Seaton: Adventures in Lock Picking!

I took up lock picking recently.

The idea came in a moment when I was cleaning out the kids’ toy room and came across a pick set I’d ordered a couple years ago but never really used. So I watched a couple of YouTube tutorials, read a manual, and started working on “bypassing pin tumblers.”

It was hard at first. Really, really hard. And because I’m a stubborn son of a bitch and won’t let something go until I get it, I kept a pick set and practice padlock with me all the time.

Now I go to restaurants and order carry-out food a couple times a week. Prior to my newfound picking passion, I might take a deck of cards and wait, fidgeting with the cards doing false shuffles and flourishes. No one cared.

Everyone gets interested in the guy at the bar with a pick set and a trainer lock. Guys, give it a shot. You’ll probably get at least one phone number for your effort, plus it’s a hell of an ice breaker at a bar.

Funny thing about picking is when you start you learn how many people share your interest. I know at least two magicians, one who consults for “Fool Us,” that are quite proficient lock pickers. A guy I know who does repo is amazing with a rake and just touch.

The SRO at my kids’ school is interested in my hobby, too. I think for different reasons. Serves her for being nosy, anyway. It’s not like we can use our phones in car line.

Every lock is kind of like a puzzle you have to manipulate solely by touch. That’s what makes the art of lockpicking so interesting to me and so banal for millennials who’ve developed few muscles in their hands beyond those required to text.

My wife is very supportive of my new hobby, which is nice because the woman hates magic with a passion. The kids are so/so; my son has a greater interest than my daughter. I suspect his analytical mind at work enjoys seeing how locks operate.

As far as my parents, they’ve not stopped asking why I didn’t pursue this as a trade. Hindsight being what it is, I could’ve made a lot money for less schooling if I did. Life’s funny like that.

One thing you learn really quickly is repeatedly picking a lock damages its integrity every time. It’s why people tell you as a beginner to never pick a lock on which you rely regularly. So if I ever lock myself out of my house, hopefully I’ll only have to do it once.

Hopefully that won’t be when other people are around because even though wearing face masks are a staple of life now, wearing one and trying to pick a front door lock might not be a good look when cops roll by.

You also can get a decent set for about $30 on Amazon. Honestly, you can get anything on Amazon, but a good set will run you in that range. Don’t even bother with the novelty stuff like the “jack knife” sets, either. Just get a basic SouthOrd or Bogota set and practice.

When you’re practicing, one helpful tip is to use half the pressure you’d think necessary on the tools. What you’re using right now? Halve it. Try THAT for a Zen riddle, motherfuckers.

I’ll see everyone next week. Right now my attention’s focused on a level 3 lock I’ve studied for a couple days now. Everyone have a great weekend, and try something new!

33 thoughts on “Seaton: Adventures in Lock Picking!

  1. Keith

    As someone that also bought a set and forgot about it for years, it’s a fun hobby. I started practicing a few years back, when I wanted to get into a lock that was missing a key. My kids LOVED watching me try on the practice locks and have also asked to learn. The 11 year old is pretty good, so perhaps she can be sparred a millenial fate.

    My town clerk saw me trying before a meeting and asked if I’d be able to do the file cabinet they never quite knew what they had in it, seeing as they lost the key ages back (old liquor licenses). After my neighbor’s friend was locked out of their house in her PJ’s, I was forced to graduate to being able to pick a deadbolt a bit early.

    Now, if I could only figure out those darn tubular pin tumblers. At least there’s always another challenge awaiting. Enjoy.

    1. CLS

      I got a set of jigglers recently. Can’t use them to save my life.

      My five year old son could probably start my car with them.

      The kids are going to be alright, Keith.

  2. shg

    After his first semester at MIT, my son came home with a lock picking set. It seems that the first thing he did was become a hacker (which has a somewhat different meaning at MIT as someone who can enter anywhere to perform pranks, or hacks as they call it there). He got pretty good at it. I wonder what became of his tools.

  3. davep

    “lock picking lawyer”* has been done before.

    * It’s a youtube channel (and interesting/entertaining).

      1. davep

        The video didn’t show up for me. It’s there now. Hmm.

        The icon at the upper right is hard to read on mobile.

      1. Guitardave

        You’re right…and it is more interesting than picking ones nose.

        I didn’t say anything about the utility of acquiring such a skill, or my admiration for people that can do things that require a lot of practice…
        And I am familiar with tedious small mechanical things that require more than a six second attention span, and a light touch.
        But I bet you’d love watching a vid of me rebuilding the carbs on a ’76 Honda Goldwing about as much as I’d like watching you change the bands on one of your 57,235 watches, amirite?

        1. shg

          You would be so mistaken, although my favorite carb rebuild would be twin HD8 SU carbs. Watches aren’t my only interest.

        2. Charles

          I would’ve thought our host was referring to a guitar, but then you probably don’t use a pick. Or a capo.

    1. CLS

      I tried to find LPL’s rant on tension tools, as it was funnier, but I was on a deadline.

      Can’t please them all.

    1. CLS

      His main gig is consulting with other magicians to make their stuff better. He’s found two or three Foolers since he’s worked with the show.

      And he’s got the best brick and mortar magic shop in the country.

      Search YouTube for “sleight of foot” and you’ll probably see his Fool Us appearance.

      I’m deliberately omitting his name as I’m not sure he’d want it known he’s acquainted with my goofy ass.

      1. SHG

        I had a pal at the Mildred B. Moss Elementary School. His nickname was “Fang,” because he fell on the playground and chipped his two front teeth. In high school, he started doing magic at kids birthday parties under the name “The Great Davido.” He later went pro under a different name.

        1. Bear

          I don’t know if your friend could pick locks, but eventually he could make it appear so.

          Regarding Mr. Seaton’s post: I was taught idle hands are the devil’s tools. Glad to see you’re on the side of the angels, CLS.

  4. Eduardo

    I made my own lock pic kit out of micro hack saw blades. I first attempted to pick a kwikset deadbolt and was absolutely shocked that I was able to pic the lock in seconds. After that I bought a Medeco for my house that is virtually impossible to pic. Also of note is that I have had several cases where a client was charged with possession of burglary tools for either a lock pic, shaved key or a screw driver. I can’t recall any of those cases where the client was engaged in a burglary at the time. Think if you were stopped by the police and asked, “why do have a lock pic set”? And you said “oh, lock picking is my hobby, I swear I’m not a burglar”. “Look, here’s my bar card”.

    1. CLS

      Interesting question. To which I’ll tell you I’d practice what I preach and tell any cop “I can’t answer your questions as my lawyers say it’s not okay unless they’re present.”

      Even my Kindergarten age son knows this.

    2. LY

      Nice unpickable Medeco lock in the door with glass panes right next to the window into the living room. A big dog or even a small loud one is more effective against burglars. And there are videos teaching you to pick them in under 5 minutes on utube.

      Got my Southord set a few years ago and ended up using it to let my daughter into a house she was babysitting at and got locked out when she didn’t realize they had a knob lock that locked when the door closed instead of just a deadbolt.

      I DON’T carry it around as a rule, with my job I can’t afford the questions.

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