Paperclip Lock Picking Sets

Lockpicking has become a trademark skill of hackers all across the world, and is regularly taught at hackerspaces and maker faires. But a lot of the time, the sets have already been made or bought online somewhere. However, [Sean] has demonstrated how to create a lock picking set with ordinary paperclips in the video embedded at the end of this post. Wikihow also has these awesome instructions on how to build them.

What’s great is that the material for these picks are easily found. There are other ways to fashion a set together. For example, street sweeper bristles can be used. And electrical metal tape is a good material as well, but these paperclip sets are, by far, the most accessible. Pretty much anywhere that has office stationary supplies will have mounds of these little metal clips lying around.

But how well do they work? Have you made a paperclip lock picking set before?

If so, let us know in the comments, and tell us how well they did.

[Thanks Bob for the tip!]


49 thoughts on “Paperclip Lock Picking Sets

      1. I think I have that very lock…
        … yes… I have a thing about strange locks. This one has a couple of tricks… first.. find the keyhole… next, even if you have the key, and have worked out where the keyhole is… it wont turn… perhaps the ultimate in physical security by obscurity… I doubt if it would stand up to a hacksaw, demmel or a bash with a sledge hammer any better than any other brass padlock though.

          1. I used every stuff which came in to my hand when I lost my bicycle chain key… It’s not that useless (although when I opened it that easily I bought new, really sturdy u-lock )

  1. These look much nicer to use then my standard paperclip picks. However, in real life a pair of pliers is sometimes hard to come by – that’s what teeth are for! I usually break a paper clip in half, use one half as the torsion wrench, the other half as the rake. Had some fun in an embassy the other day showing them how to open the filing cabinets and letting them practise on a bunch of locks (had good fun getting through the metal detector with those!). Such a useful and fun skill :)

    1. I bet!

      You’ve gotta be careful, though. Here in Virginia I know some folks who looked up the laws on lockpicks (improvised or otherwise) and saw that the statue only deemed them illegal given proof of “felonious intent.”

      They did not, unfortunately, read the very next section, which defined possession of lockpicks without a locksmithing license as proof of felonious intent. :I

      It’s like the law was written to troll people.

      1. >It’s like the law was written to troll people.
        In Poland people are often sentenced to 2 years in prison for “insulting religious beliefs”. Saying something like “Pope John Paul II molested children” will get you a jail time because the pope is now saint and the country is ruled by religious fanatics. It’s almost like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, only with Jesus and bible.

        1. What has that got to do with anything, just an unnecessary dig at Muslims and Christians as far as I can see?! How many years do you get for questioning the holocaust in Poland?

      2. But officer, these are my on-the-go dentistry tools. What if I get some spinach stuck in my teeth? :P I think in most cases police will (hopefully) use their discretion – the guy hanging around outside the jewellery shop at 1am holding lockpicks probably has felonious intent. The college student with a twisted paperclip? Probably not :)

          1. People seem to always judge by occupation… it’s amazing how people on stores (specially large department) stores and shopping malls feel uncomfortable if I hang around with my large backpack (gotta carry a 15″ laptop and my notebook at least)… but if I have the same backpack on my back, but I’m also using the T-shirt that reads Chemical Engineering… then no one will give a damn about me.

          2. @Mateus: Isn’t chemical engineering some of the most dangerous knowledge somebody can have? :-)
            You could even be able to synthesize some not-so-legal party fun or some “boom”.

  2. I’m not a serious lockpick hobbyist but have played with them a bit. My preference (given a pair of pliers) is the handle wire from binder clips – much stiffer. It’s more about practice and knowledge anyway – I think someone who’s very good with locks could use a wooden toothpick and voodoo incantations and still get the lock open.

      1. The steel in wiper inserts is almost always stainless (note stainless does not necessarily mean it will never rust). That oxidation is just on the surface. It is also the ideal material for tension wrenches. Nothing better.

    1. Yes when I want be inconspicuous and break into something, I bust out the old hacksaw blades and the bench grinder and nobody pays any attention to the flying sparks and noise.

  3. I thought I was the only one who had found a use for road sweeper brush bristles.. it seems everyone knows about them… “Gutter brooms are always made with flat (hard drawn or oil tempered) filaments because they are more aggressive than round filaments.” .. and they make fine lock picks…

    1. Heat treatment is the key. Form a good hook heat it with fire until almost red hot then quench in liquid. Instant “spring steel” .

      Various metal alloys require different quenching liquids. Water works well, various (try cooking) oils work better.

    1. locks are merely to keep the honest folks honest most people that turn to burglary will just smash a window or “buy” a proper set of lock picks instead of taking the time and effort to make a set out of paper clips

  4. Read the title and instantly knew I was in for some commenting gold. Skimmed the article and jumped to the good stuff right as my popcorn finished popping…. you fine folks did not disappoint. :p

  5. I worked for a major US lock company (based at one time in San Francisco Ca. Then Colorado, in the Technical services department let me just say any pick made from a round shaped wire might work on some locks given enough practice or trial and error, how ever the thing is the round shape makes the pick less able to get into the keyway of small or higher end lock cylinders and paper clips are so hard and brittle chances are that one day sooner or later a part of the paper clip / pick will break off inside the cylinder !
    So much for opening without leaving any evidence or USING THE REAL key until the obstruction you left is removed from the cylinder (same concept as breaking a tooth pick off in a lock to cause a key not to work.). The company also made a Padlock that had a shackle that could shatter the jaws of even the best Bolt cutters and the “brass” bodies were in fact bass colored High strength fully hardened carbon steel, as in the same stuff used for safes and jail doors! A battery grinder would take a week to put a scratch on one ! and if a person still wanted more security order a lock with a UL listed drill resistant cylinder ! They have case hardened pins in strategic places of the cylinder plug making it rather impractical to try drilling the pins out to bypass the security still not secure ?? Add a side bit key system to the mix these locks have a number of finger pins reading a second key code milled into the side of a key making a lock picking attempt VERY VERY HARD as now 2 completely separate shear lines need to be picked in the same tight keyway as a regular lock has needing at least an additional tool in the process! At the time I was working for the m there were a total of FOUR (4) persons who could actually pick one of these cylinders and I don’t mean just once by perhaps luck they could open one at will and only one of these folks worked for us! (the others were lock professionals from around the country who loved to show off at company events and conferences, And more so if they knew one of our engineers was watching!!
    If anyone is interested I could probably provide at least part of the training PPT presentations and diagrams we used when training locksmiths to open locks without benefit of a key. And a true artist can not only open a lock but create a key from a blank by hand that will open and re-lock a cylinder just like an original key!
    Last name not given as I still like the folks I worked with and don’t want to start any problems as they may not like the data I can provide !

    1. with such a “unbeatable” lock what’s to stop the third party wanting access to just resort into breaking some other line of security, i.e. breaking windows, breaking the door down etc. or would you really have a door cast out of carbon steel? and dont forget about the door frame.

      Honestly if you’re bringing a grinder and making all that noise then you’re probably better off using some sort of battering ram

  6. The comment locks only keep honest people honest is very true If a lock is more secure than another route into a “secured ” space a true criminal will find a simpler and less complicated way in, like using a large jack to simply spread the door frame beyond the length the bolt engages the strike. Door open (and broken) Lock still locked Criminal wins!
    Also as locks get better the collateral damage to the door or building gets bigger and fast ! it cost way more to replace a door kicked in than a padlock cut off a shackle!

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