How to Pick a Lock with a Paperclip | ITS

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How to Make a Paperclip Lock Pick that Works

By The ITS Crew

tools for making a paperclip lock pick

Today we’re going to show you how to create a Lock Pick Rake and Tension Wrench using two simple paperclips and a Multi-Tool.

As we’ve mentioned in previous Lock Picking articles, the Rake/Tension Wrench is the most versatile combo to carry for bypassing standard pin/tumbler and wafer locks.

In our last Lock Picking article on the SerePick Bogota Entry Toolset, a lot of people commented that they were unable to purchase Lock Picks, and couldn’t get involved in learning the skill-set.

After today, you’ll have no excuse not to make your own simple picks, buy a cheap padlock and work on your raking technique. In fact, while we demonstrate creating a rake, you could also make a feeler pick to start learning how to “feel” the individual pins and how they move/bind under tension.

paperclip lock pick

Materials

The first thing you’ll need is a supply of larger paperclips. These that we’ll be using are not the standard small paperclips, but the larger versions. One will be needed for the Rake and one for the Tension Wrench. As you’ll see in the video below, it’s easy to snap these as you’re bending the rake.

This will happen if you bend one direction, and then try to re-bend it in the opposite direction. If you keep to a single bend direction though, these will last a long time and remain strong.

A Multi-Tool works the best to create the necessary bends and twists for the combo. You’ll be mimicking the bends of a “C” Rake, and the right angle of a tension wrench with the second paperclip.

Creation

Rather than try to explain the bends and twists, we’ve created a video that will help show you a hands on demonstration of the creation and successful bypass of a pin/tumbler lock. This DIY combo will take a bit longer to use than a standard Rake/Tension Wrench, but nevertheless just as effective.

Please let us know in the comments if you have any questions regarding creation or use and we’ll be sure to answer them.

How to Pick a Lock

You can expect paperclip lockpicks to feel different in the lock than standard picks. Since they take longer to unlock, paperclips are best used when you have no other lock picks available.

That being said, they can successfully pick a pin/tumbler lock, as you can see in our hands-on demonstration above.

Here are the steps you can take to pick a lock using your paperclip lock pick.

  1. Place your tension wrench into the bottom of the keyhole.
  2. Provide very subtle tension with the wrench, rotating it the same way the lock turns.If you apply too much pressure, you may transform the shape of the paperclip. If you don’t apply enough pressure, you won’t be hold the pins you pick successfully. Once you find the right amount of pressure, apply it throughout the entire process.
  3. Place your pick in the upper keyhole. Make sure the hook is facing the pins.
  4. Probe the pins. Insert your pick into the back of the lock and locate each pin, slightly lifting each to see how stiff they are. The pin that is the most difficult to move is the first binding pin, which you should start with. Note: Most common household locks made in the USA have at least five pins.
  5. Start picking the first binding pin. Apply upward pressure to the pin with the pick and continue applying pressure to the tension wrench. Once the pin reaches the shear line, you should feel the pin slightly give. If there’s resistance, continue jiggling the pick and/or releasing just a small amount of tension until the pin reaches the shear line.
  6. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you have unlocked each pin. Repeat step 5 to find your next binding pin. Then, pick it with the advice in step 6. Repeat these two steps until the lock rotates and unlocks.

Notes

We encourage everyone reading this article to get involved with lock picking as a skill set through various lock sport groups such as Toool and Lock Sport International. There’s a large community out there of people who understand the value of this skill-set and also like to have fun picking locks.

Here’s the Lock Sport code of ethics, which sums things up nicely:

“You may only pick locks you own or those you have been given explicit permission to pick.”

Lock sport is an honest, ethical, and legitimate hobby. Unfortunately, the whole world hasn’t figured that out yet (though we’re working on it!). Because the lay person has a tendency to perceive what we do as somehow nefarious, it is extra important that we commit to following a strict code of ethics. For this reason, the above credo is non-negotiable in the locksport community. Lockpicking should never, ever be used for illegal or even questionable purposes. Please do not misuse this information. We assume no responsibility for your actions, and in no way condone immoral activity. Help keep locksport fun for all by following strictly the one rule.

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Discussion

  • Mark

    Great topic for today. More DIY projects such as this are needed- and would be appreciated. Thanks for the info!

  • Eric Lien

    I personally have had much more success with shallower bends in the rake. It makes it easier to get in and out of the lock, and it seems to help it slide across the pins more smoothly. Just a note.

    • Eric, good tip. I can definitely see where that would be more beneficial. The bends I used were definitely larger than necessary, and probably added to the time it took to get the lock open in the video.

    • chris

      i made different size rakes for different lock opening sizes, i also found that a more slower up and down and not to much depth alot easier

  • Awesome article. Would’ve used this last week. Thanks for another great article

  • JLS

    Great Video! I have personally made some picks out of T Pins as well as paper clips goofing off at the office and they work well too.

  • Virius

    I just did this with my apartment lock and it worked within 20 seconds of me starting, so cool!! Great design!

    • Tom

      This goes against the second tenet of lockpicking. Don’t pick locks you depend on. Lockpicking puts excess strain and wear on a lock, and that can cause premature failure. If your front door lock fails while open, you need to have someone come to your house and watch that door while you get a replacement. Not very convenient.

  • psychofish

    Just getting started in lockpicking myself and used this article yesterday to lock and unlock the cabinets at work last night with a couple paperclips. Good times!

  • Just got an email from “Red” with a link to this article.
    “I want to learn!”
    Thanks Bryan for leading my wife down the dark path 😉

  • flyahawk

    Great topic I cant get enough of the DIY stuff. Thanks!

  • John

    I used the shallower bends and it works great. ( first time ever lock picking and it worked). You guys have great how to”s and info on awesome gear. Keep up the good work!

  • julio delahuerta

    Think anyone will notice all the large paperclips missing from work?

    Nah!

  • Virius

    I was at work today and I have a lot of 5200 series American locks and for the life of me I couldn’t seem to open it, I know I got all the pins to click but the lock wouldn’t open. Any suggestions?

    • pyromania

      American locks have security pins in them to try and protect against picking. They are going to be near impossible to pick with raking. The pins have grooves cut into them that will catch on the sides of the lock when you try and pick it. So it may “feel” like all the pins are set but they are actually caught on the grooves.

      Ex.
      http://i282.photobucket.com/albums/kk265/slozinsky/DSC00308.jpg

      You need to learn single pin picking to tackle a American lock.

  • Ken

    I have a few american locks series 1105s’s any idea how to get the plugs out of these?

  • onetwitchsniper

    great vid! now i ican go open that shed that i lost the kiy too!

  • PaulK

    Great article.

    I have an antique wooden desk that has been locked for ~20+ years. The keyhole looks more like a skeleton key like you see in old houses. Any suggestions how to pick it?

    Thanks
    -PaulK

    • Anonymous

      Surley you can just kick the door down assuming its your house?

    • Xander

      Keyword “desk,”
      Lol, wouldn’t want to start kicking an old 20 year old desk now would you?

  • Vinceb

    Just used this concept with small key rings. It worked outstandingly and saved I saved my T.C. the headache of finding bolt cutters.
    Thanks!

  • Jason

    Works like a charm on my back door! Thanks for sharing.

  • muhammad iqbal

    i love tactical pick locking style ! hahaha

  • WORKED FIRST TIME!!! I have just found a new hobby.

    • Glad to hear! Thanks for letting us know.

  • that guy

    Thanks now i can get into my house when i lose my key

  • Dan

    Awesome post. I quickly made my initial tools as shown in the video. However, I wanted to point out that it is quite easy to construct several other popular pick styles. I made a rounded half diamond tip which seems to work super fast on standard dead bolt locks. Also, try tweaking the tension rod design: make the tip wider by wedging a small flat tip screwdriver in the fold at the tip. This made a little stronger and wider tension tool.

  • No one

    Great video!!!!
    I wish I had this video when I had to learn how to pick, instead I had to work hours just to practice!!!
    Tried this, and it took longer to make than it took to open

    thanks…Keep posting

  • Adam

    This is great. I already fashioned up a few sets of my own. I do, however, have a few questions.

    1.) Do these lock picks work on deadbolt locks with throwbolts?

    2.) On the “C” Rake, how big (in length and width) to the ridges have to be?

    Thank you very much for the great videos and for showing me my new hobby.

    -Adam

  • vinni

    After watching this vid i decided to put two paperclips in my wallet, just in case.

    Came in real darn handy when i got locked out of my hotel room 😀
    even first time ever lockpicking, it only took 10-15 minutes to open

    thanks ITS!

    • Awesome feedback Vinni! Glad they came in handy!

  • Bob

    Thought I would tell you about my experience trying to pick a lock using paper clips. As background, I have never picked any lock. Never even tried. However, I recently saw something on picking on the internet that interested me. I began to read about how to pick locks and decided I wanted to buy a set of picks and give it a try. While I was deciding what picks to buy, I continued to read about lock picking and came across your video on how to pick a lock using just paper clips. Up until then, everything I read online said newbees should not waste their time trying to use ‘office supplies’ to pick locks. “Too frustrating!” “Movie fiction. Can’t be done.” However, you did it in your video and it looked like it couldn’t be simpler. I had the paper clips and in short order, a little longer than it took you, I had the required ‘tools’. My pick had more gentle curves than yours but that seemed OK since one comment to your video suggested the problems you had picking your lock may have been due to the steeper curves. Anyway, I had the tools and I now needed a lock.

    The only unused lock I could find around the house was a padlock I had used 2-3 years ago to lock the gate at the end of the driveway. It was used only one season because in the winter, the lock froze. Almost everyday that winter, I had to use a cigarette lighter to thaw the lock. Not fun at sub-freezing temperatures in the dark before sunrise. I did not have any anti-icing compounds so I finally tried pouring some olive oil in the lock. It worked for a day or two but I eventually had to go back to the cigarette lighter. Repeated the oil treatment a couple of times but always had to resort to fire. The lock eventually got shoved into the glove compartment and forgotten. When I found the lock yesterday, I could not find the key. Thus, I had no way of knowing whether the lock would even work. What the hell. I would give it a try anyway. I figured I would try for an hour or so to open the lock. I expected that I might have to put more time in later. I also foresaw that I would probably be mucking around with the lock while I watched television for the next few nights. I was prepared to be patient. So, I followed your video as best as I could even though I had no idea what I was doing. I was raking, sawing, jiggling, bumping, whatever. After a minute or so, I began wondering what was happening. I stopped torturing the lock and eased off on the tension and distinctly heard a ‘click’. I interpreted that to mean that I had set one or more pins. I was encouraged and went back to work. It couldn’t have been a minute more and the lock popped open. I was stunned! Since then, I’ve repeated this dozens of times. My fastest time was less than 10 sec with several other times of under 30 seconds. What was the lock, you ask? It was a Master padlock that had ‘Kryptonite’ written on a plastic waterproof wrapper. The only writing actually on the padlock was ‘ 40 MM’. No doubt, this lock is probably THE EASIEST lock to pick in the entire world. Nevertheless, I’m impressed and still somewhat stunned about how easy it was.

    Thought you might be interested to hear a virgin’s attempt to pick their first lock. Thanks for the video.

  • Aaron

    Very innovative. I’d like to see the same thing for something alittle more complicated: like a Tubular Lock or a Padlock. 🙂

  • Tom

    As a TOOOL member and chapter president, I twitched while watching the video every time I heard “tension wrench.” A tension tool isn’t being used to wrench. Wrenching implies that you’re putting significant force behind the tool, not the minimal force that’s required to bind your driver pins. This leads to novices using too much tension, and having trouble opening locks. My 2 cents.

  • CW

    I enjoyed seeing these paperclip tools and made some, however I tweaked them a little. After getting the bends right on the rake, I flattened the end at the M shape and back about an inch or so by laying on a piece of heavy metal and hammering it. For the tension tool, I did what had been suggested by someone else was to spread the working end with a screwdriver and flattening it using the hammer method described for the rake. This seemed to improve things some. I have used paper clips for years as a rake, but had never thought about using one for tension. I had always used a small screwdriver which had a tendency to put too much tension on things. Why flatten things? It slides into the locks easier and just seems to work better for me. Lock picks can really become “personal”.

  • Arjan

    Nice video!
    Could you please answer some of my questions?

    Will a paperclip tension wrench be deformed after a few lockpick attempts?
    and
    If you’re picking one pin at the time, is it easier to start with the last pin and work your way to the front?

    I also wanted to thank you for this video demonstration, so thanks.

  • Ben

    Mine isnt working very well. Does it matter what type of lock I am using? I tried it on my front door and the rake isn’t really able to move as much…

  • roy

    paperclip is not good for picking locks. the idea is very attractive but the metal that the paper clip is made of is to soft for picking.

  • Picking a lock would be difficult with a paperclip but not necessarily impossible. There are lockpick sets and tools out there that you can use that are very helpful in situations where you must pick a lock. A bump key tool is very useful for a locksmith’s tool set.

  • unholy 6th

    fascinating and wonderful reading..well written and considerate efforts in explaining how things work. a masterful job ..this compliment comes from the son of once capable safe cracker and lock pick master now locked in heaven (maybe..im not so sure bout that).

  • parth7294

    earn money online. Go to the link below:-
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  • MsOz

    I have been locked out of my room for 2 days trying to do this since it was the weekend and locksmiths are higher on the weekend. So I thought I would give this a try contacting you all. I can’t seem to figure it out. And I have spent a lot of time on it. First I wanted to see if I could do learn how so I could get in the room and now I am fascinated LOL (go figure call it determination and patience.) But now I really need in the room 🙂 My keys are in the room LOL SMH I usually have my spare in my purse but I changed purses and didn’t put those in the new purse -_- yeah so is the way the cards are drawn lol

    • hytech redneck

      I was told along time ago, it’s not how hard you push the tumblers, it’s how easy you push them. And don’t put allot of pressure on trying to turn the lock. Slight pressure, and easy picking.

  • Phil B

    Just came cross this video yesterday and was fascinated. Tried it this morning and had to remake both tools and an second tried was successful in opening a lock. Very satisfying and great instruction. Once you get the feel is great. Took me less than 5 mins to use my “tools”. Just great !!!!

  • mjd616

    Absolutely does work! picked a masterlock multiple times using this. If its your first time trying it on a door lock is going to seem impossible… start small.

  • Fuel_cap

    I just read the article yesterday and brought home a handful of paper clip… As soon as I got home, I started picking an old master lock… I opened it one time but had fun doing it( it’s even more fun than a rubik cube!)
    Then, I got to work this morning and started to pick at my desk drawers, door… This is really addictive! I guess that using real lockpiking tools would make it even easier!
    For those who thinks paper clips are too soft, try using a hair pin, works even better!

    • Fuel_cap

      Forgot to say I’m getting good…opened a few doors, drawers…

  • imaguest

    So i came across this article and im really interested in learning how to pick locks, there was once i forgot to bring my keys before going out and boy was I in deep shit trouble, but the locks in my house seems old and im not sure if the methods above work on it. Help please?

  • dsteele120

    Lost the key to my gun lock thought I was going to have to pay a lock smith so I could go to the range. Watched the video, could only find two paper clips, but opened the lock on the first try; a long first try, but I am still surprised it worked! Especially when I only had two paper clips available. Great video!

  • EclipseStar

    I made the lockpicks correctly, but I am using a padlock to practice on, and I think that the lockpicks are not suitable for the padlock… am i right? Or am I just doing it wrong?

    • Samfisher1029

      EclipseStar No. You’re right. Pad locks are a lot herder to pick than normal locks.

  • Samfisher1029

    I’m an amateur lockpicker at best, but I’ve found that when using the paperclip lockpicker the the pick with just one slight hook at the end works better than the w shaped pick. Now this is purely preference of course but I was able to unlock a sentry cash box my first time in 30seconds flat.

    • Shorty2k16

      I picked my sentry safe with nothing but the file from a fingernail clippers, just stick the file in, wiggled it a little and the lock turned without much trouble, was even able to lock it afterward with the same file. I don’t think the shape of your tool had anything to do with picking the lock on that safe. lol.

  • peddicoj

    @Arjan
    A tension wrench like the one shown is sturdy, but not infallible, expect warping after a few attempts, but after all these are makeshift.

    Single pin picking is usually more successful when picking from the back forward.

    If these are the beginning of an addiction for you, try using some actual picks sometime. This page got me started on picking, so I bought some and have a blast!!!

  • Guest

    He unlocked it from the back

  • IanJohanson

    Thanks for your post. I have been locked out of my house a couple of times and had to call a locksmith to pick the locks. Consequently I have since wanted to learn to pick the lock myself. Even better if I could make my own lock picks. http://www.ameenslocksmith.com.au/emergency-locksmith.php

  • Jwatson

    I keep trying to fit the paperclips in the locked interior door of my home but the paperclips seems to big. I even bought a hook and pick set from Wal-Mart and they are too big. Should I use a smaller diameter paperclip? And if so, they seem to week for the tension and the rake took. Any suggestions?

  • Sweaty

    My hands are so sweaty so it keeps on slipping you knee gers

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