How To Pick A Lock With A Bobby Pin (Quickly & Easily!)

Jessica Stone
by Jessica Stone

Getting locked out of your home is an unpleasant experience and although locksmiths do a great job, their services can be both costly and time-consuming. If you’re searching for an alternative solution, you may be able to gain access using bobby pins.

To successfully pick a lock with a bobby pin you first need to understand the inner workings of a lock and then craft your two bobby pin lock picks. We’ll walk you through all the steps so that you can let yourself into your home with ease.

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How a Pin Tumbler Lock Works

Before we dive right into the procedure for picking a lock with a bobby pin, it’s important to first understand what you want to achieve within the lock. While there are many different types of locks, we will focus on the standard pin tumbler lock. This lock type makes up roughly 90% of all of the locks used across the world. If you learn how to master picking these locks, you’ll most likely be able to handle virtually any other lock.

The pin tumbler lock consists of six main components: the plug, driver pins, key pins, the shear line, springs, and the housing that keeps everything in place. Although each piece plays an important role in the operation of the lock, for lock picking purposes we mostly want to concern ourselves with the shear line.

The shear line refers to the physical gap separating the plug from the housing. It, along with the key pins, are the reason why you cannot turn a lock without a proper key. When the correct key is inserted into the lock, the key pins are lifted so they are flush with the shear line. This results in the driver pins being forced out of the plug. Once the distinction between the driver pins and the key pins is the same as the shear line, you are able to rotate the plug and unfasten the lock.

With that being said, the main objective when picking a lock is to mimic the key by pushing the pins flush with the shear line. This will allow you to successfully turn and disengage the lock.

How is Lock Picking Possible?

Although you can use a variety of tools to mimic the motion of the key in the lock, how do you keep the pins from falling back into the plug once they’ve been lifted? In short, nothing can ever be produced entirely perfect, locks included. When a lock is constructed, an acceptable error tolerance is permitted during production and these imperfections allow us to pick them.

One common flaw that often occurs during production has to do with the holes that are drilled on the plug to hold the pins. If the plug is perfect, these holes should be perfectly centered and aligned. However, because of the acceptable error tolerance, there is always some variation to where these holes are actually drilled even if it is as little as a thousandth of an inch.

Because of this slight variation, when rotational tension is applied to the plug, one pin will bind between the housing and plug before any of the others. This pin is what lock pickers call the “binding pin” and is described as the pin located furthest from the plug’s true center-line.

Let’s review. To successfully pick a lock, you must understand these two important concepts:

  • To disengage a pin tumbler lock, all of the pins must be lifted to the shear line.
  • Due to manufacturing flaws, the key pins will bind in a particular order beginning with the furthest one from the plug’s true center-line.

Preparing Your Bobby Pin Lock Picking Kit

Before you can begin actually picking the lock, you need to create your tools. To pick the lock you are going to need two tools: a pick and a tension wrench.

  • Lock Pick: The pick’s purpose is to lift the pins flush with the shear line just as the key does. There are a variety of different lock pick styles that you can form using a bobby pin.
  • Tension Wrench: This little tool is arguably the most important instrument you’ll use for lock picking. It is used to apply rotational torque to the lock, the same way a key does. Since you are applying pressure with this tool, the stronger the bobby pin, the better.

To craft your bobby pin lock pick, first remove the rounded rubber tips from each end of the pin as they will only get in your way. This can be done easily by using your fingers, teeth, or a pair of pliers. Then, pull apart the bobby pin so that it is one long metal piece. Stick the pin into the lock about one centimeter with the flat side facing upwards.

Push the rest of the pin towards the left while bending the end of the pin slightly. To achieve the right bend, you’ll end up pushing the pin about two to three inches to the left. Finish off your lock pick by taking one end and bending it in half of itself. This will form a little loop that you can use as a handle while picking.

The tension wrench, on the other hand, can be created with one single bend. Begin by placing the closed end of your bobby pin into the keyhole about an inch. Then, apply firm pressure in a downward motion to bend the pin at a 90-degree angle, forming an “L” shape.

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How to Pick a Lock With a Bobby Pin

With your tools created and your lock picking “kit” ready, you can begin the actual process of picking the lock. Follow the steps outlined below to pick your lock with the use of two bobby pins.

Step One: Insert the Tension Wrench

Insert the bent end of the tension wrench, or lever, into the bottom half of the lock. Try to keep the wrench as low as possible while still reaching deep into the barrel.

Step Two: Use the Tension Wrench

With the tension wrench in the proper position, use it as if you were turning a key to open the door. Turn the wrench just slightly in the direction that would open it. While it will not move very far, the pressure is the important part here. This position will need to be held throughout the entire lock picking process.

Quick Tip: If you’re unsure of which direction the lock turns, try both. If you’ve turned it in the wrong direction, you’ll hear clicking sounds and will feel grinding within the lock.

However, you should avoid exceptionally heavy pressure, as you want just enough to move the lock without straining it. You want to make sure that the pins inside the barrel are loose enough to be moved up and down by the lock pick.

Step Three: Position the Lock Pick

Next, insert your lock pick above the tension wrench, bent side up. Start getting a feel for the pins at the top half of the keyhole by moving them up and down with the pick. Press them up and pay attention to how they drop back down as you work.

To reach all of the pins, you’ll have to wiggle your pick up and down quite a bit. Some pins may not move at this point and that’s normal. However, make a mental note of all the pins that move freely and which ones are stuck.

Quick Tip: If none of the pins are moving, you most likely have too much tension on your tension wrench. Try lightly up a bit and attempt feeling around for the pins again.

Step Four: Push the Pins

As you are testing all of the pins, locate the one that is difficult to move, or “seized.” Hold constant pressure on your tension wrench and, with your lock pick, push the seized pin up until you hear a “click” sound. This indicates that you’ve correctly matched up the split in the center of the pin with the barrel. The seized pin is now out of the way of the lock and you may notice that the tension wrench moves a bit more due to less pin resistance.

Once you’ve gotten the first pin out of the way, the remainder may start to seize up as well. This is a good sign, as it directs you to which pins you should push next. Repeat this process until all of the pins have been pushed up. At this point, you’ll be able to turn the lock completely with the tension wrench to open the door.

The entire process should look something like this:

  • Locate the seized pin, or the one that is difficult to move.
  • Hold constant pressure on your tension wrench and turn in the direction that would open the door.
  • Gently push up the seized pin until you hear an audible “click.”
  • Move on to the next pin.
  • Repeat until all pins are pushed up and you can open the door by turning the tension wrench.

If you’re having issues with picking the lock, adjust the tension on your tension wrench. Too much pressure and the pins will be too seized to move. Whereas, too little pressure will cause the pins to slide back into place while you’re working

Jessica Stone
Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

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