to find the “binding pin”. Reassemble the lock with just this one pin stack installed and you are ready to begin. What is important to understand in this stage is that with two pins. the lock will open. We will refer to that pin as the “binding pin”). only one of them will bind when tension is applied. leaving the first pin stack as it was. . This feeling is important. With only two pins it offers little security. 20 minutes To start. with the spring pushing back down on the pins and no pins binding. require a key. With the plug in the locked position. The other will not bind. Slight differences in force might be noticed as a result of different pin stack heights or different spring tensions. and add one more pin stack.The Exercise STAGE 1 –Approx time. Do this several times so you can comfortably recognize this feeling later. you may notice that both pins bind to some extent.
use your hook to gently lift the other pin. Once you’ve opened the lock like this. allow the bottom pin to drop back down (of course while maintaining tension). While doing so. paying attention to whether it is binding or not. Gently lift the bottom pin and notice that this again has a completely different feel to it. gently and slowly lift lift the first pin. Along the way you may find it useful to mix up the bottom pins as you do this. This may seem tedious and even boring at times. In this case.Now try applying light tension to the plug. To verify that the pin is set. Once you’ve set one pin. Do not move on to the next stage until you are very comfortable with determining which of the two pins is binding. the more you will benefit from it. adding one additional pin stack in order from front to back for each new stage. there will be no spring tension on this pin. Next. This may be accompanied by a small click. Pay careful attention to which pin is binding and which is not. or a very slight rotation of the plug. It could be that you have lifted the first pin close to the shear line but have not quite hit it yet. I promise you that you will be a better lock picker for having completed this exercise. . Summary I hope that you take the time to go through this exercise with diligence and patience. Lift this pin to the shear line and the lock should open. Whichever pin offers the most resistance will be the binding pin. not necessarily first position). lock the lock again and repeat several times. Do not lift it all the way to the shear line yet. it means that you have not set the first pin (first to bind. your pin is likely set. STAGE 3-5 –Approx 20-30 minutes each Repeat the above process. Notice now that the binding force that was on the pin you just set has now transferred to this pin. If it happens that you lift this pin to the shear line and the lock does not open. This will change the nature of the lock a little and help prevent you from just performing the exercise in a memorized and robotic manner. This will be an indication that you have set this pin. If the bottom pin falls back down into the keyway freely. The more care and attention you put into it. try the same thing with pin two. go back to your first binding pin and lift a little more. The important thing is that you do not move on to the next stage until you are sure that you’ve learned all you can from the level you are on. Since the top pin is now trapped above the shear line. Lift this pin gently and slowly until you feel it come to a distinct stop at the shear line. so it will move freely with almost no resistance at all. but you are learning a valuable skill that carry over to every pin tumbler lock you pick. Notice which of the two feels like it’s binding.
Since you know where the spool pin is. the world is your oyster. put the spool pin in the middle.com and let me know! Cheers! db AFTERTHOUGHT: Many people have emailed or PM'd me asking what to do once they've completed this exercise. In the original thread on LP101 (Page 5) I suggest an "Intermediate Lock Picking Exercise". and don't know where to get them. since this is usually going to be the second pin to bind in this configuration. And do let me know how you get on with it. you will be a lot more aware of the feedback you get when you hit the spool. move up to 4 pins. Might I suggest it would be time to move onto some high security locks? If you don't have any security pins. Get comfortable with setting the spool pin without dropping the other pins. Repeat for the 5th pin. 3 pins). Cheers. You'll find that these "Intermediate" exercises will not take as long to go through as did the Beginner exercise. After you've gotten comfortable with security pins. If you pin up the lock with 3 pins. You can probably get through the spool pins in an evening or two. and make the 4th a spool as well.If you have completed this exercise and it has helped you. Once you've done this. so that people don't have to hunt for it. say. feel free to drop me an email through Locksport. but start to introduce security pins. I will quote that suggestion here. db . After completing that. Same goes for serrated pins. I would say that a suitable "next step" is to repeat the process (this time starting at. Get ahold of a few spool pins and a few serrated driver pins. email me and I'll send you a link. do the same with serrated pins.
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