Understanding Raking

The term raking refers to a wide range of lock picking techniques capable of opening many locks quickly. Raking is viewed by many as somewhat less of a pure skill than single pin picking – something like Lock Picking For Dummies – though the author does not share this view. Though more limiting, raking can be a highly effective and fast method of opening a lock: contrary to popular belief, raking is not without its elements of practice and acquired skill. The reason that many feel this way is likely due to the fact that long before a novice has single pin picked his/her first lock, he/she has successfully raked open a simple lock with little or no understanding of that they were actually doing. It is important to note, however, that though raking a simple lock can be accomplished with the “poke and prod” method or “monkey see – monkey do” technique – giving beginners an exhilarating rush that might even allow them to convince themselves that they knew what they were doing – there is far more subtlety and refinement in that art of raking to be found. Selection of tools, tensioning techniques, and pick tool motions are each relevant, and will be discussed in this and the following few chapters.

One might wonder, if raking is indeed all that the author has made it out to be, why have we waited until this late in the course to describe the techniques? The answer is reasonable, if not devious. Raking can, for a novice just cutting his/her teeth in the lock picking experience, become something of a drug: a crutch upon which one comes to rely, tossing aside the more tedious, purist notions of single pin this and hook that, only to relish in the momentary glory of the addictive click and turn. Too dramatic? Perhaps, though the point has been made. Raking can be effective, no question. But its strengths cleverly conceal its weakness – that of limitations. Not all locks can be raked open. Some locks will just not succumb to a raking technique; not for all the skill and practice in the world; but when it works, it’s dynamite!

Recently I was performing a speed-picking test for a lock picking sport group I am affiliated with. The test consists of several locks of varying degree of difficulty. Each competitor was given up to three seven-minute rounds to successfully pick the Level 1 lock. If successful, the competitor was allowed to move on to the Level 2 lock, repeating the above test. If at any time a participant was unable to pick the lock two times out of three seven-minute rounds, the test would end for that participant and the last successful level accomplished would be recorded, along with the best time for that round. When I came upon the Level 2 lock, a simple Master No. 3 padlock, I knew it was time to break out the rake. I had picked similar locks in the past and, though not particularly difficult in the long run, I had found myself to be very inconsistent with regard to the amount of time required to single pin pick these locks. Since this was both a test and a competition, I wanted to record the fastest time I could for each level – there were international rankings at stake here! I knew that I would fair better with a rake than a hook in this situation. I am pleased to say that my two times for this lock were 1.9 seconds and 1.6 seconds respectively. The rake served me well that day.

But the tendency of relying on a rake can slow you down as often as it can speed you up. More often than not I would not have had the same story to tell. If the lock had been a Weiser cylinder – as it was on the next level – raking would have been far more inconsistent for me and would have likely slowed me down. So what is the point of this long-winded story? Raking is effective at times. Learn these techniques. Practice it from time to time, even after you feel comfortable with your skills. But don’t rely solely on raking. There is a reason I have chosen to include the section on raking after the section on single pin picking.

Raking should be thought of as your short range shooter; your pinch hitter. But enough with the analogies and metaphors, let’s get on with the technique.

i. Basic Methods

Raking, as a general term, can include a variety of techniques including scrubbing, ripping, and – to a lesser extent – jiggling. The specifics of these techniques will be discussed in the next 3 chapters. The principle of raking is to set all the pins in a lock without having to lift and set each pin individually. Raking has its advantages in the fact that it is possible to set more than one pin at the same time. This can greatly speed up the process. There are a wide variety of pick shapes available for use with a range of raking methods, and the lock picking practitioner would be served well to experiment with them all. In the next three sections I will discuss three very popular and effective rakes, though many more exist.

ii. Snake rakes

A snake rake gets its name from the shape of the pick head. It should come as no surprise that the shame resembles that of a snake or the letter “S”. A snake rake made by Southern Ordinance is shown in illus. (blah). This style of rake is among the most popular amongst avid raking aficionados. It is common to use a scrubbing technique (described in detail later) to gently lift the pins to a set position.

iii. Saw Tooth rakes

Saw Tooth rakes get their name from the many points, or teeth, that span the length of the rake – and possibly from what they have been known to do to key pins after excessive and brutal periods of raking. The valleys and peaks of the saw tooth rake attempt to emulate the key. In order to be effective, they often require tilting forward and backward while scrubbing in and out under gentle tension. A version of saw tooth rake made by Southern Ordinance called the L-rake can be seen in illus. (blah).

iv. Bogota rakes

Very few of the common pick shapes around today can be traced back to an original designer, but this cannot be said of the Bogota Rakes. These picks were developed by Ray Conners based in Minneapolis, MN, and Ray has continued to hand make these pick up to and including the time of this writing. These rakes have been found to be so exceptionally effective that they deserve special mention when discussing rakes. Though the picks are, at this time, exclusively available though the online lock picking supplier www.varjeal.com, Ray has published detailed instructions on their construction so the home toolmaker can make them also. These plans can be found on a popular online lock picking discussion forum at www.lockpicking101.com.

Aside from being effective, the economy of design is quite remarkable. A set of two picks includes a Bogota Rake and Bogota Pick (modeled much like a half diamond). The handle end of each tool doubles as a tension wrench, allowing the user to be prepared to open many locks with just these two tools alone.

The Bogota Rake is best used, as Ray describes, with a “jittery motion”, as though the user had consumed too much coffee. As odd as this might sound, the rakes have been found to be strikingly effective on many common pin tumbler locks by a large number of both hobbyists and professionals alike. The rakes are particularly effective against locks with a high/low bitting – something many types of rakes cannot claim.

Because these tools are hand made, no two sets are absolutely identical. A photo of a standard Bogota set can be seen in illus. (needed).

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