i. Hooks, Lifters, and Feelers
Hooks, Lifters, and Feelers are all common names for essentially the same tools. They come in many varieties of shapes and sizes, and are the most common tools employed in single pin picking. In my opinion, they offer the most control and feedback of all the styles of picks available. A selection of hook picks can be seen in illus. (needed). There are few standard pin tumbler locks – with perhaps a few exceptions in the realm of high security locks – that can not be picked with relative ease with an appropriate hook pick in the hands of a skilled lock picker.
ii. Ball Picks
Ball picks can be seen in illus. (needed). They are most commonly found in one of four shapes. There is the Ball Pick, Double Ball Pick (Snowman Pick), Half Ball Pick, and, less commonly, the Double Half Ball Pick (Half Snowman Pick). These are most commonly used for picking simple wafer locks using a raking technique. They are usually of little value in picking all but the simplest of pin tumbler locks, though even the very simple pin tumbler locks can be picked much easier with a different style of pick.
iii. Rakes, Jigglers, and Profile Picks
There are many different varieties of rakes, jigglers, and profile picks. Rakes come in many shapes, and are used with a raking, scrubbing, or ripping technique that will be covered in a later chapter. Jigglers and profile picks are used to attempt to simulate the bitting of a key. The technique for using these picks will also be covered later in the manual.
iv. Tension wrenches
Tension wrenches come in as many shapes and sizes as do picks – perhaps more. Though it is common to assume that it is more important to select the right pick than it is to select the right tension wrench, it is worth noting that the tension wrench plays at least as important a role in the picking process as does the actual pick. Much of the physical feedback you detect while picking will come to you by way of the tension wrench. Also, it is important that the wrench not slip while picking or you will have to start again.
The most common tension wrenches are a small, flat piece of steel bent in an “L” shape, sometimes with a twist in the handle for better comfort and control. An assortment of this style of wrench can be seen in illus. (needed).
Another variety of wrench is the double-pronged wrench. There are wide variety of styles, a few of which can be seen in illus. (needed). The advantage of these is that more even tension can be applied to the lock, leading often to better control and feedback. Also, because of the design of many double-pronged wrenches, more space is made available in the keyway for your pick tool.
There are a number of other specialty tension wrenches available commercially including auto-tensioning wrenches as well as those made for specific locks such as the Shlage Everest and Best SFIC locks. These wrenches are designed to address specific characteristics of specific locks that are outside the scope of this manual.
v. Mechanical and electric picks
Mechanical picks, such as the commercial mechanical pick guns and home made snap picks, are used to quickly open many locks. They rely on kinetic energy to quickly cause the driver pins to simultaneously cross the shear line, allowing for rotation of the plug. The technique for using these tools will be discussed in a later chapter. You can see an example of a commercial pick gun made by Southern Ordinance in illus. (needed).
Electric picks work on a similar principle as mechanical pick guns, but use a motor and battery power to oscillate the pins creating gaps between the key pins and driver pins. Techniques for using these tools will also be discussed later.
vi. Plug Followers
Plug followers are necessary for disabling and reassembling locks to re-key. Commercially produced plug followers can be purchased, though they are quite easy to make from wooden dowel. The purpose of the plug follower is to replace the plug when it is removed from the lock, trapping all the driver pins and springs in the bible. This allows you to remove the plug and key pins without removing the driver pins and springs as well. It also allows you to load springs and driver pins easily in preparation of reinstalling the plug. They come in a variety of sizes to replicate the common dimensions of plugs, though for many common North American brands, a ½ inch diameter wooden dowel cut to a 4 inch length will work nicely. A rectangular groove cut in the end of the dowel about ¼ inch deep will accommodate the shape of the rear of many common plugs and allow for easy installation of driver pins.
vii. Plug Spinners
A plug spinner is an essential tool in the lock picker’s tool box. Often times a lock will pick more easily in one direction of rotation than the other (say, counter clockwise rather than clockwise). Unfortunately, this does not always correspond with the direction the plug must be turned in order to unlock the lock. If you’ve successfully picked a lock in the wrong direction (the direction that will not unlock the lock) and you try and rotate it back the other way, you will have to cross the 0° position (with the keyway upright) and the driver pins will fall back down into the plug undoing all your work. A plug spinner allows you to turn the plug very quickly to pass the 0° position so you can rotate the plug the in the other direction and unlock the lock. Illus. (needed) shows a commercially available plug spinner. I have also had great success with a home made plug spinner made from a piece of wooden dowel, a tension wrench, and a mouse trap spring. This idea was presented me by a member of a popular forum on lock picking (www.lockpicking101.com) who goes by the username “tshock”.