30×26 Day 25

Here’s an amusing little tidbit I learned last night:

Schlage deadbolts have this feature called an “Anti-pick Shield”. This has nothing to do with the pickability of the cylinder. Rather, the shield covers the part of the lock that’s in the door, to protect it from an icepick attack.

No joke.

Today I did battle with the stubborn Master Lock. Aaron gave me an old sawblade yesterday to fashion into more tools, and today I decided it was time I stopped complaining about how I didn’t have a tensioner large enough for the stubborn Master Lock and just make one. Out came the Dremel again, along with a couple files and some sandpaper.

I opted for a flat tensioner that fits in the top of the keyway.

Really Flat Tensioner

Only the very tip sits in the keyway. The notch is to hold the tensioner out far enough that it doesn’t touch the first pin.

Here it is in the lock. You can see where the notch rests on the outside:

Saw Blade Tensioner

If this tensioner were twice as thick it’d be perfect, but as it is it gets the job done better than the other tensioners that get shift and get wedged, although it does sometimes slip loose and launch itself.

I picked and picked and picked with this new tensioner. The lock would not open.

Finally, I took the lock apart to see what kind of pins it has. Unfortunately, the plug is held in place by a C-clip, which I have absolutely no interest in prying off and reattaching, because I don’t like to lose blood. Or C-clips.

Here is the infamous stubborn Master Lock, half disassembled:

Stubborn Master Lock Innards

See those 4 holes in the bottom of the cylinder? That’s what the pins slipped into the last time I opened this lock, causing me to think it was stuck. I just needed to work them back out of there to rotate the plug again.

Shortly after reassembly, I remembered that the cylinder is difficult to open even with the key. It often catches and refuses to turn unless you pull the plug out, but not too far, and at just the correct angle, with the key. This is not something I can do with a pick or tensioner.

What this means is even if I were to pick the pins properly, the lock still wouldn’t open. Perhaps that’s what’s been happening. I have no way of knowing.

Stubborn lock is frustrating.

30×26 Day 24

About a week ago, Aaron dug up an old Master Lock 175, which I decided to tackle today.

The internet has all sorts of information about the 175. This post and this video are two of the best that I found. There are plenty of other sites and videos that say pretty much the same thing.

I was pretty excited about opening a combination lock with a pick. Except I couldn’t get a pick to fit between the dials and the end cap. Not even the thin hook.

I looked at a small paperclip, since this guy managed to open his 175 that way. For the record, a small paperclip is thicker than my thin hook.

I didn’t think a soda can would be strong enough to work, but I tried it anyway. It barely squeezed past the gap, but deformed right away. I needed something thin yet strong.

Enter the razor blade. And a Dremel. I may still be so weak that I get winded washing my hair, but whoo I feel good enough to play with power tools today. Fashioned the following, thinned and polished at the tip:

Razor Hook

It’s thinner than the thin hook, and just thin enough to get into the lock:


Unfortunately, the gap between the dials and the end cap is still so thin that I can’t maneuver the tip of the pick back down to hook the thing I need to. I don’t know where all those YouTubers got their loosey goosey 175s, but this isn’t one of them. Looks like I lost the pickable tolerance lottery. (Or rather, Aaron won it.)

Not that this lock is secure. If you read the article in the first link (or this one) you’ll see that a screwdriver will take the end cap off, and after that the mechanism I tried oh so hard to reach will be openly available.

But I’m here to pick locks, not break them, so I will leave this one alone.

I will note, however, that there is another nondestructive way to get into this lock, but I’d rather spend my time on other things.

30×26 Day 23

Horrible Stomach Bug continues to knock me over for a giant nap in the middle of the day, but I am more functional in my waking hours today than I have been the last couple days.

I watched some videos and read some guides on how to pick my pre-TSA snooping Master 3 digit luggage lock. They all agree that the shackle needs to be tensioned and the numbers worked on from top to bottom. Beyond that, some guides say the lock becomes harder to turn as you near the correct number while other guides say the turning loosens up.

I found that the best technique on my lock was to tension the shackle and work from top to bottom, turning each number incrementally, until the right number clicks into place. Like so:

When the click happens, I feel it in both the shackle and the dial. I can also hear it, as you probably can in the video.

Common Master Locks continue to be scarily easy to defeat.

30×26 Day 22

Horrible stomach bug continues to be horrible.

Today, I half-heartedly attempted to pick an old school Kryptonite tubular lock with a toilet paper roll, mostly because I have lots of toilet paper rolls and no BIC pens on hand.

I’d like to note that if you google pick tubular lock toilet paper roll one of the top results takes you to a Stormfront forum post. I didn’t realize this until I was reading the post (which was quite informative). So Mom was right, now I am going to have the government watching me.

While searching for my old Kryptonite tubular locks I came across some newer U-Locks purchased after the BIC debacle. These use a disc tumbler mechanism, which I’m not able to pick with tools I have on hand. Still, it was interesting to learn about how they work.

That’s all for today. I had planned to work on combination locks during my trip to Vegas today through Sunday, but due to horrible stomach bug I am no longer going. Maybe if I feel good enough tomorrow I can start.

30×26 Day 20

I was going to play hockey after work but I seem to have caught some horrible stomach bug, so instead I went home and picked my hitch lock.

It turns out my $29 hitch lock is a wafer lock with a couple keyway covers. It’s about as secure as my file cabinet.

In fact, all Yakima locks are file cabinet secure, since they all use the same SKS lock core:

Of course, there are plenty of other ways to steal bikes off a car. Securing your bike to a rack isn’t much different from locking your front door.

30×26 Day 19

I’ve spent the last couple days working on my gun lock. The mechanism is crap and the keyway is just small enough that I can’t get both a tensioner and a pick in there.

That’s okay, because…

Wonder hook powers activate! Form of tensioner!

The hook has proven itself to be one of my most versatile tools. I still didn’t have a lot of room to work because of where my thumb was, but the magical Bogota took care of that.

At this point, I’m wishing I had both a larger and a smaller tensioner, but I also have plenty I can learn with what I have so I’ll go with that.

As for never picking a lock I rely on, if I needed a gun lock I could rely on I sure as hell wouldn’t use this one. That much was obvious even before I learned to pick.

30×26 Day 18

Here’s that two-pack of mini padlocks I got at the dollar store yesterday:

Mini Practice Locks

As I mentioned yesterday, they’re cheap. They’re $1.49 cheap, not very smooth cheap, have an odd key-to-lock pairing cheap, only have 2 pins each cheap, and pickable with no tensioner cheap. Like so:

If you recall, the hook is what I used to open the warded lock as well. I’ll be using it in my next video as a tensioner. It’s a great all-purpose tool.

I also came across a larger version of the warded lock from Day 12 at the dollar store:

100% Security


30×26 Day 17

Here’s the made in Taiwan American lock that Aaron dug out of the garage last night:

Aaron pointed out that you can see the shear line from the front of the keyway. Like so:

I tried to make a mini shim to hold the pins in place from front to back, but I don’t have anything thin (in both thickness and width) yet strong enough for the job. I can’t get around the entire plug from the front, so standard cylinder shims are out. I’m sure there’s a way to exploit this; I just haven’t figured out how.

Came by a couple interesting sites when I searched for shear line shims. The first one has some good overall lock picking information: locks, tools, picking techniques, etc. Most importantly, it has an entire page devoted to my beloved Bogota. The second site is all about lock picking forensics. It’s got lots of detailed pictures. (My poor practice locks!)

While we’re handing out links like candy, here’s a good one from Aaron: The Lockdown series on Engadget. The articles are quite a few years old now, but locks haven’t changed much in quite a few more years than that.

Stumbled across another dollar store this afternoon so I picked up a couple mini padlocks. They’re cheap in every sense of the word, no fun to use, no fun to pick, and not one bit trustworthy. I plan to tell you all about them tomorrow and never touch them again.

30×26 Day 16

I tried to make a video of repinnable cylinder picking this morning but failed miserably. I’d apparently forgotten how to open the lock overnight.

Played with it a bunch more when I got home and figured it out again. The lighting’s not great but I like that you can hear the clicks as the pins set.

On Day 14 I talked about the annoying-to-me shape of the repinnable lock’s keyway. I’m used to it now. It also helps that I’m using the skinny Bogota, a.k.a. the Magic Wand.

Aaron went into the garage and dug up an unlocked padlock with no key. It was rough and squeaky, but after a couple squirts of WD-40 it was ready for picking. I took a picture before I locked it, in case I couldn’t open it again:


A few minutes later, it was open again. I’ll make a video of this weekend, in which you’ll see that this “American” padlock was made in Taiwan.

Time to call it a night and clean up. My heavy handed picking generates a ton of fine metal dust. It makes me want to buy another Bogota, so I’ll have one when I break and/or wear out my current one, which seems inevitable. Also, NEVER LET ME PICK A LOCK YOU RELY ON… unless your key is too tall, which case I will come saw those pins down for you.