Picking Locks With Toool

What Maker Faire would be complete without teaching children the joys of jiggling and twisting locks until they’ve opened? Toool, the open organisation of lockpickers made their way to New York this weekend to show off their bumping skills and get the kids interested in manipulating small mechanical devices.

The guys from Toool had a very cool setup – just a bunch of tables and chairs with a few picks and torsion wrenches. There were a few classic Master Locks on the table, but also a series of six tumbler locks each labeled with a number 1 through 6 signifying how many pins were in the lock. The idea is to get someone started on a one-pin lock, and eventually have them work their way up to the full six pins.

In the video after the break, one of the more animated guys from Toool explains why they were there, and also shows off picking a Master Lock twice in under 30 seconds. Seriously, people: educate yourself on locks before buying one.


35 thoughts on “Picking Locks With Toool

  1. Can they pick a Kwikset SmartKey lock? They’re neat locks because they can be re-keyed while installed.

    If you want to provide temporary access to a place, change the key then when you want to end that access, change it back.

    All you need to change the key is the key that currently works the lock and any other compatible key that’ll fit into the lock, and the little tool that pushes into the slot for changing it.

    1. Kwikset are inferior locks generally speaking. Sure you can re-key it multiple times, but I can pick any variation you come up with in under 30 seconds. As in many things, you get what you pay for. Another thing to think about, is that the cylinder is attached to really cheap material. I can take a book and slam down on a lock handle and remove it from a door in about 10 seconds. Locks simply give you the illusion of security.

      Brought to you from your friendly neighborhood Commercial Door and Automatics Technician.

    2. Yes, they can.

      If it’s made by kwik-set, master, yale, shlage, any brand you see at the hardware store any member of TOOOL could by-pass it. After a few minutes instruction most people off the street could by-pass them. They’re still vulnerable to bumping as well.
      Locks only keep honest people honest.

      1. Interestingly, I just replaced all the door locks on my moms house (knobs and deadbolts) with Brinks locks from, of all places, Wal-Mart.

        Of course my mom immediately locked herself out and had to call a locksmith who couldn’t pick the locks or get in the house by any other means.

        The smith said it was a new style of lock that has some extra plate in it or something (I know next to nothing about lock picking). He was impressed and didn’t charge for the call.

      2. * not trying to say they’re awesome or anything, maybe the locksmith was just an idiot or something. They were some kind of Brinks industrial locks. The locksmith tried for about 2 hours and eventually gave up. Kinda felt good about that, I would assume a criminal would give up quicker.

    3. I havent seen the inner workings of the smartkey lock yet but I can only assume that they would be less secure than a standard lock with mushroom tumblers.
      The remaining key locks on my home are medico locks and they are built like tanks.
      the keys can not be duplicated anywhere but the locksmith you bought the lock from and you have to be on a approved list.
      So some one that has the key can’t get it copied.
      Medico keys not only have a unique keyway but the cuts on the key not only have different sizes but angles also.
      the pins in the lock are made from hardened steel.
      and the top pins have a small hole that a side bar with pins has to mate in order for the cylinder to turn.
      the front of the lock also has hardened steel pins made into the lock to make drilling the pins out very hard.
      Sure they are expensive but it is the only lock I am aware of that if you have them on you home , most homeowners insurance will give you a discount.

    4. Well… Its a professional tool that’s been copied by for a few years by many resourceful individuals and a modified flat blade screwdriver and a pair of pliers:


      Schlage’s SecureKey that came out a few years after the Smart Key system can be similarly defeated.

      Its a bit of brute-force tactic but its still a means to an end; someone easily gaining entry to your property.

      Ok, I’ll cover most of the bases: Locks keep the honest people honest, sledge hammers and time will get you into 90% of locked properties in the US, why not just go through a window? blah, blah, blah. While security systems and puppy dogs will create a fuss, they can easily be defeated with wire cutters and prime rib.

      Please, please, please! DO your homework about the security devices (Security glass, reinforced construction methods, protected redundant security systems, NO advertisements of what you may have in your protected property!) you may rely on.

      It all may seem like common sense, but there are a lot of dumb people out there that really need to be educated! The less dumb victims in the world may mean that the criminal has to work harder to find the meek and powerless for them to practice on. If they have to work too hard, maybe they’ll give up. Yes, its like an arms race: Tougher locks mean the criminals find a way to pick locks. Cost prohibitive means has never worked. Smart people out there may not have an evil bone in their body, but they’re able to disable complex devices in simple ways (i.e. lock bumping, rake picking with plastic comb, smash a lock frozen with a $2 can of compressed air) and advertising it to the world for every dumba** criminal to see (Yeah, there are smart criminals out there too, unfortunately). I don’t blame these smart, innocent people, I blame these bloated, over-sized corporations for not thinking outside the box enough. I wonder if these Lock CEOs have their own locks on they’re homes? Yeah, they’re just trying to make a buck just like everyone else, but peddling crap doesn’t change it to gold. The big box DIY stores don’t research this stuff enough either. That’s why hiring a true security specialist is all the more important. It may be pricy but well worth it(After all, they need to make a buck too!).

      Discovering how easy it was to open up one of those Smart Key locks was very disappointing. I was personally looking at the Kwikset Key Control Deadbolts. I’ve never really been a fan of Kwikset, but I liked the idea of the Smart Key systems when they first came out. But after going to the store and asking how it worked and the store clerk looking at me cross-eyed, I did the research… After looking at a cross-section of the insides my heart dropped. I saw wafer pins…

      Even with my inferior knowledge of lock designs, I knew darn well how fragile wafer pins are to destructive means. Think of a basic cabinet lock: You lost the key and you have a minor bit of mechanical know-how. You don’t care if the lock breaks because you lost the key. How you gonna get in there? Simple! Flat blade screwdriver and a bit of force! Same thing with the Smart Key System.

      The Schlage system is somewhat similar with springs plastic clips.

      Check out http://www.lockwiki.com for more info!

      1. I have that set from Deal Extreme. It is fair, not good. A set from Southern Ordinance will cost 2 or 3x as much, but you can get a good start with their 5 piece starter set for less than $20.

        A better source to make your own is old bicycle spokes. Cut to length, flatten, shape and put a handle on one end.

        A good tension wrench is worth the money, which is what the DX set does not offer.

    1. Southern Specialties (aka “RCS Tool Co.”) has some nice pick sets and individual picks. They come in a number of styles, including a neat wavy laminated handle design (all metal).
      If you’re going to buy a set, buy euro sized picks. They are a little more fragile, but easier to pick with because they can get into smaller keyways and somewhat bypass various keyway protrusions designed to discourage picking.

      Get a set of the plain handles, then put shrink wrap tubing on them for grip and comfort.

      Also, their folding keychain pick set is much much better than SouthOrd’s version.


      If you get the folding pick set, be sure to buy a euro-sized rake (or two) and hook and swap those in. All the picks in the folding set are replaceable and interchangeable, so you can mix and match different sizes and styles and have spares on hand.

  2. Showing off “bumping skills”? Bump keys are generally tools that are only interesting to burglars. They don’t take any skills to use.

    I highly doubt that anyone from TOOOL demonstrated lock bumping at this event. The majority of the locksport community takes a very dim view of bump keys.

  3. As a tangent- Schuyler Towne gave an amazing presentation on the history of physical security at the Vermont Mini Maker Faire (Champlain Maker Faire).

    Never thought locks could be so interesting!

    Wish I could have been to BOTH the NY and VT events.

  4. I know one can pick a lock open, but can you pick a lock closed? I mean, if I have a lock that is locked, then I unlock it by picking it, can I lock it again by picking it the other direction?

    1. If you can lock it with the key, yes.

      You couldn’t do it with a padlock because those default to ‘locked’.. by the time you get the hasp into position where it can lock, it does lock. For the standard ‘turn the key one way to lock, turn the key the other way to unlock’ models, it’s just a matter of which way you choose to turn the cylinder once you’ve freed it up so it can move.

  5. I think it’s funny when people try to pass off as ‘experts’ in this field and talk about pin and wafer tumblers..

    If you’re bored with GM side-bar, ASSA twin maximum, and double dimple blade side bar systems you might know something. Safe-Combo-Key setups and Mechanical engineering concepts from past centuries are the ceiling for this field..

    IMO double-sided-blade-dimple-double-sidebar and micro-ward and micro-disc systems are the hardest key systems

  6. Security is overrated.

    Locks are in place so the insurance companies are appeased. If someone wants to break in they will throw a brick through a window. Most likely in the basement.

    Best you can do is to go by the old principle: If there’s an unlocked bicycle and a locked one; which one would you steal if you were a thief?

  7. The safest I can come up with (and I am in NO way an expert). Is to have a door with nothing on it but a door handle. The lock is RFID controled with the antenna hidden on the other side/inside of the door.

    The thief then has nothing to go by visually and has to guess entry. This process will probably take longer than actually bypassing the security. That or the door is kicked in (get a metal frame door).

  8. @Silver Bullet That doesen’t work, the criminals just carry some meat around with them to distract the dog(s).
    I still say that the best defence against the dark arts is to make sure everything you own is Smart Water doped, and add little “features” on laptops such as RFID entry and intelligent power supplies which only work if the machine is mated to its designated supply.
    Adding smart LCD screen that displays “cracked” video until the code is entered is also effective, this will fool even an expert.

    Its also worth mentioning that if you ever do have a break-in you should change *every* lock, not just the broken ones as the thieves often re-enter the same house using the keys they stole on the previous raid, or even sell the keys to another gang for a premium.

    Also worth doing, change passwords on broadband, PC etc as a favourite trick is identity theft..
    Takes seconds to “hack” someone’s PC using a boot disk and then the thief has an open line into your online banking etc.

  9. I look at locks as a deterrent rather than security. I am aware that my home can be broken into at any time and I’m mentally prepared for that. All my real valuables are of the breathing kind and they are not likely to be stolen.

  10. I guess you shouldn’t assume anything, but im going to assume 99% of crooks are not going to bother picking your lock or sniffing your one-off, DIY, RFID tag lock just to break into your lowly house. They are going to take the easiest target. If they see an ADT sign out front they will keep driving. And someone mentioned wire cutters… What are they going to cut? security alarms know what state the lines are in N.O. / N.C. etc.. using termination resistors, cut a wire and the alarm goes off… cut the phone line and the system detects a dead phone line, the alarm goes off, and a lot of alarms now have cellular back-up if not the primary means of phoning in. Like I say, crooks aren’t looking for a challenge unless they really like jail time. going after ATMs, card readers, etc is stupid as well, you are leaving behind very obvious and easy to trace evidence and you must return to the scene of the crime to collect data. Those things were a good idea for about 5 seconds… lock picking is a good spy skill, but not very good for burglery.

  11. I agree. Better locks are to make sure you aren’t the easiest target- assuming your property isn’t a predetermined target. A better lock on your door than the next guy’s works like the two men who stumble upon a hungry bear. The survivor doesn’t have to outrun the bear, just the other man. If your home, business, car, etc., is a much more difficult target, you’ve gone a long way toward deterring entry. The lesson of the “unpickable” bike locks that are picked with a Bic pen, etc., is that no system is beyond defeat.

  12. I wish I could find the keyblank I need for a kaba lock. I’ve never seen the feature this key has. It has the normal notches on the blade but it also has bumps in the channel of the key Just can’t find the thing and I don’t want to pay 30 dollars and shipping to send it to the manufacturer to make a copy.

  13. Mechanical locks are getting less and less secure these days. I even have an app on my Palm that can give you 100 combos to try for a Master Lock combination lock just from the 3rd number, which is easily found by pulling on the hasp and spinning the dial, taking note of which numbers it locks on.

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