alt.locksmithing FAQ

The alt.locksmithing FAQ does not attempt to teach you locksmithing, just to answer simple questions, give you some hints on getting started, and point you to sources of information. Also included is a glossary of common terms. The Appendix covers many supply places, books and tapes.

Version 7.01 Last changed 2007-03-03

Questions Answered:

  1. Will people on this newsgroup give me information about picking locks, etc.?
  2. Where can I get a lock pick set?
  3. How can I make my own picks and tension wrenches?
  4. Is it legal to carry lock picks?
  5. Where can I get the “MIT Guide to Picking Locks”?
  6. What books can I get on locksmithing?
  7. What are “pick guns” or “automatic pickers” and do they work?
  8. How do I open a Kryptonite lock?
  9. Can the Club be picked? Is the Club any good?
  10. How can I get keys stamped “DO NOT DUPLICATE” duplicated?
  11. Do Skeleton Keys Exist?
  12. Should I bother with high security (“pick proof”) locks and other security enhancements for my home?
  13. What should I do after I read a book?
  14. How do I continue learning about locksmithing?
  15. How do I learn the locksmithing trade?
  16. How do I learn more about Master Keying?
  17. How do Simplex pushbutton locks work?
  18. Is there a formula that can find the combination of a Master Lock?
  19. Can the combination of a Master Lock be found though manipulation?
  20. What is the “shear line”.
  21. What is “impressioning”?
  22. What is a code? What is a codebook?
  23. How do I open a car with a Slim Jim?
  24. What is a jiggler key?
  25. Is there an ethical dimension to locksmithing?
  26. I have a safe without the combination - how do I open it?
  27. How do I change the combination of a safe?
  28. How do I disassemble a Kwikset key in knob entry set?
  29. Why are posts of binaries (pictures) against the consensus rules of this
  30. Should my business be a shop or a mobile unit (truck)?

0. Will people on this newsgroup give me information about picking locks, etc.?

Yes and No. This is a serious debate, based on serious principles. Most experienced people here are quite willing to discuss the basics of lock construction and operation. Few (if any) are willing to give specific answers regarding opening a particular lock or safe - without knowing the asker or having other evidence that the inquiry is legitimate.

Another balancing act regards the general effect of information. As Joe K. put it succinctly, “On one side there are the idealists who believe that even weak security should not be further compromised without good reason; on the other there are those who believe that weak locks should be forced out of the market. There’s never going to be agreement here… can we just agree that reasonable people can disagree, and have done with it?”

People have contrasted locksmithing “security by obscurity” with practice in the software arena (in which it has generally been considered to be misguided and therefore be bad for society.) Exposing flaws as a social good breaks down when there are hundreds of thousands of current owners of the product who don’t know that the flaw has been exposed. Even if they find out, there is another big difference. This is the cost of correcting the flaw (upgrading.) Installing the patches on your copy of software takes a bit of effort, but you don’t have to throw out and purchase a new physical product (such as a lock.) The manufacturer of the lock is pretty certain not to make it available for free. Basically you have to buy a new item and have it replaced, and this adversly impacts users, many of whom do not have the budget to correct the flaw. Therefore publishing the security flaw costs users *much* more for a lock than for a piece of software.

And the fact is that a nominally flawed product _does_ provide adequate security against the unmotivated and ignorant who are the primary folks attacking physical security systems (as opposed to the motivated and clueful who attack electronic security and can do it from a distance without physical presence).

1. Where can I get a lock pick set?

Try a locksmith supply house. Look under “Locksmiths’ Equipment & Supplies” in the Yellow Pages. Your locality, State or the company may have requirements, such as having to prove you are a locksmith or showing a drivers license; call and find out. Look for mail order houses in the Appendix. You can also check on the Web for suppliers.

2. How can I make my own picks and tension wrenches?

You can file or (more easily) grind picks out of spring steel. It is best to use spring steel - sources include hacksaw blades, piano (music) wire, clock springs, street sweeper bristles (which can be found along the street after the sweeper has passed), metal from a plumbers “snake”, etc. In a pinch safety pin steel, or even a bobby pin (much worse) can be used. When grinding, keep the steel from getting so hot as to anneal (soften) it. You may have to re-harden/re-temper it. (See a book on knife making, gunsmithing, or machine shop practice for a discussion on heat treating steel. Spring steel is hardened and then tempered/drawn so as to retain some hardness and to get quite a bit of flexibility.) Some people prefer a rigid tension wrench and just bend a small screwdriver for this, but many prefer a slightly flexible wrench and use spring steel.

The “MIT Guide to Picking Locks” and the “Eddie The Wire” books (see below) cover making these tools. There are many places you can buy picks and tension wrenches. See the appendix.

3. Is it legal to carry lock picks?

This depends on where you are. In the U.S. the common case seems to be that it is legal to carry potential “burglar tools” such as keys, picks, crowbars, jacks, bricks, etc., but use of such tools to commit a crime is a crime in itself. Call your local library, district attorney, police department, or your own attorney to be sure. Possession of potential “burglar tools” can be be used as evidence against you if you are found in incriminating circumstances. An example of a state law can be found in the Viginia State Code: Section 18.2-94 _Possession of burglarious tools, etc._ “If any person have in his possession any tools, implements or outfit, with intent to commit burglary, robbery or larceny, upon conviction thereof he shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony.”

Note that the prosecution has to prove “intent”. However, the law continues: “The possession of such burglarious tools, implements or outfit by any person other than a licensed dealer, shall be prima facie evidence of an intent to commit burglary, robbery or larceny.” This means that the possessor can have a bit of an uphill battle and has to convince the jury that this ‘prima facie evidence’ is misleading.

Places where it *is* illegal to carry lock picks:
The District of Columbia, New York State and Illinois. New Jersey law appears to make these illegal if they can work motor vehicle locks. There may be many other places as well (such as Canada, Maryland and California.) It can be hard to tell since the relevant laws can be dealing with burglary, motor vehicles or locksmith regulation, etc. This emphasizes the importance of finding out for *your* area - and determining the applicability to *your* circumstances (e.g., locksmith, full or part-time), repo worker, building maintenance worker, …

4. Where can I get the “MIT Guide to Picking Locks”?

The author of the “MIT Guide to Picking Locks”, “Ted the Tool”, has posted a PostScript(TM) version of the Guide which can be retrieved via ftp from:
You will need a PostScript printer or previewer to view this file.

Dave Ferret <[email protected]> scanned/typed in a version of the Guide, it is a file of the text of the Guide and a collection of GIFs of the diagrams. This can be found in ZIP and tar format in:
A Web version can be found at The Document Which Was Formerly Called the MIT Guide

Mattias Wingstedt <[email protected]> has converted the Guide to HTML and made it available on the Web at

Ken Waldron <[email protected]> has converted the Guide to MS Word format and it can be retrieved via ftp from:
Since this is a zipped file, you will need to set ftp to binary mode and then unzip it after retrieving it. You may want to start by retrieving the small mitguideMSE.README file first.

4b. I can’t print the Guide!

Try deleting the two lines that read:
statusdict /lettertray known {statusdict begin lettertray end} if

5. What books can I get on locksmithing?

Bill Phillips has written a number of locksmithing books. For the beginning or aspiring locksmith here is an excellent and practical introduction and overview:
McGraw-Hill 2000 ISBN 0-07-134436-5
paperbound 7 1/2″ x 9″, 550 pages, $34.95

An excellent encyclopedic reference:
The Complete Book of Locks & Locksmithing, 4th ed.
McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1995 ISBN 0-07-049866-0 $24.95 (Paper) USA

and another one:
Professional Locksmithing Techniques, 2nd Edition
TAB Books/McGraw-Hill 1996
ISBN 0-07-049867-9 (Paper) $36.95 (Paper)

also many people think highly of:

Eddie The Wire: How to Make Your Own Professional Lock Tools
“Eddie The Wire” Loompanics Unlimited
ISBN 0-685-39143-4 4 Volumes $20

Your local book store should be able to order these for you. You can find other titles under “Locksmithing” in the Books In Print Subject Index, which any decent bookstore should have. Also see the Appendix.

6. What are “pick guns” or “automatic pickers” and do they work?

A “pick gun” is a manual or powered device that uses a vibrating pin to try to bounce the pin tumblers so there are spaces at the shear line so that the plug can rotate. Some kind of turning pressure is also needed - either during or a split second after the click. The MIT Guide has some discussion of this. Pick guns are not a panacea, and aren’t always effective although some people find them to work extremely well. The net seems to feel that these are no substitute for a little skill with a pick and learning how locks work. The electrically powered ones are considerably more expensive, and many question whether they are worth the cost. Pick guns should not be used on wafer tumbler locks as they will not pick the lock and can damage the wafers and springs.
The following “ascii art” may make this easier to understand:

 / <-- Spring, pushes pins down.
 ------- | | ------- <-- Shear line, where the
 |_| plug meets the cylinder.
 | |
 ^ <-- Keyway
 Pick gun delivers
 sharp blow to bottom
With luck, right after the gun delivers its blow:
 | | <-- Top pin thrown up by blow.
 -------------------- <-- Shear line, where the
 plug meets the cylinder.
 | | <-- Bottom pin stays in place.
Three "pick gun" type implements described in _PICK GUNS Lock Picking
for Spies, Cops and Locksmiths_ by John Minnery:
The simple clicker, made from a metal clothes hanger:
 Thumb presses here,
 then releases with a snap.
 / _____ | |
 / / \ | |
 | | | | | <--- Pins go here, where
 \ \-----/---------------|--------------- they will receive
 \_____/ \ / ^ the force of the
 \_/ | "click".
 ^ |
 | ^ Flatten needle with hammer,
 | | shorten height with file.
 Wrap around something | This part goes into
 like a broom handle. | the lock under the pins.
 This part imparts
 force to the needle
 which imparts force
 to the pins.
Clothespin Clicker:
 \ _ --------------| <-- Thin strip of metal placed
 -----------/-\___/ \_| in groove cut in top of
 -----\-/ \_/ | clothespin.
 Lower part shortened to make operation easier.
 Finger pulls up here, and then releases. Force
 is transfered to needle, and then pins.
Spring Pick Gun:
 ____________________ __
 / \ / \
 | | / |
 | | | |
 | | | |
 \__ | | | Needle. This part
 \ __________ | | _______________ <-- transfers force to
 | / | | | pins. Hammer thin,
 | | \_| _/ and file down height.
 | | |
 | | | <-- Trigger. Forefinger pulls here, and
 | | | releases with a snap.
 | | \
 | |
 | __ |
 | / \ |
 |\ || <-- Wrap around something
 \_\___/| like a broom handle.

7. How do I open a Kryptonite lock?

Easiest: If you registered your lock, call or write Kryptonite for a new key. Or call a local locksmith, they should be able to pick and re-key the lock for you.

Easy: Get a car jack and jack it apart. Careful, otherwise it is very possible that you’ll damage the bike.

Easy: Use a cut-off wheel in a Dremel tool to cut the lock at the hole in the shackle (where there is the least to cut.)

Harder: If it doesn’t have the newer brass jacket, peel back the plastic coating on the key end, drill out the pin that holds in the cylinder, remove the cylinder, open.

Hardest: Chill the metal of the “U” with liquid Nitrogen or Freon, smash with hammer. While this is a “well known” method, it may be an urban legend.

8. Can the Club be picked? Is the Club any good?

Stan Schwarz <[email protected]> writes:

I used to have a “Club”, purchased on the recommendation of a coworker. The first time I tried picking it, it took me approximately 30 seconds, using the cap of a Papermate Flexgrip pen for tension, and a bent jumbo paperclip to rake the pins. With practice, I was able to reliably pick every “Club” I encountered in 5-30 seconds using these tools.

However, it doesn’t really matter, no car thief is going to pick it, they are going to cut the soft plastic steering wheel with a hacksaw or bolt cutters and slip the Club off.

It has also been claimed that the Club can be broken if you grab it with both hands, put your feet on the dashboard, and push with your legs and pull with your arms as hard as you can. Be sure to wear gloves!

The Club is useful as a deterrent, a car thief may pass over your car for something easier. But if a thief wants your car, the Club will not stop him. An alarm with an ignition kill and a theft recovery system like LoJack is a better, but more expensive, option.

9. How can I get keys stamped “DO NOT DUPLICATE” duplicated?

Some locksmiths will take the Nike approach and “Just Do It”. Some will even stamp “DO NOT DUPLICATE” on the copy for you. If that doesn’t work, label the key by sticking some tape on the “DO NOT DUPLICATE” stamp and try again. Many locksmiths aren’t ‘fooled’ by the tape, but many key-cutting clerks don’t care.

10. Do Skeleton Keys Exists?

“Skeleton Keys” are keys ground to avoid the wards in warded locks. There is no analog with modern pin tumbler locks. Master keys may open a large set of locks, but this is designed in when the locks are ‘pinned’ with master pins.

11. Should I bother with high security (“pick proof”) locks and other security enhancements for my home?

Why not? If you are installing locks, the better quality ones are not much more expensive, and are physically more secure (e.g., have hardened inserts to protect against drilling.) However, note that protection against picking doesn’t add a large amount to your security since burglars almost always go the brute force route. Regardless, you should have a deadbolt, and check your window security.
An excellent project is to do a security survey of your own premises. Look at the entire problem - consider lighting and visibility, as well as the locks, doors and windows. Ask your insurance agent, you may be eligible for a premium reduction if you make a few changes in your home such as a) adding deadbolt locks, and b) installing smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.

12. What should I do after I read a book?

After some reading, then the next thing is some experience. Go to K-Mart, buy a deadbolt lock for around $10, and take the entire thing apart (you’ll need tools like screwdrivers, and perhaps a pair of pliers) to see how a pin tumbler lock works. K-Mart carries a clone of the Kwikset deadbolt which is made to be very easy to take apart. (Key-in-knob locksets are both more expensive and harder to take apart.)

You then can practice picking this lock by leaving out all but one stack of pins. This will be exceedingly easy to pick, and will mostly provide experience in manipulating the pick and tension wrench. Then put in one more pin stack and try again - feeling when one stack is picked and the plug rotates minutely - so little that it is felt rather than seen. Then when the second one is picked that will let the plug move, unlocking the lock. Keep on adding stacks. Try picking with the curved finger (or feeler) pick, and also raking.

As you get involved in doing some elementary locksmithing, also learn about the quality of hardware and how to pick appropriate hardware for the projected use. There is a quality grade based on testing by ANSI (the American National Standards Institute) which give an indication of the resistance of a lockset to wear and unauthorized entry.

  • Grade 1 - commercial quality for heavy use
  • Grade 2 - heavier residential use and light commercial use
  • Grade 3 - light residential use (widely used for residential use where cost is the primary consideration, most locksmiths would recommend Grade 2 as a minimum.

There are also many people on the net who are willing to help in various areas. Posting a question on alt.locksmithing can help find someone.

13. How do I continue learning about locksmithing?

There are several things you can do to continue learning more about locks and locksmithing. One, of course, is to subscribe to a locksmithing magazine. Some years ago I compared the National Locksmith to the Locksmith Ledger and felt that the latter was a bit better on technical info. Call yourself a Student Locksmith, or perhaps a Security Consultant (surely you have given some advice to *somebody*!). Also read The Complete Book of Locks & Locksmithing, 4th ed. by Bill Phillips which was mentioned above.

Lock companies are starting to use the Internet to distribute information. See the on-line resources section below for many lock related web sites.

But all this reading can help only so much, so you have to continue buying various types of locks, taking them apart, figuring out everything about them, and installing, removing, modifying them. Buy some key blanks, make up a master key scheme, and file the keys to fit (assuming you don’t have a key machine yet) - filing may take a few minutes, but it does work. Maybe buy a re-keying kit (kit of different size pins, with a plug follower) and do some re-keying for your family or friends (the same size pins fit, I think, the familiar Kwikset and Schlage pin tumbler locks) so that their deadbolts can be opened with their normal front door key. (Hint - when disassembling a lock you may want to do it inside a transparent plastic bag. Then the small pieces and springs will be trapped and won’t go flying across the room, leaving you with a sad look on your face.) (A follower is used to push the plug out, when the pins are at the shear line, therefore keeping the top pins and springs in place. Then the rekeyed plug is used to push out the follower, again keeping the top pins and springs in place. Similarly the follower can be used when loading new springs and top pins, keeping the loaded ones in place.)

Or buy a deadbolt installation kit (hole saw plus template - I think that Black and Decker makes a good inexpensive one, available at better building supply places) and put in a few deadbolts for your family and friends - charging them only for the materials plus a couple of bucks towards the installation kit - and re-key the deadbolt for them, too.

Buy or make a pick set, and use your practice locks to practice picking. Do you have a good locksmith supply catalog? If not, give a call to a local supplier. Help people at work who have been locked out of their desks or filing cabinets. Desks usually have wafer tumbler locks which are *much* easier to pick than pin tumbler locks. Filing cabinets are not as easy to pick, but are pickable (actually some are very easy to pick - they vary greatly) and also can be opened by pushing a flexible plastic ruler between the side of the sliding drawer and the cabinet body - carefully inspect some working cabinets to see what I’m talking about.

13a. How do I learn the locksmithing trade?

Joe Kesselman posted this advice:

The mail-order courses will teach you the very basics — but that’s just a starting point. Their main value is in teaching you what questions to ask and some terminology so you can go on to learn more from other sources. You _can_ get started this way, but it takes determination and considerable additional effort. As with any trade, there’s a lot of detail to learn and skills that come only with practice.If you’re planning to apprentice to an established locksmith (not at all a bad idea) you might want to start by asking around and determining whether the folks in your area would be more likely to give you a chance after you’ve taken one of these courses. Some consider the course a helpful bootstrap, some don’t. In my area, shops seem to be looking for folks who are willing to take on the automotive work so the principals can spend their time doing more interesting (and lucrative) stuff, and I’m not convinced the learn-at-home classes teach much that’s useful about this corner of the field.

Joe also points out that locksmithing associations, shows and journals are valuable sources of continuing education.

The National Locksmith (a monthly trade journal) requires some form of affiliation with the locksmithing/security industry for subscription or for purchase of their training manuals - here’s the contact info:
The National Locksmith Magazine
Marc Goldberg, Publisher
[email protected]
They also sell a variety of books and software.
1533 Burgundy Pky
Streamwood, IL 60107

Jay Hennigan added:

… However, the best way to really learn the trade is by working in a real lock shop for a period of time. There are “tricks of the trade” that can only be learned in such an environment, and this trade tends to be more secretive than most, due to the (IMHO misguided) belief in “security through obscurity”.

Foley-Belsaw, and perhaps other correspondence schools, will often send out a series of offers with lower and lower prices if you wait after you first ask and get their initial (highest) price. People report that the F-B price eventually goes down to $499, and one person has said $399.
6301 Equitable Rd.,Kansas City,MO,64120 800-821-3452,816-483-4200,Fax:,816-483-5010

Another mass market correspondence school is NRI Schools 4401 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20008-2323, 1-800-321-4634 Ext. 3650 202-244-1600 Fax:202-244-2047

Some more schools - (Res. means a residential program, Cor. means correspondence) Thanks to Marc Goldberg of THE NATIONAL LOCKSMITH for compiling this list. (See elsewhere in this FAQ for his Web site, etc.)
Acme School of Locksmithing 11350 S. Harlem,Worth,IL,60482 708-361-3750 Fax:,708-448-9306(Res.)
California Institute of Locksmithing 14721 Oxnard St. Van Nuys,CA,91411

Golden Gate School of Lock Technology 3722 San Pablo Ave.,Oakland,CA,94608
Granton Institute of Technology 263 Adelaide St. West,Toronto Ont.,CANADA,M5H1Y3 416-977-3929 Fax:416-977-5612 [email protected]
Locksmith School (Res.) 3901 S. Meridian St.,Indianapolis,IN,46217 317-632-3979 Fax:17-784-2945
Locksmithing Institute of America 226 Fairfield Rd.,Fairfield,NJ,07004 (not at that address - probably defunct)
LTC Training Center (Cor.) P.O. Box 3583,Davenport,IA,52808-3583 800-358-9393 319-322-6669 Fax:319-324-7938
Messick Vo/Tech Center (Res.) 703 South Greer,Memphis,TN,38111 901-325-4840 Fax:901-325-4843
North Bennett Street School 39 North Bennett St.,Boston,MA,02113-1998 617-227-0155 Fax:617-227-9292
Pine Technical College (Res.,Web) 1000 4th St.,Pine City,MN,55063 800-521-7463 320-629-6764 320-629-7603 [email protected]
Professional Career Development Institute 3957 Parkway Lane,Norcross,GA,30092
Red Deer College Box 5005,Red Deer AB,Canada,T4N 5H5 403-342-3450 Fax:403-342-3576 [email protected]
School of Lock Technology (Res.) 1049 Island Ave.,San Diego,CA,92101 619-234-4512619-234-5937 [email protected]
School of Lock Technology - Orange (Res.) 302 W. Katella Ave.,Orange,CA,92667 714-633-1366 Fax: 714-633-0199
School of Lock Technology-Austin 509 Rio Grande St.,Austin,TX,78701 888-511-8874 512-473-8874 Fax:512-472-4838 [email protected]
Southern Locksmith Training Institute 1387 Airline Drive,Bossier City,LA,71112 318-227-9458 318-746-1734
The Academy of Locksmithing 2220 Midland Ave. Unit 106,Scarborough Ont.,Canada,M1P 3E6 888-272-8265 416-321-2220 Fax:416-321-5115 [email protected]
Universal School of Master Locksmithing (Res., Cor.) 3201 Fulton Ave.,Sacramento,CA,95821 916-482-4216 Fax:916-485-9385
A list of “Locksmithing schools around the world” is at a site giving many locksmith links.

There is a general feeling that most of the correspondence courses give limited and dated information which isn’t sufficient to become a locksmith, and that taking such a course may not even be an advantage in getting a job in a real lock shop. However there are some courses (both residential and correspondence) which have better reputations. One such school is:
Lockmasters 5058 Danville Rd. Nicholasville, KY 40356
(606) 885-6041 800-654-0637 Fax:606-887-0810 [email protected]

American Security Distribution has a Certified Locksmith Training Program.

National Auto Lock Service auto locksmithing books and software

Some (not all) states in the US have licensing requirements. The California Dept. of Consumer Affairs lists the requirements and licenses locksmiths. CA requires not only the locksmith license (issued by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, but also a Contractors License (unless you only do small jobs,) category C-28 Locks and Security Hardware - with tests on trade skills and law/business required.

Someone starting up may have trouble in judging the time various tasks take, and hence in quoting a price. A “Flat Rate Manual”, even a simple one, can be a big help. Joe points out, “It’s a good tool for understanding the tradeoffs in your price structure.” It can be used as a starting point, and then you can adjust prices as you see fit.

13b. How do I learn more about Master Keying?

Here are some references:
The Manual of Master Keying, by G.L. Finch available from The National Locksmith and from his son.
Gerry Finch was highly regarded as a technical writer on locksmithing.
Info, Sales & Support: [email protected]

Fundamentals of Master Keying, by Jerome Andrews available from ALOA
Master Keying by the Numbers, by Billy Edwards available from Security Resources

14. How do Simplex pushbutton locks work?

Hobbit has written an excellent discussion on workings of Simplex locks. Hobbit left FTP Software and his FTP archive is currently unavailable. However we have a copy available.

15. Is there a formula that can find the combination of a Master Lock?

Not as far as anyone knows. I.e., the combination is not derived from the serial number. You can buy code books with which will tell you the combination for a given serial number, but these are big rather expensive books that list (nearly) every lock.

However it may be possible to obtain the combination from Master Lock.

Additionally, John F. Bousquet <[email protected]> writes:

There is another way. There is a shirt picket sized formula book. From the serial number you determine which of several progressions were used by the factory. Then a guide number is found from the table to divide into the serial number and a remainder is found. This is referenced on a page in the guide. The last digit is manipulated and that narrows it down to about 5 possibilities. I bought one of these 20 page pocket Try out combination finders and never wound up using it. Now I just call it up on notebook computer.

An inside view of a Master-type lock shows how it works.

16. Can the combination of a Master Lock be found though manipulation?

Recently a method of finding the combination of a Master Lock has been presented on alt.locksmithing. It seems there is a formula that relates the numbers in a combination to each other. The first and last digit of any combination will both have the same remainder when divided by 4, and the second digit’s remainder when divided by 4 will be - or + 2 from the first and third’s remainder. For example, if you knew the last digit of the combination was 5, the first digit could be any digit that had a remainder of 1 when divided by 4 and the second number any digit with a remainder of 3 when divided by 4. This means given one number in the combination, there are only ten numbers that can be in each of the other two positions, and thus only 100 possible combinations given one number in the combination.
This “modulus 4” constraint does not appear to apply to “current” production locks (1999?-).

And it turns out there is an easy way to find the last digit of the combination. On older Master Locks, ones where the arrow at the top is raised, simply pull on the shackle and turn the dial until it catches, that’s the third number in the combination. On news locks with the recessed arrow, there are twelve places the dial will catch if you turn it while pulling on the shackle. Seven of these will catch between two numbers, ignore these, and find the the five that catch on a number. Four of these will end in the same digit, i.e, 1, 11, 21, and 31, the fifth end with a different digit, and the is the third number in the combination.

This means that given the knowledge, time, and patience, anyone can find the combination and open your lock. But then so can anyone with a pair of bolt cutters, a hacksaw, or maybe even a hammer. These are three (US) dollar locks. They have many useful applications, but they are not high security locks. Plan your usage accordingly.

PLEASE don’t post a question on alt.locksmithing giving a serial number and asking for the combination for that lock. Yes - there are books relating the two - but very few people will take you at your word that it is your own lock. Instead the most likely result is the start of a flame war!

17. What is the “shear line”?

Visualize a door lock - there is a fixed block (the lock body or cylinder) of metal with a cylindrical hole in it - the axis of this hole is horizontal. It is filled with a “plug” which is the part which turns with your key - and something attached to the rear of the plug actuates the latch/bolt when you turn the plug with the key. There are some small vertical holes drilled in both the plug and the fixed block so they match up - and they are in a straight line which is the same line as the key. Each hole (pin chamber) is filled with (at least) two pins (small cylindrical pieces of metal - except that the portion of the bottom pin which touches the key is pointed) but the pins are of varying length, and there is a spring at the top of the chamber so that the pins are pushed away by the spring. The bottom pin is short enough so that it will be pushed completely down within the plug and the top pin (imagining right now there are just two pins - extra ones are only used for master keying) goes from inside the top block to inside the plug. Now the plug can’t turn, because in each pin chamber there will be a pin blocking the “shear” line - the line where the pin chamber would “shear” apart when the plug turned.

You put your key in - and the different heights on the key are made to “complement” the different lengths of the bottom pin so that all of the bottom pins are raised up just to the “shear line” between the plug and the fixed block part of the lock. Then the key can turn the plug around its axis and actuate whatever internal mechanisms are inside.
Picking a lock is a matter of raising the pins to the shear line, but without the key.

18. What is “impressioning”?

Impressioning is a technique for opening a lock by making a key out of a key blank for the lock. The blank is filed to fit; the place and amount of filing depends upon small marks left on the key blank by the pin tumblers. The procedure starts with smoothing the key blank with fine abrasive paper or a very fine file to remove any marks or scratches and to leave a surface which will show the marks. The key blank is then inserted into the lock and the blank twisted from side to side and rocked up and down. The blank is removed and inspected for marks and a shallow cut made with a file on the mark closest to the tip of the blank, or on the most prominent mark. (There are several systems for determining which mark should be cut and for the correct way to twist and rock.)

Repeat this for the same position until the tumbler doesn’t leave any mark on the blank and then move to the next pin. When the last cut is made the lock should open with the newly cut key - assuming that the interpretation of the marks and the cutting has been done right.

The advantage of impressioning for opening a lock is that it creates a key for that lock. But the process is slow and requires a fair amount of skill. With expert skill levels, the process is considerably faster. There are a number of special pliers made to hold the blank and make it easier to give the proper twist with rocking that will mark the blank. The marks on the blank are difficult to see and you must start with a blank that fits the lock. (Or several blanks, as this doesn’t always work the first time.) Impressioning may not be as quick and easy as picking the lock. Picking a lock often leaves tell-tale scratches on the tumblers and plug that won’t happen with impressioning.

A manual on impressioning by Mark Wanlass is available in the ftp archives of -     A web version is available at:

19. What is a code? What is a codebook?

Ever see a lock on a desk, filling cabinet, or a key with a number stamped on it like FR332, 2H5212, or 61624? Those are called codes. They tell locksmiths exactly how to cut a key to fit the lock. There are three types of codes.

There are direct digit codes. Each digit corresponds to each cut on the key, the value of each digit tell how deep to make the cut. Schlage prints the code for the key directly on the key. These codes are usually long, each pin needs its own digit.

The second type in which each digit does not directly correspond to the depth, but there is a pattern between the code and the key. Often mathematical tricks are used (for example you must subtract 435 from the code, then cut the key).

The last type require a locksmith to have a codebook. There is no pattern to the cuts on the keys. The Reed Codebooks are one of the most common. There are 14 general volumes (cars, cabinet, suit cases, door locks) and 5 padlock volumes. Each volume is about 600 pages long. Several manufactures now selling computer programs that contain all this information. The software is often copy-protected.
Here’s information on several products - all have demo disks. Note that features differ, and so different programs may appeal to different users.

  • Blackhawk Products: DOS version $399, Windows version $479, copy-protected by use of a hardware key.
    • Blackhawk has a full code program on the Internet. Passwords are provided by subscription. There is a fully-working demo, and some other information.
  • HPC: DOS version phased out; Windows version now being sold. Suggested list price $695. Disk-based copy protection on the DOS version. (Windows version - ?)
  • Locksmith Ledger: DOS version only, $699.95. No copy protection.
  • Genericode - “Reeds Codes” on disk.
  • Treskat: DOS version only, $498 or less. Disk-based copy protection. (There have been many complaints on the net about Treskat’s customer service, especially when a customer calls about problems with the copy protection.)

20. How do I open a car door with a Slim Jim?

Besides picking the lock, one can open a car door with a wire coat hanger. Open the coat hanger by unbending the wire, leaving a small loop at one end. Insert the looped end of the wire hanger between the rubber weather stripping and a side window. Hook the looped end of the wire around the button of the door lock and pull it up to the open position. Many lock buttons are without a lip, an anti-theft measure, so that the wire coat hanger slides off without lifting it. One can also try to snag the door handle and pull it open.

The Slim Jim, a thin strip of metal with a notch cut at the bottom side, slides down the passenger window into the door. The notch tries to catch a rod running inside the door that connects the lock and the lock buttons. Pulling on this rod pops the lock into the open position. Many modern cars have the rod shielded from this access. Most cars today have many wires running through the doors to control such things as power windows, power locks, heated side view mirrors, lighted key ways, and burglar alarms. Some newer cars have airbags in the doors - setting them off is a very dangerous and expensive mistake! The Slim Jim can snag one of these, or a mechanical part and cause damage. Most locksmiths advise against using a Slim Jim except on old cars. The pros often use wedges, lights and manuals of parts locations to avoid damage and increase their success rate.

21. What is a jiggler key?

A thin piece of metal cut in the general shape of a key, the jiggler slips into the keyway of many locks and most car locks. The jigglers in the set come with a variety of general cuts that vaguely resemble cuts on keys. A jiggler is slipped into the lock and moved around, much as using a rake type pick, until the lock opens. If one jiggler does not work then the next one in the set is tried. Probability of success depends on the skill of the user and on luck.

22. Is there an ethical dimension to locksmithing?

Yes. Locksmithing is an old craft, and there is a strong tradition of ethical responsibility. A trainee (apprentice) learned about locks and security, and was supposed to have the personal integrity to avoid abusing that knowledge. This “do no harm” concept has been incorporated into the ‘hacker ethic’ which is found at MIT (in the “hacking community”) and elsewhere.

23. I have a safe without the combination - how do I open it?

“Either throw the safe away, or pay a safe expert to open it, or perhaps work out a trade with the safeman: he opens it, you get the contents, and he gets the safe. Please try and use a tiny bit of common sense: if anyone could get a quick and easy way to open your safe by posting to alt.locksmithing, your safe wouldn’t be worth a damn, would it?”
A safe expert (which usually means a member of SAVTA) usually can open a safe by either “manipulation” or drilling to access the lock’s internals and then working the lock. Drilling can be repaired and leave the safe in excellent condition.

23a. How do I change the combination of a safe?

The better safe locks can be changed to a new combination. This involves insertion of a “change key” into the back of the combination lock, and dialling the new combination. Usually the new combination is dialled using a “change index” rather than the usual “opening index” (usually located at 12 o’clock.) There are restrictions on choice of the numbers - so be sure to find out the details before doing this yourself. Carefully review the instruction sheet for the lock (example) before doing this.

WARNING: It is hard to open a safe which has been set to an unknown combination or one which doesn’t work. So be sure to exercise the new combination several times with the door open before closing the door and locking the safe.

24. How do I disassemble a Kwikset key-in-knob entry set?

0) Open the door. (If you can’t, call a locksmith!)
1) Dismount outer knob from door (the screws are on the indoor side.)
2) Depress spring retainer and remove spindle.
3) Reach in through spindle opening and gently release spring. retainers by pushing towards center. This can be done — VERY awkwardly — with a pair of narrow screwdrivers. Or you can get a Kwikset Removal Tool (inexpensive), which is just a short piece of sheet steel of the correct width with a “U” chomped into the end. The points of the U engage the tips of the retainers and move them automagically. (see drawing and measurements below) 4) Cylinder will pop out of knob. Rekey normally.
5) When done, snap everything back together and reinstall.

Kwikset cylinder removal tool - cut from a piece of metal

 \ |

Sheet-metal stock thickness: approx 1/16th inch.
Width (top to bottom in illustration): approx 7/16ths inch
Length (left to right in illustration): Whatever works; official version is about 6 inches
Cutout end _broadens_ slightly, to approx 15/32nds inch
Notch in end is somewhere between semicircular and V (parabolic?) and about 1/8 inch deep from points to bottom of curve. Corners wind up being at about 40 degrees between outside and inside edge, maybe a bit less.

Not very critical. The important thing is that there be two points at about the right spacing, with about the right inward slope, to engage and move the retainers towards the center.

If you need more detail than that, you should probably leave this task to someone who has done it before, or at least get them to give you a hands-on lesson. The only part that isn’t Trivially Obvious is the operation of the retainers, and the above should be sufficient info for you to figure that out.

25. Why are posts of binaries (pictures) against the consensus rules of this

This has been discussed a number of times in the past. The consensus of this agrees with usenet Nettiquette (note that alt.locksmithing is part of usenet) that the disadvantages of including binaries in a text outweigh the advantages.

Some of the disadvantages are:

  • A huge post causes other posts to expire faster on the servers.
  • A huge post seriously impacts download time for those of us who do bulk-downloads to minimize our connect-time costs.
  • A huge post impacts those of us (and there still are some) whose connect costs are by-the-byte.

The “Nettiquette” docs are easily found in news.announce.newusers and among those there is one titled: “How to find the right place to post (FAQ)” which has a section “Binaries (images, executables, sounds, etc.)” dealing with this exact question. It says that there are “binaries” and they “are the only places where you should ever post a file that is not directly human-readable, such as pictures, software, or even Microsoft Word files (which are not readable unless you have a copy of Microsoft Word on your computer.)”

The alternative which has met with the most approval is to put a picture on a Web page and post the URL in your alt.locksmithing post. Another alternative is to post the binary to or some other binary and mention that.

26. Should my business be a shop or a mobile unit (truck)?

When you reach the point of opening your own locksmith business (after you have the locksmithing skills and business skills) this is an important decision.

There are some kinds of merchandise - safes, high-end architectural locksets, and so on - where a customer really wants to come in and “kick the tires” for a while. There are others which are “impulse sale” items - stuff you wouldn’t carry on a service call but which they’d be interested in if they saw it on a display rack - or which are just too big to haul around. And there are some items, and accounts, where the customer really wants to know that you have a Fixed Address, for various reasons; like it or not, a mobile shop is often thought of as a transient rather than a Trustworthy Member of The Local Business Community.

If you open a shop and just sell the same products and services you would out of your trunk, it probably won’t pay. If you can use it to make a substantial amout of sales you wouldn’t otherwise get, it probably will.

Think about your local market, think about your possible shop locations, think about whether you can get that leverage and whether you’re willing to make the investment in time, stock and personnel to make it pay off.

Other online locksmithing related resources:

Locksmith fora


There is also a Dictionary for Locksmiths being developed by the LIST Council which can be seen at the Greater Philadelphia Locksmith Association Web site. The LIST Council’s latest draft of a Glossary is part of their Dictionary for Locksmiths.

A key that has not yet been cut to fit a lock.
A removable cylinder and plug, used in a interchangeable core system.
core key (sometimes control key)
A key which is used to remove a core.
The part of the lock in which the the pins are set and which contains the plug.
The notches cut in the key to make it fit a lock.
follower (plug follower)
This is a cylindrical object of the same outer diameter as the plug (there are various diameters, often about 1/2″) which is used to push out or follow the plug when the plug is to be removed. This retains the top pins and springs in the lock body.
key way
(short answer) The slot into which the key is inserted.
(long answer) Refers to (a) the size and shape of the (cross-section of the) key, and (b) the opening in the lock which is shaped to admit the key and to keep out most keys of different sizes and shapes. Whether the keyway can be patented by the lock manufacturer as a way to prevent others from manufacturing compatible key blanks and therefore to restrict access is open to dispute. Recent court cases make it doubtful that the simple design is patentable, but a keyway design which is involved in the patented method of operation of a lock may have patent protection.
master key
A key which opens a group of locks designed to match it.
pin tumblers
The pins in the lock which are moved to the shear line by the key.
pin chamber
the tubular hole in which pins and a spring stay.
The part of the lock which the key is inserted and is rotated by the key.
A lock part located at the ‘side’ of the plug and fitting into longitudinal grooves in both the plug and the lock body. This keeps the plug from turning until the sidebar is retracted into the plug. Retraction is blocked until the correct key (or picking) moves the pins or other tumblers to positions which cease to block the retraction or produce some other action allowing the retraction. A sidebar can add additional positioning beyond the usual “shear line” and so can make picking more difficult. A number of locks use a sidebar to increase security.
GM’s Vehicle Anti-Theft System which uses a resistor in the key shank in addition to the cuts on the key.
wafer tumbler
Used in locks which are less expensive than pin tumbler locks. They behave somewhat similarly.
warded lock
A lock using wards to keep an incorrect key from entering the key hole and turning.


Here are some of the things collected about locations and availabilities (most are from alt.locksmithing). We do not endorse any of these, but feel that you can get information by reading. As of this writing Septon and Paolo are the only suppliers we know of that will sell to overseas customers.

Septon, Inc. P.O. Box 9, Malden-on-Hudson, NY 12453
(800) 537-8752 voice (914) 246-3416 fax (914) 246-0638 outside North America
Will sell to overseas customers, but requires credit cards and a U.S. $100 minimum order on such sales.

Call for Catalog.

Steve Arnold’s Gunroom (URL sells a variety of pick sets, pick guns, and a small number of books. They will handle foreign orders which are paid for by an international money order in US currency.
Steve Arnold’s Gun Room
PO Box 68
Dept. Net
Dexter,OR 97431
541 726-6360
possible e-mail [email protected] ([email protected]) carries auto entry tools, lockpick sets, lockpicking tools and various other non-locksmithing items. Visa/MC, 30-day satisfaction, low-price guarantee.

Phoenix Systems Inc. P.O. Box 3339, Evergreen, CO 80439
303-277-0305 [Survivalist Group, although the “Shoot all the Commies for God” stuff is kept to a minimum.]
Call for Catalog.

Here are a few titles: (with Library of Congress Catalog Number)
- - ———————-
Title: Locksmithing
Author: F.A. Steed
LC Number: TS 520 S73 1982

Title: All About Locks and Locksmithing
Author: Max Alth
LC Number: TS 520 A37 1972

Title: Professional Locksmithing Techniques
Author: Bill Phillips
LC Number TS 520 P55 1991

See Question 5 for some more book citations. A source of locksmithing and general security books is:
P. O. Box 2044
Erie, PA 16512-2044
Ph: (814) 868-0650
Their catalog is free; they stock lots of professional and hard-to-find material; will sell to overseas customers.
See their Web site.

You can buy books on many topics from
Loompanics Unlimited
Publishers & Sellers of Unusual Books
P.O. Box 1197
Port Townsend, WA 98368
800 380 2230 (for North America only)
(they ship internationally call 360 385 2230)
Fax 360 385 7785

When they say unusual, they mean it! Everything from igloo construction to techniques of execution. There is a $5 charge for their catalog.

(“no longer carried?” means I couldn’t find it in their current catalog)

# 52058 HOW TO CIRCUMVENT A SECURITY ALARM IN 10 SECONDS OR LESS An Insider’s Guide to How It’s Done and How To Prevent It by B. Andy 1994 88p. This revealing book explains in nontechnical detail how anyone can bypass a security alarm system in seconds, leaving you and your loved ones vulnerable to burglary or worse. Industry insider B. Andy points out the glaring weaknesses of such popular devices as contact switches, motion detectors, pressure pads and glass-break sensors, as well as the “ultimate circumvention technique” that will render even the most sophisticated systems useless. He also gives you a shocking look inside the security business - how the alarms are installed, how they’re paid for, how they’re monitored and how they’re responded to. You may not like what you read. $12.00

#52056 HOW TO OPEN HANDCUFFS WITHOUT KEYS by Desert Publications (1979 48 pp) This book covers a selection of handcuffs in popular use today and discusses some of the features with which you should become familiar. Chapters include: Background on Handcuffs: Identification of Handcuffs; Materials, Tools & Equipment; Construction of Handcuff Picks & Shims; Lockpicking Techniques; Handcuff Keys; And more. $9.95

#52019 COMBINATION LOCK PRINCIPLES (1974, 25 pp) by Desert Publications These subjects are covered: The construction and names of parts; How to determine the combination by using code books; Reading an open lock; Drilling; Opening using a special fully explained method of manipulation; and more. $8.95

#52046 PICK GUNS Lock Picking for Spies, Cops and Locksmiths by John Minnery (1989, 128 pp.) This book gives an overview of the mechanical principles of pick guns, how they work and how to use them, and traces the development of the pick gun from its inception to today’s revolutionary devices. Included are the original patents by Epstein, Segal, Moore, Cooke and others, as well as info on pick guns used by the FBI and intelligence agencies. Photos depict improvised pick guns designed by the author out of coat hangers and clothespins. $14.00

#52020 KEYS TO UNDERSTANDING TUBULAR LOCKS by Desert Publications (1974, 42pp) Subjects covered include: Internal construction; How to disassemble and rekey; How to open by drilling; How to open by picking; How to open by impressioning; How to make some of the necessary tools; and more. $9.95

#52057 EXPEDIENT B & E Tactics and Techniques for Bypassing Alarms and Defeating Locks by Carl Hammer (1992, 216 pp) An examination of the various types of locks and alarms, instructions for improvising lock picking tools, plus techniques for breaking into cars, opening file cabinets and desk drawers, cracking safes and circumventing various types of alarms and sensors. $20.00

#52055 SECURITY SYSTEMS SIMPLIFIED Protecting Your Home, Business, and Car with State-of-the-Art Burglar Alarms by Steve Hampton (1992, 128 pp) $14.00

#52042 B & E: A TO Z - HOW TO GET IN ANYWHERE, ANYTIME (VHS TAPE) by Scott French, 1987. Nearly two full hours of on-site techniques to get in any building, beat any lock, open any safe, enter any car. Price: $59.95 (may not be carried?)

#40031 INVOLUNTARY REPOSSESSION -OR- IN THE STEAL OF THE NIGHT by John Russell III (64pp, 1979). Written by a private detective for auto repossessors. All the standard methods of entering and starting locked, keyless automobiles are given. Price: $10.95 (may not be carried?)

#52050 TECHNIQUES OF BURGLAR ALARM BYPASSING by Wayne B. Yeager (110pp, 1990). Alarms covered include: Magnetic Switches, Window Foil, Sound and Heat Detectors, Photoelectric Devices, Guard Dogs, Central Station Systems, Closed-Circuit Television, and more. Price: $14.95

#52047 THE B & E BOOK - BURGLARY TECHNIQUES AND INVESTIGATION by Burt Rapp (149pp, 1989). This is an investigatory guide and practical manual designed for the police officer in charge of a burglary investigation and its follow-up. Price: $16.95

#52054 TECHNIQUES OF SAFECRACKING by Wayne B. Yeager (92pp, 1990). Chapters include: Safe Mechanics and Operations, Guessing the Combination, Manipulation Techniques, Safe Drilling Methods, Punching and Peeling, Torches Etc., Explosives, Miscellaneous Methods of Safe Entry, Safe Deposit Boxes, Deterrence and Prevention, and more. Price: $12.95

#52052 HIGH SPEED ENTRY - INSTANT OPENING TECHNIQUES (VHS TAPE - 1Hr) 1990. Topics include: the Rabbit Tool and Hydra force door openers, the Omni Force jam spreader, the best exothermic lance in the world, two tools that open almost any auto in America, electronic locksmiths, rippers and pullers, shove knives and re-lockers, and more “techie” tools. A complete source guide is included. Price: $39.95 (may not be carried?)

#52032 THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO LOCK PICKING by Eddie the Wire (80pp 1981). The very best book ever written on how to pick locks (quite the claim). Topics covered include: Basic Principle and General Rules, How To Mount Practice Locks, Warded Locks, Disc Tumbler Locks, Lever Tumbler Locks, Pin Tumbler Locks, Wafer Tumbler Locks, Lock Modifications To Thwart Tampering And How To Overcome Them, Various Other Ways Of Bypassing Locks And Locking Mechanisms. Price: $14.95

#52059 HOME WORKSHOP PROFESSIONAL LOCK TOOLS, by Eddie the Wire, $21.95 In step-by-step illustrated detail, eddie the wire tells you where to get the best materials to use for making your own professional lock picks - with no questions asked! Everything you need to know to make lifter picks, diamond picks, snake picks, tension wrenches, and more is revealed! How to make the best handles and carrying cases for your picks. Mass production techniques. Impressioning tools. Simulators. Using a computer to generate pick profiles. How to “case” a subdivision. And much more! 1996, 8 1/2 x 11, 128pp, 80 illustrations, soft cover. Paperback Published by Loompanics Unlimited January 1996 ISBN: 1559501367

#52044 PERSONAL PICKS (VHS TAPE - 72min) by Eddie the Wire, 1988. Demonstrates the step-by-step process of making lock tools in the home workshop. Price: $29.95 (may not be carried?)

#52051 EXPERT LOCK PICKING (VHS TAPE - 60min) by Ron Reed, 1990. The author has won the California Locksmiths Association lock-picking championship (I guess that’s good). Uses specially designed cutaway, see-through locks, so you can view the inside mechanisms of working locks as they respond to picking techniques. Price: $59.95 (May not be carried?)

#52048 ADVANCED LOCK PICKING by Steven M. Hampton (50pp, 1989). Describes the inner workings of the new high-security locks and includes templates for making custom tools. Schematic diagrams for portable electronic picks to open magnetic key and card locks. Tips on enhancing finger sensitivity, concentration power, constructing practice lock boxes, and more. Price: $10.00 (may not be carried?)

#52045 CIA FIELD-EXPEDIENT KEY CASTING MANUAL (48pp, 1988). How to make a duplicate key when you can keep the original only a short time. Price: $10.00

#52043 HOW I STEAL CARS - A REPO MAN’S GUIDE TO CAR THIEVES’ SECRETS (VHS TAPE - 45min) by Pierre Smith, 1988. How to open and enter practically any modern automobile and how to start them without the key. Price: $49.95 (may not be carried?)

#52016 HOW TO FIT KEYS BY IMPRESSIONING by Desert Publications (26pp, 1975). Subjects covered include: Fitting bit keys, Fitting flat steel keys, Fitting lever tumbler keys, Fitting disc tumbler keys, Necessary tools, Techniques of obtaining impressions, and more. Price: $7.95

(may not be carried?) Paladin Press
P.O. Box 1307, Boulder, Colorado 80306
You might get the idea of what they sell (somewhat comparable to Loompanics) by their own slogan “HOME OF THE ACTION LIBRARY”
800) 392-2400 Retail Credit Card Orders Only
(303) 443-7250 Wholesale Orders and Customer Service
(303) 442-8741 FAX
[email protected] — Customer Service and Orders
[email protected] — Dealer Inquiries
[email protected] — Editorial Queries

Here’s a list of the locksmithing related books in their catalog:
by Eddie the Wire
5 1/2 x 8 1/2, softcover, 60 illus., 80 pp. $14.95

by Eddie the Wire
128 pp. $21.95

An Insider’s Guide to How It’s Done and How to Prevent It
by B. Andy
5 1/2 x 8 1/2, softcover, illus., 88 pp.
ISBN 0-87364-777-7………………..$12.00

by John Russell III
64 pp. ISBN 0-87364-233-3………………..$10.95

5 1/2 x 8 1/2, softcover, illus., 20 pp. $8.50

70 pp. ISBN 0-87364-040-3………………..$10.00

Lock Picking for Spies, Cops and Locksmiths
by John Minnery
128 pp. ISBN 0-87364-510-3………………..$14.00

by Steven Hampton
5 1/2 x 8 1/2, softcover, illus., 72 pp.
ISBN 0-87364-423-9………………..$17.00

Protecting Your Home, Business, and Car with State-of-the-Art
Burglar Alarms
by Steven Hampton
5 1/2 x 8 1/2, softcover, illus., 128 pp. ISBN 0-87364-654-1 $14.00

Tactics and Techniques for Bypassing Alarms and Defeating Locks
by Carl Hammer
5 1/2 x 8 1/2, softcover, illus., 216 pp. ISBN 0-87364-688-6 $20.00

by Wayne B. Yeager
5 1/2 x 8 1/2, softcover, illus., 96 pp. $12.95
They also have half a dozen videos listed.

Wheeler-Tanner Escapes
3024 E. 35th
Spokane, WA 99223
509 448 8457.

Mainly Magic/Escape Artist supplies, but that includes lots of locksmithing equipment and books. If you need more info, jusk ask. (Catalog is $2, refundable w/ 1st order).

There is a book The Visual Guide to Locksmithing has a heavily illustrated approach.

Information for collectors.?

Lock Museum of America
130 Main St.
Terryville, CT
This museum also sponsors a lock collectors show.

The Padlock Collector 6th edition 1996
Franklin M. Arlall (isbn 0-914638-05-x)
The Collector
PO Box 253
Claremont, CA 91711
This book has descriptions of over 2800 locks.

The First Internet Lock Museum by Billy B. Edwards Jr., CML

Workshop Contents

In no particular order (the first person in some items is from the original poster(s)):
WORKBENCH. must be solid enough to support a cheap key machine
HAMMERS. 1 claw, one 2 pounder, a couple of ball peens down to 6 ounces
SCREWDRIVERS various sizes, slot and phillips. nothing fancy-a good pocket screwdriver for ms lock set screws
DRILL a cheap 3/8″ is good for a beginner but should be reversible. 14.4V cordless w/extra battery. Variable speed pays for itself.
SQUARE. necessity when prepping doors
WRENCHES. decent small sized crescent, channel, needlenose, and a couple of combo wrenches. Also some specialty types from the MFG. I keep several different spanners like the one that comes with a SCH D80 Orbit, as well as a Unican spanner. Also, a castle nut wrench like those supplied with SCH heavy duty levers
ALLEN WRENCHES. A good hex key set is invaluable in addition to some longer ones supplied by the MFG. Yale & Corbin use long ones for convenience, but LORI deadbolts require them. The lori wrenches also work for some old MS locks and DormaGlass bottom rail locks.
BITS. ordinary high speed steel will do for anything the newbie would encounter. Should also have augers or paddle bits up to 1-1/4″unibit” and a good rasp
HOLE SAW. 2-1/8 for sure, other sizes optional 1″ for metal frames, 1 1/4 for mortise cyl, and one approp for cheaper deadbolts such as SCH B-160
CHISELS. nothing fancy but if you can find a 1-1/8 for mortising face plates, great. good 1″ and good 1/2″. Keep an old one handy for beating.
alt.locksmithing-faqS. I find the Nicholson 1/8″ round chainsaw file to be really handy and cheap for impressioning. A cheap set of needle files from Radio shack is good too. I grind down one edge of the triangle file to supplement the round file. Also should have a large mill bastard. Pippins are expensive and I don’t find them any more useful than the above. I use a 6″ #2 swiss and a 6″/10″ warding bastard.
HACKSAW. Go with quality here, especially with blades. Even the best blades are a low ticket item so no sense buying off-brands
DREMEL or equivelant. Even a newbie… ESPECIALLY a newbie should have one for fabricating hard to find or one-off items. Get lots of the thin cutoff wheels and a mandrel to hold them
GOGGLES. protect those eyes. Not much work for a blind locksmith.
DIAL CALIPER. much handier than a micrometer. I think the Pocket Decoder by HPC is an excellent item to have on hand. I havn’t touched my micrometer in years.
VISE GRIPS assorted
CYLINDER SHIMS If he or she is new, better get a ton 😉
FEELER GUAGE SET gives you lots of different thicknesses of shim stock for padlock shimming, tool making, or spacing
PLUG FOLLOWERS can be home made. Nobody will notice Don’t let them see you using your keedex pin dumping follower, you’ll never teach them that it’s cheating. Also, you’d need various types, unless you like driving out roll pins. Accompany these tools with a real set of pin tweezers. Maybe some eyebrow tweezers for when you keep them in the shop for 2 months cutting keys and get shavings in their socks 😉
HEMOSTATS lots of them. They can be modified into a number of useful tools like snap ring pliers and pin tweezers. They can be bent, ground, whatever, and economically discarded if you mess them up
BASIC PICK SET no need for the big Crayola 64 color set. A beginner usually has time to make anything in this category anyway. A couple of extractors and a plug spinner.
VARIOUS TURNING TOOLS other than regular old tension wrenches. A feather touch can be handy when raking or reverse picking spool equipped locks, and I really like two-prong style tools for general picking.
CHEAP SET OF TUBULAR PICKS like the HPC “Peanut” or equivelant. I hate the peanut. I use a good one with adjustable tension.
ELECTRICAL TAPE great aid in holding hinge shims, as well as more advanced stuff not outfitted for here
TOOL BAG/POUCH the “Gator Mouth” tool bag is getting very popular now
VACUUM dirt devil or the like for cleaning up after drilling doors. Also an old tarp for collecting the majority of shavings.
LUGGAGE CART great for hauling tools & supplies, and if you’re in a lobby in a commercial property-they’re less likely to bitch at you than if you had a cart or hand truck. Also, luggage carts fold up and store neatly on the truck.
SUBSCRIPTION to one of the trade rags. Pref. TNL. NPC has a horrible reputation for customer service, plus they no longer publish most of their most valuable books. (the books are still advertised by ALOA though) NPC is crap, again my personal opinion.
BOOKS. all you can afford, but starting with a couple of basic texts by Roper or Phillips. Knowledge is more valuable than any physical tool. A collection of back issues no longer needed by an established smith is good, too. More specific books should reflect particular areas of interest or specialization, like AUTO-SMART etc and should be bought fairly early on.
BASIC SET OF CAR TOOLS True, you can easily make most of the standard wire tools, but good to have a “store-bought” set of the more popular ones to copy.
COMPUTER AND INTERNET CONNECTION This is becoming very nearly a necessity, and once a beginner is “in the circle”, he has the benefit of the sum total experience and knowledge of a widely varied group of locksmiths as well as access to reference works he can’t afford yet, like up-to-date codes.
PIN TRAY can be made from a piece or corrugated rubber mat
PLUG HOLDER can be made from an old mortise cylinder
FLASHLIGHT I like a mini mag-light myself. The mini-mini mag is -50 dia, and can be used as an emergency follower. It’s lighted too.
CODE BOOKS if a fairly up to date used set can be had cheaply. The expense of code software is a good one to put off for a year or so if the newbie has friends with books or software, unless he finds himself cutting by code at least once a day.
KEY MACHINE I am gonna go out on a limb here and get controversial. I think a used FB machine is a decent first machine for a budget minded utter beginner with a low work load. The stock machine has micrometer depth adjustment, and they make an add-on micrometer spacing attachment. Cutting by the numbers therefore is do-able on the same machine the newbie duplicates on. Yeah its a pretty cheesy little machine, but good training for the beginner since it enforces the wise practice of checking adjustments daily on the primary machine. These machines regularly go used for under a hundred bucks, and a brand new spacing attachment is only $49.95 and direct reading digital for a hundred bucks more. As for using the factory supplied spacing keys, forget it. The hassle, versus the low cost of a spacing attachment is just not worth it. I have done it both ways and the micrometer add-on wins hands down.

Did I forget anything? Oh yeah a SERVICE VEHICLE. The family station wagon or a pickup with a topper will do until a real van is financially do-able.
PISTOL. Only half joking, especially when doing night calls. I would rather feel stupid for carrying it and never needing it, than to feel stupid for ever needing it but not having it. ALTERNATIVELY, in more left-wing liberal areas where only the bad guys are allowed to have guns, a can of pepper spray.
ONE MORE THING… DIGITAL CAMERA. Great for archiving locks encountered on jobs, especially safe locks and boltworks, and for reference pics when asking old-timers for advice. Another possible use… taking pics of customers without ID or taking pics of their drivers license. This is kinda optional, but if you always wanted an excuse to get one anyway……

Credits & Thanks

The alt.locksmithing FAQ was put together from postings by [email protected] [email protected] (Joe “Spike” Ilacqua), and [email protected] (Henry Schaffer), with a major data collection effort by [email protected] (Scott Anguish). Edited by hes. Translated to English by [email protected] (Elizabeth Lear). Send comments, criticisms, and compliments to “”.

The following have contributed to this FAQ:

Scott Anguish <[email protected]>
J. James (Jim) Belonis II <[email protected]>
Stephen J Berch <[email protected]>
John F. Bousquet <[email protected]>
Chris Boyd <[email protected]>
Robert Bruce Findler <[email protected]>
Hobbit <hobbit@> (looking for current address);
Marcus Jenkins <[email protected]>
Larry Margolis <[email protected]>
Andy McFadden <[email protected]>
William A Moyes <[email protected]>
Stan Schwarz <[email protected]>
Thomas E Zerucha <[email protected]>
Daniel Hagan <[email protected]>
Joe Kesselman <[email protected]>
Roger Weitzenkamp <[email protected]>
Jay Hennigan <[email protected]>
Billy B. Edwards Jr. <[email protected]>
<[email protected]>
Robert Stahr <[email protected]>
Marc Goldberg <[email protected]>
Tom Pettigrew <[email protected]>
Robinson <[email protected]>
Andru Luvisi <[email protected]>

Books on Lock Picking


Top security pro Bill Phillips has put together a learn-as-you-go guide packed with everything you need to start off a lucrative career as a locksmith. From cutting keys to installing closed circuit television systems, Locksmithing prepares you to work with nearly every type of locking device used in residential, automotive, commercial, and electronic security devices. Step-by-step instructions, illustrations, charts and checklists, and plenty of the authorAEs own trade secrets, will have you picking open locks…impressioning keys… opening any car door…installing and servicing electric strikes, electromagnetic locks and emergency exit door devices in no time at all. What’s more, this is the only locksmithing book to keep you on top of high-tech CCTV, access control systems, and systems integration, areas that you’ll need to understand and work with to stay competitive. You even get valuable tips for getting hired or starting up your own business, licensing information and a sample certification exam, plus scores of handy references from trade journals to Websites, from suppliers to trade associations.

The Complete Book of Locks and Locksmithing
The Complete Book of Locks and Locksmithing

The Complete Book of Locks and Locksmithing has been the best-selling, standard reference in the field since 1976. It is accessible to students, apprentices and professionals alike. No other book has as much useful, practical and comprehensive information on locksmithing. Bill Phillips provides easy to understand information on all the basics of locksmithing and on the advanced techniques a locksmith needs to survive in a competitive market. It covers everything from master keying and lock picking, to auto locks, lockmaking, and servicing safes. Phillips also provides 3 sample tests to prepare for Registered Professional Locksmith certification exams.

Modern High-Security Locks : How To Open Them
Modern High-Security Locks: How To Open Them

Master locksmith Steven Hampton, author of the best-selling Secrets of Lock Picking, takes the art of picking locks one step further with Modern High-Security Locks. Here, he collects some of today’s most popular pick-resistant locks and sets out to see which ones hold up to their claims. However complex a lock gets, it must be durable, dependable and user-friendly. It has to be tough enough to endure physical attack, but it can’t be machined too tight or it will jam up with just a breath of dust. It must be simple and easy to lock and unlock with its key, or the customer will not pay the higher price for it. It is this delicate balance between security and utility that allows the locksmith to open this new generation of locks. Hampton shows locksmiths how each lock is picked and how long it will take. He details the tools of the trade and includes patterns and instructions for making your own picks and tension wrenches. He even includes ancient Tibetan Buddhist tantric visualization exercises to help locksmiths learn to “see” the inner workings of the lock within the mind’s eye. Veteran locksmiths or those new to the trade will find Hampton’s latest book an invaluable sourcebook.

Techniques of Safecracking
Techniques of Safecracking

Opening Combination Padlocks: No Tools, No Problem
Opening Combination Padlocks: No Tools, No Problem

It is incredibly easy to forget the combination to padlocks on your own tool shed, gym locker or anyplace else these common locks are found. This handy guide teaches one thing: how to open a padlock whose combination is lost. Dissatisfied with books that showed methods that didn’t allow entry into all locks or made it difficult to always accurately find the first or third number, usually the main basis for their technique, author Carl Black devised a foolproof system that allows quick entry into all combination padlocks in minutes without any guesswork or tools. He explains how it works with clear instructions and illustrations and gives problem-solving tips for difficult locks.

How To Open Locks Without Keys Or Picks (Locksmithing)
How To Open Locks Without Keys Or Picks (Locksmithing)

Many leading locksmiths feel that opening locked doors by means other than picking or key fitting is a necessary part of the locksmith’s knowledge. Since no two jobs present the same problem to a master locksmith, it is a credit to his ability for him to be familiar with all the ways of doing his work.

Techniques of Burglar Alarm Bypassing
Techniques of Burglar Alarm Bypassing

How To Open Locks With Improvised Tools: Practical, Non-Destructive Ways Of Getting Back Into Just About Everything When You Lose Your Keys
How To Open Locks With Improvised Tools: Practical, Non-Destructive Ways Of Getting Back Into Just About Everything When You Lose Your Keys

Practical, real-world solutions to lockouts. Learn to open doorknobs, deadbolts, car doors, padlocks, handcuffs, et cetera. This book sold out as “Lock Bypass Methods,” and has proven to be the best manual on keyless entry available. Since your resources are usually on the other side of the door when you’re locked out, it shows how to improvise tools from garbage and common, everday items. Multiple entrance options are provided in case of stubborn doors or limited materials. Thousands of people have successfully opened doors using techniques they learned in “Lock Bypass Methods.” This expanded edition has more illustrations and new techniques.

This book will not waste your time trying to explain how to pick sidebar locks, or activate magnetic-stripe readers without a key card. It DOES explain how to open doors protected by these locks, simply and without damage, through bypass techniques. A latch holds something shut, and a lock is a gateway to that latch. This book teaches ways to climb over the fence and ignore the gate. You will learn how to pick locks, a skill that works 60-70% of the time. More importantly, you will learn methods to trip actuators, move linkage rods, take advantage of mechanical design flaws, exploit tolerances in a lock’s setting, and other practical means of entry.

The book’s focus is on problem solving, not presenting methods that are too difficult to accomplish. Many other books in this field suffer from too much theory and too little delivery. If it doesn’t work, it isn’t in here. This book is designed to give the reader skills that open locks without keys or damage. It is not a whitewashed or glossed-over set of instructions that leave a reader feeling as if failure is his fault and he just hasn’t developed some special esoteric talent. Difficulties encountered in opening methods are identified, explained, and solutions are given to cope with them. The book is clearly written and illustrated, and covers problem solving, how locks work, picking, bypassing, and tool making. If you are interested in opening locks without keys, you should have this book.

Visual Guide to Lock Picking
Visual Guide to Lock Picking

This is the definitive guide for learning the art of lock picking. Inside you will discover the secrets of the trade. By reading this book, practicing, and applying the methods introduced, you can successfully become a master at picking all the common locks of today.

This book makes it easy and gives you the edge to quickly learn what it takes others years to gather. This book is a valuable addition to any collection and will open doors for you.

Not only does this book cover what tools and techniques are needed to pick most common locks, but it also goes through what to do step-by-step; and actually teaches you how to do it. It explains what all of the tools are and for what they are used. What really sets this book far above the competition, however, is the vast assortment of illustrations that make everything easy to understand. This really is a visual guide containing over 60 pages filled with diagrams and drawings that will instantly show you how locks work, and exactly what to do to bypass them. You can start learning today!

This book makes learning the art of lock picking fun and easy. You don’t have to waste your time guessing how it’s done, reading some amateur’s theories, or trying to learn from the movies. (They always get it wrong). Now, you can get accurate information that the professionals use. Their secrets have finally been revealed.

Inside, you will find sections about warded locks, pin tumblers, wafer tumblers, and more. These are the locks found on most residential and commercial doors, cars, padlocks, desks, filing cabinets, safes, equipment, vending machines, bike locks, etc… Each section includes a detailed and easy to understand explanation as to how that type of lock works. This book even outlines several exercises you can perform in order to improve your lock picking skills. You’ll be picking every lock in your house in no time.

Now, you can understand the technology that has kept thieves at bay for centuries. Even in the time of antiquity, within the halls of the great pyramids, tomb raiders found their untold riches behind surprisingly sophisticated locks. Today’s locks inherit these same principle designs. We give you the keys to their secrets.

How many times have you or someone you know been locked out? Now, you don’t have to be helpless in that situation while you wait and rely on some locksmith who is going to charge you a lot of money to do what you can do yourself. You don’t have to be a victim of your circumstances. The next time someone forgets their keys, you can be confident with the knowledge that you can help yourself and your friends and save a lot of money in the process.

This is the authoritative guide on lock picking. Even if you already know how to pick some locks, this book covers tips & techniques that you can use. This book is perfect for existing locksmiths, auto repossessors, and car dealers.

Whether you are interested in becoming a locksmith, need to know how to bypass security locks for your job in law enforcement or emergency services, interested in lock picking as a hobby, just want to be prepared in an emergency, or for whatever reason, this book will get you started off right!

Pick Guns: Lock Picking For Spies, Cops, And Locksmiths
Pick Guns: Lock Picking For Spies, Cops, And Locksmiths

This book tells how pick guns work and how to use them and traces their development from their inception to the revolutionary devices of today. Included are the original patents by Epstein, Segal, Moore, Cooke and others, as well as info on pick guns used by the FBI and intelligence agencies. Photos depict improvised devices made out of coat hangers and clothespins. For academic study only.

CIA Field-Expedient Key Casting Manual
CIA Field-Expedient Key Casting Manual

Learn how the CIA agent gets behind locked doors. This revised reprint of the classic CIA Key Casting Instruction Manual will teach you how to make a duplicate key when you can keep the original for only a short time. A step-by-step, self-checking guide, it gives you all the know-how you need to create accurate keys to gain access to off-limits areas with no special equipment.

Secrets Of Lock Picking
Secrets Of Lock Picking

Master locksmith Steven Hampton reveals here the tricks and tools for bypassing keyed and combination locks from pin tumbler locks, mushroom and spool pin tumbler locks, wafer tumbler locks, warded locks and disk tumbler locks to tubular cylinder locks, magnetic locks, door locks, padlocks and automobile locks. Find the key to “seeing” into every lock and discovering its simplicity.


This is a complete overview and practical guide to the locksmith profession. It begins with an introduction by Steve Lasky, editor and vice-president of publishing for Security Technician Magazine and Locksmith Ledger International. In Part 1, readers learn about the business, including how to train for it, become employed, find a niche, and advance toward higher certification. Part 2 is a skill-building reference focusing on techniques and technologies in this fast-growing and ever-changing trade. Coverage includes how to set up a small, one-person shop, outfit the business, masterkey locks, perform emergency services, and use locksmithing software. Appendices provide up-to-date reference to locksmithing terms, training, associations, suppliers, and publications.

Lock Picking Videos

Visual Guide to Lock Picking Video
Visual Guide to Lock Picking Video

The Visual Guide to Lock Picking is the definitive guide for learning the art of picking locks. This video explains several types of locks and picking techniques. Modern computer graphics and animations allow for cutaway views that were never before possible. This video not only makes lock picking possible, but clearly shows you how, so that you can get started today.

Quickly learn the secrets of the trade from this video’s concise, yet informative style. By practicing and applying the methods introduced here, it is possible to master the picking of most modern locks. The Visual Guide to Lock Picking introduces warded locks, pin tumblers, wafer tumblers, master locks, even some high security pins. It dissects the locks, showing every moving part, making it easy to see how they work. Step-by-step instructions are given for picking each type of lock. You will be lead through the entire process, introducing the necessary tools and covering several techniques leading you to that satisfying click as the lock springs open!

To purchase lock picks, visit the Lockpicks section of Tactical Gear
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