Hello! Oh, hi, hello, hey, how are you? Let me tell you how I am.
When I woke up this morning we were already over $20k! Then, I rolled over and checked for a piece in The Atlantic about the project! Then, I talked at length with the folks at Exotic Liability. I had a blast with them. I tried hard, for the first 5 minutes or so, to stay high-minded and on-message, but it's impossible and that's what makes their show fun to listen to. We definitely talked locks, but there were tons of stories and innuendo mixed in to make a very entertaining podcast that I'll likely have to keep my Mother from listening to. Then, I went over to my friend Jeff's to cast our candy keys! I had a really wonderful time, but, I do have some bad news:
No Candy Keys!
I'll say this much, it was a bad idea to start with the EVVA 3KS, but it's the one we're all most excited about. We cast 2 keys tonight, neither of which worked. I'm confident that we'll be able to make it work. Jeff is talented and determined and that's most of what you need to accomplish anything! What I did learn, though, was how long it would take, how fragile the keysare and how inconsistent they would be. So - I think trying to ship them with the locks and picks and all of that will likely just lead to disaster! I don't want to let the 300% go unrewarded, though, so I'm going to come up with a new awesome bonus that won't lead to disaster! Also? I'm going to try to think of a 400% bonus too, as we're nearly there already!
I'm sorry about the keys, but I'll provide progress reports on our experiments along with video and such. I really think we can get that 3KS open with the sugar key, just have to get the mold and setting process perfect. Honestly? It's not hard to cast keys, even complex ones, but, casting them in a food safe mold out of sugar throws some major twists.
What's in the set and what's it good for?
OK! Probably the biggest question people ask me is about what will be in the collection and what type of locks you'll use it for. It's funny, once you get pretty solid with lockpicking you'll know that very few picks are meant for specific types of locks. In general the different pick types are solve different problems in the same type of lock. Anyhow, here's a rundown of several common and some uncommon picks!
And a quick key: if its got a [+] it WILL be in the collection, if its got a [-] it will NOT be in the collection. Anything with a [?] is in the running!
Rakes, Hooks & Profile picks, oh my!
There are three major categories of lock picks. Rakes typically consist of multiple sharp or flowing curves and are meant to manipulate multiple pins at once. Hooks are just the opposite, consisting of a single point, though there is a great deal of variety in how that point is designed. Hooks are meant to manipulate a single pin at a time. Profile picks are all sharp angles and may seem completely random at first blush. These are designed to recreate the profile of the key with minimal manipulation.
There are outliers that don't fall into the three main groups. Of those, most important are the diamond & ball picks. I'll cover those in depth.
Medium Hook [+]
The first tool many pickers will use is your basic medium hook. This is a perfect beginner tool because it's a bit clunky inside the lock, doesn't require a great deal of skill to get the best use out of it, but in its simplicity it remains very effective and often enjoys a place in the primary kit of any picker as their skill advances to the intermediate stage.
To best describe the medium hook's limitations, I'll explain the advantages of the Gonzo, so called because the head looks a bit like the nose of Gonzo the Great. Unlike the medium hook, the Gonzo has a rounded tip, allowing it to move more smoothly through the lock. Also, the tip extends just a bit higher than the medium hook, allowing it to better manipulate tricky high-low bittings. The Gonzo is beloved among many, if not most, advanced pickers and has taken a prominent place in their primary kits.
Long Hook [?]
The long hook is a bear. It is difficult to move through many keyways, can get caught inside the lock mid-pick and may be uncomfortable to work with. However — the extreme tip that causes all of those problems also allows it to set the most ridiculous high-low bittings. Though this pick rarely sees regular use, it has proved itself invaluable at times and many pickers will keep it around.
Deep Curve [+]
The deep curve is the most widely borrowed member of a family of tools built around a specific method of picking. The deep curve is my favorite part of the larger system and makes an excellent solo tool. By allowing the belly of the curve to run along a low point in the keyway & rocking the pick into the lock, following the line of the pick head, you get a great sense of control and can easily manipulate difficult to reach pins in the back of the lock.
Notched Hooks [+]
The most common notched hooks
[+] tend to fall, in height, somewhere between the medium hook & the long hook. However, you can carve a notch into any pick you like and enjoy the benefits. Simply, the notch makes it easy to locate each pin inside the lock and in the rare situation where heavier-than-normal force is required you don't risk slipping off of the pin you are working on as you would with the Gonzo or medium hook. Finally, in locks with oddly shaped pins, such as Medeco's chisel tips, the notched hook allows you to manipulate them in more specific ways, such as rotating them.
DeForest Ball & Diamond [+]
I do not know Deforest's first name, though I've heard someone say it before. These days the picks named for him are more likely to be known as an "offset diamond" and "offset ball," but where possible I'll try to give these picks what I consider their proper names. The Deforest diamond is typically my second pick in a lock, right after the Bogota, which I'll cover in the rakes section. The angled tip of these picks gives the deforest deeper reach than your typical hooks and the added shape to the tip, whether ball or diamond, allow you some additional manipulation options. My primary use of the Deforest is to defeat the previously mentioned high-low bittings. The Deforest moves through a lock with ease, unlike the long hook and can set the more extreme high-lows that the Gonzo can't quite reach. Though you will rarely find them in starter sets, a Deforest should be one of the first picks you make or acquire after you get comfortable with your initial tools.
There are other hooks and other single pin picks that straddle the line between hook and something else, but by the time you come across them, you'll be able to deduce their function.
Diamonds and Balls
The half-diamond is one of the only tools that remains wholly unchanged in a pickers primary kit from the day they learn how a lock works to the day they are declared a Meister
. Half-Diamonds can be found in 3 basic sizes, small, medium and large. The small diamond will flit through a lock with ease, but doesn't effect much inside, the large diamond's long ramping sides can be incredibly useful, but near impossible to move in tight keyways. Right between them, then, we have the medium diamond, which moves through the lock well and has enough of a slope to be quite useful.
Really important note about half-diamonds, and I was guilty of this myself for the first year and a half I picked, most pickers don't understand their proper use. They are often described as half-hook, half-rake, because they move so smoothly across the pins, are wide enough to manipulate 2 at once, but still have a defined tip that can move a single pin at a time. Similar to the c-rake I mentioned previously, the half-diamond, when used in this fashion, will seem awesome as it pops simple locks open with little-to-no effort. However, this method fails quickly on more difficult bittings. To quickly define that, the bitting is the pattern of the key pins. If you have very little variation, a lock is easier to pick. Simple test: look at your key, does it look flat? Or does it have big changes in height from cut to cut? The more complex those cuts, the harder the lock is to pick.
The real value of the half-diamond comes from those sloped sides. In situations where you need to move a pin very little, or when you have to apply stronger tension than normal, a half-diamond is your best friend. Take the situation of a serrated pin. Serrated pins have grooves cut along their base so that when you apply tension to the cylinder they will get caught & feel as though you have set the lock. Moving a serrated pin is a delicate process, if you push too hard you are liable to shove the key pin up into the bible of the lock, foiling your whole picking attempt and forcing you to reset. Using a half-diamond you can carefully push the pick head deeper into the lock, letting the pin ride up the side. This gives you much more control than a hook ever could.
Balls come in a few different shapes. Most popular is the half-ball, followed by the snowman, or double ball. All of these picks are most commonly used on wafer tumbler locks. The gentle curves of the ball family are ideal for the loose tolerances of most wafer locks. That is not to discount their efficacy against other locks, as there seem to be some people with the uncanny ability to pop some decent pin tumbler locks with balls as well. These people, however, are widely regarded as freaks by those of us who can't! (jokes! jokes!)
I'm probably going to start some fights when I discuss rakes. I will be the first to admit that my tastes are sometimes non-standard, but I've tried countless tools and opened a lot of locks, so trust me. Then, when you find out I'm completely wrong and you don't open any locks, you'll have learned a valuable lesson about trusting experts on the internet.
Snake Rake [-]
I'll begin with the ever-popular "snake rake" or "c" rake. This diminutive, narrow profiled rake that is found, without fail, in every started set a new picker buys, is all but useless against decent locks. It will pop Master #3s like magic. It will stun and amaze and eventually, once you learn to use and love the other tools on this list, fall into disfavor and out of your primary kit.
S Rake [?]
The S rake is loved by a lot of people. It's not my go-to pick, but probably gives the best feedback of the rake family. With only 2 peaks there isn't a ton of extraneous information being fed to your fingers. However, the sharp angle just before the pick head makes it weak and prone to breaking. I've worked on sloping that section in my design to add a little strength, but I'm not yet sure if this is going to be included in the final set.
Large S Rake [+]
Much more interesting is the Large S. When I first saw this tool I was told it was the German secret weapon. "Push, Push, Open!" my Dutch friend declared. I bought one immediately and found great success with it. The Large S is able to set more varied bittings than the C or the S.
L rake [+]
I love the L rake, but the most common profile is pretty timid. I've designed a more aggressive profile that's also a bit longer than standard. The L rake can pop locks all on it's own, but I've used it to great effect speed picking difficult bittings. Apply light tension & rake low in the keyway, then, increase your tension a little bit as you go back in with a Gonzo or Deforest diamond to finish the shallower pins off. A basic, but very effective speed picking strategy.
The Bogota rake is the sole creation of Raimundo, though this pick has been poorly reproduced by many of the major manufactures in the last 3 years. Unfortunately for the people buying the knockoffs, you can't just stick a Bogota rake on a popsicle-stick handle and expect it to work it's magic. Lacking the thin, bent handle of the traditional Bogota, they have dramatically reduced the efficacy of the pick. Ray is a friend and has been working closely with another friend, Matt Fiddler, at Serepick
to produce these and they've done a beautiful job with it!
W Rake [-]
Then there's the W rake, the long hook of the rake world. This unwieldy, aggressive rake is sure to get bound up in the back of your lock and it's thin connection between shaft and pick head means it will bend and break with heavy handed use. However, just like the long hook, it has proved itself by opening a tricky lock, if rarely, and thus remains in use today. Sometimes the ugly, odd and downright fragile picks will open the locks we can't get at otherwise, which brings us to...
Profile picks are a really interesting concept. Rather than try to actively manipulate the pins in the lock, the profile picks try to simply set all of them to a specific configuration, then test the lock. This is the brute force attack of lockpicking. The strength of the attack comes down to the size of your library.
"High Tech" picks [-]
For example, the Majestic "High Tech" pick set has 16 individual heads, each of which can be used in either orientation in the lock, giving you 32 profiles to work with. By bouncing tension while you slowly move these picks in the lock, you may well find the shear line. By trying the profiles at different heights and angles you really can cover a huge range of bittings.
King & Queen picks [+] & [+]
On the other end of the spectrum you have the King & Queen picks. These 2 pick heads can only be used in one orientation, so you are limited to 2 profiles. Used by themselves these are incredibly ineffective. However, their profiles are so dramatic that they make a great addition to a well rounded pick set and have found their way into my heart & my primary kit. When you are up against a very aggressive bitting and failing miserably, or if time is nearly up, taking a run at the lock with the King or Queen may be your last resort. It's the hail Mary pass of lockpicking, and when it works, it's amazing. Last thought on these: Never be tempted to rake with profile picks of any sort, their sharp angles and dramatic variations in height make them prone to catch and even snap inside the lock. Be gentle with this attack.
Matadors and Cruciform Rakes
There are all sorts of other interesting picks out there. Matadors, for example, are rakes for dimple locks, Cruciform rakes are for cruciform locks. You don't see many of either in the states, with the exception of Mul-T-Lock, which are actually pretty exceptional locks and not likely to be popped by Matadors. The reason I bring these up together is that they are very effective tools against locks that seem intimidating when you first encounter them.
Matadors are flat pieces of steel with ridges running across them that interact with the key pins in dimple locks. When you see them the first time they don't seem varied enough to work, but that's the great secret about most simple dimple and cruciform locks, the bittings are inherently weak. Look at the flat of your key, how dramatic a difference could there be between the longest and shortest possible key pins? Not very! The lack of variation, as we discussed above, makes for easy picking.
Cruciform Rakes [-]
Cruciform rakes rely on the same principle. Stuffing 3 (or 4) rows of pins into the footprint of a standard cylinder leaves little room for big differences in pin heights. There are people who do both concepts well, DOM, Kaba, etc. but, much like the cheap disc detainer locks that are flooding the US bike lock market, the dimple & cruciform locks starting to make headway here are easy to pick if you have the proper tools.
Oh man, that went on forever!
Haha, OK, I'm going to bed! Hope this was informative!