In order to be able to pick a lock it is
helpful to understand how the lock works. The main types of lock which
will be discussed here are Warded, Pin tumber, Wafer/Disc Tumbler, Lever
and Combination.

Before discussing how the different types of
locks work I will first explain the basic parts of a lock and provide some
other information which should help readers to understand the explanations

The simplest of all locks to pick and to
understand is the warded lock, which is where I shall start.

Warded Locks

The warded lock is of a relatively simple

The diagram below shows a simple warded lock
with a correct key in place. It can be seen from the diagram that the key
has a number of cuts in it to allow the key to pass the protruding pieces
of metal. These pieces of metal are the actual wards of the lock and will
vary in length and position.

This type of lock has one or more ‘wards’ which
prevent the incorrect key from throwing the bolt. Wards protrude inside
the lock preventing a wrong key from turning and therefore from operating
the bolt.

The warded lock can be found in many forms. The
diagram below shows how a warded padlock works. These are usually the
cheaper priced padlocks.

Only the correct key will open the lock due to
the wards which restrict an incorrect key from turning within the

When considering how this type of lock works it
is important to remember that the wards do not move in any way and are
simply protrusions along the keyway to prevent any key apart from the
correct key from turning inside the lock and thus moving the

Pin Tumbler Locks

The inside of a pin tumbler lock
can be seen from the diagram below.

The pin tumbler lock consists of pairs of
bottom pins, which are usually made of brass, and top drivers constructed
from steel. In the majority of locks there will be five sets of these pins
and drivers.

When the correct key is inserted into the lock
the point at which the top drivers and bottom pins separate will be
brought to the same position. This position is called the shear point or
shearing line. When this point is reached the cylinder will be allowed to
turn and the lock will open.

The lock below has had a wrong key inserted. It
can seen that the key has failed to raise some of the pins to their
correct height and has also raised some pins too high. Therefore, the
cylinder is unable to turn.

Many high security locks use mushroom or spool
pins in order to make picking this type of lock much harder. This can be
shown from the diagram below.

Pins of the shapes shown above increase the
difficulty of picking pin tumbler locks as they give the impression, when
picking the lock, that the pin has been picked. In actual fact the pin is
still preventing the cylinder from turning but the recess of the high
security pins allows the cylinder to turn slightly, giving the impression
that that particular pin has been raised to the correct height.

Wafer Locks

The wafer lock is found on desks, filing
cabinets, some coin operated machines and on doors of cars. Although
similar in appearance to pin tumbler locks their internal mechanism is
very much different.

The diagram below shows the inside of a typical
wafer lock.

The wafers or disc tumblers are simply metal
discs with a rectangular hole in the centre. Within a wafer lock there are
usually around five of these discs depending on the security of the lock.
When the key is inserted into a wafer lock it will pass through this
rectangular hole.

Located on the side of each disc is a spring.
The wafers will lock as the spring will force this disc down through the
bottom of the cylinder and into the outer casing of the lock. Therefore,
the key’s function is to raise each disc out of the casing so that the
wafer is instead in the centre of the cylinder. If the key was to raise a
wafer too high the cylinder would also be unable to rotate as the disc
would protrude through the top of the cylinder instead.

Wafer locks may be one of two types, either
single or double sided. Double sided provides far more security than a
single sided lock and can be found on automobiles.

The discs of a double sided lock will protrude
through both the top and bottom of the cylinder. This is because the discs
will be arranged with the first wafer with the spring forcing it
downwards. The second wafer’s spring will force it upwards. The third will
be forced downwards. This alternating arrangement continues depending on
the number of wafers in the lock.

The double sided lock can be distinguished from
the more common single sided lock as the key will have notches on both
sides of the blade.

Lever Lock

This type of lock consists of usually four or
five levers. A typical lever can be seen below.

Each lever is lifted to a different height by
the key which allows the notch in the lever to align with the post of the
bolt. The key continues to turn and therefore moves the locking bolt
through the notch where it finally comes to rest in the second gate, the
key having rotated 360 degrees.

This type of lock comes in mainly two forms.
Each is operated with a different type of key. Many door locks used in the
UK for instance use a bit type key. Whereas lever locks found on lockers,
suitcases, and desks use a flat type key, however, the principle behind
each type is the same. These two types of keys can be seen at the top of
this page.

Combination Locks

Combination locks appear in a number of forms
and are mainly found on padlocks and brief cases. The lock may be of a
dial design similar to the type of lock on a safe, or may consist of a
number of small disks each with numbers on them, and having to be placed
in a certain order for the lock to open. The combination lock may also be
of the push button variety as found on a number of padlocks.

Although the principle behind the three styles
is the same, i.e. lining up gates of various parts of the lock in order
for the bolt to move, the design of the types are different and will
therefore be discussed separately.

The Dial Combinaton

This type of combination lock consists of a
small dial on the face of the lock and will usually have some sort of a
mark or arrow on one side. This arrow is used to point to the various
numbers located around the edge of the dial. In order to open the lock the
dial will need to be turned several times clockwise and anti-clockwise
alining the arrow with a different number each time until the lock finally
snaps open.

Inside this lock are a number of discs, usually
about 2 depending on the amount of numbers in the combination. On each
disc there is a small notch or gate cut from it. The purpose of this gate
is that when the dial has been rotated in the correct sequence, the bolt
which will be holding the shackle in place will be allowed to move into
the gap provided by these gates therefore freeing the shackle and allowing
the padlock to open. The diagram below shows inside a typical combination
padlock of this type with the front removed, where a disc and bolt can be
seen in place.

On the surface of the disc to the back of the
lock will be a small protrusion which will catch a similar protrusion on
the underside of the second disk. The second disk will also have a small
protrusion on the face of it which will catch on a protrusion located on
the back of the dial. When the dial is rotated the protrusion on its
underside will come into contact with the protrusion on the first disk
thus rotating it. This will inturn rotate the second disk as the
protrusion on the underside of the first disk comes into contact with the
one on the face of the second and thus moves the two as one. When the dial
is being turned in the correct sequence the disks will be turned only the
right amount in order to line the gates in each disk with the bolt
allowing it to move out of the shackle and opening the lock.

There are two main types of dial padlock which
can affect the way in which it will be picked, which will be discussed
later. The way in which they differ is how the bolt locking the shackle is
constructed. Many of the older padlocks of this type could be snapped shut
once open after the dial had been turned, even though the position of the
gates were no longer at the same point. This was due to the bolt having a
spring loaded part to it, as in the diagram above

This meant that once the lock had been open and
the dial rotated rearranging the position of the gates and therefore
moving the bolt back in line with the shackle, the shackle could be pushed
downwards moving this spring loaded part inwards which would then spring
back outwards into the notch in the shackle thus locking the

The new syle however, does not use this spring
loaded part to the bolt which is instead completely solid. Therefore, when
the padlock is open and the dial rotated the bolt will be forced out of
the gates, and the padlock will be unable to be pushed into the

The Disk Combination

This type of combination is found on a number
of bicycle chains and brief cases and also on some types of padlocks, see

The diagram shows this type of lock in its most
simplest form, a simple bicycle lock, however the principle behind this
type of this lock applies to all locks of this design given a few added
differences in their construction here and there.

The main differences in their construction lies
behind whether the combination of the lock can be changed. I will first
discuss the basic design of a lock with a standard factory set combination
which are much simpler in their constructin and will later explain the
more complex type which allows the owner of the lock to change the
combination, as on brief cases for example.

Both type of locks will consist of a number of
discs which will be numbered on their outer edge. However, with the lock
which cannot have its combination changed there will be a notch on the
inside directly behind one of the numbers of each disc. It is when these
notches are in line that part of the lock will be allowed to move, thus
opening the lock. On the bicycle chains above for example, one end of the
chain consists of the locking part and the other will be a plug with a
number of small pegs on its edge. The pegs will be just large enough to
move through the notches of the discs.

When the lock is locked the plug will be in
place which will position these pegs behind each disc and will be
prevented from moving due to the solid part of the discs. However, when
the discs are in their correct order the notches will be positioned where
the pegs are and thus allow the plug to be removed.

The same principle of the bicycle lock lies
behind locks which may instead have a shackle instead of a plug as is the
case with other types of bicyle locks and padlocks. The diagram below
shows a different type of bicycle chain, this time with a shackle, and
also a padlock.

The difference between the simple bicycle lock
explained above and the locks with shackles is simply that it is a section
of the shackle which has the pegs on which allows the shackle to lock
instead of a plug.

Combination disc locks which can be changed are
constructed in a slightly different way, and this is that it is not the
disc itself which has the notch removed but is instead a separate part of
the mechanism.

The diagram below shows the internal workings
of a brief case lock with these separate parts labelled.

These separate parts of the lock are usually
smaller plastic discs which instead of having a notch removed on its
interior have a point removed on its exterior, (see above).

The case locks due to a small grid which is
part of the bolt and attached to the button which is pushed outwards to
open the lock. It is this grid which fits around the metal and also the
plastic discs and locks the case as the plastic discs will protrude
through each section of the grid.

When the correct combination has been entered
the metal numbered discs will inturn rotate the plastic discs to the point
at which a part has been removed. Therefore the plastic discs will no
longer protrude through this grid and will allow the grid and bolt to move
opening the case.

In order to change the combination of a brief
case lock a small switch is moved on the inside of the case. This has the
effect of moving a small rod and with it these plastic discs. Therefore,
if the numbered discs are now rotated they will not interfere with the
plastic discs which will remain in the same position allowing a new
combination to be chosen. When the switch on the inside of the case is
again moved the rod will slide back and the plastic discs will enter the
numbered discs, this time with the point allowing the grid to open where
the numbers of the new combination are.

Push Button Combination

This type of combinatin lock is shown in the
diagram below.

When the correct numbered buttons are depressed
the switch on the base of the lock will be able to move and the shackle
will snap open.

This type of lock consists of a grid which when
moved will open the lock. Notches cut from the buttons will allow this
grid to move and therefore, the lock to open

It is where these notches are located on each
button which decides on the combination of the lock.

The numbers which do not form part of the lock
will have notches which will already be in line with the grid, however the
nothces on the buttons forming the combination will only be in line when
they are depressed therefore allowing the lock to open.


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