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Shrub basic guide to lock pick making

THE starting place for new members. FAQ's, instructions on how to pick a lock, valuable information like product reviews, links to lock picking related sites, forum rules, lockpicking tool vendors, and more. START HERE.

Shrub basic guide to lock pick making

Postby Shrub » Sun Nov 20, 2005 10:25 am

Right, it’s about time I wrote something like this,

Before I start I need to say that this guide is meant for Lockpicking101, if I find it anywhere else without my prior permission I will come and find you, OK!

Right then, as I begin to write this guide it is my plan to cover a lot of ground including,
Tools and safety,
Marking out,
Rectifying mistakes,

This guide is aimed at making cylinder lock picks; lever lock picks follow a similar set of rules but are made in a totally different way.


A lock pick must conform in most cases to a certain set of rules; it must be sturdy, hard wearing, ergonomic and not damaging to the lock amongst other things.
The usual choice is to use some sort of metal to make a pick out of, a soft metal will be easy to cut and finish but will not be hard wearing, a very hard material will be hard to cut and finish but if not finished to a good standard has the possibility to damage the lock, the recommended properties of a lock pick as described above call for a hard wearing material.
The better materials to make tools out of are high carbon steels or a stainless steel. Aluminium, brass, copper or tin are not good enough to make them from.
There are many places an aspireing pick maker can acquire these materials, your local hardware store may stock it or be able to get it for you, a local model making shop may stock it or should be able to get it for you, try your local engineering firms, try the scrap bins at such places (after permission is sought of course) the internet will undoubtedly throw up many results and even ebay has various listing of materials (although expensive in comparison).
There are however better sources of such materials for the home pick maker that you may already have laying around the home these include. Hacksaw blades, junior hacksaw blades, windscreen (windshield) wiper inserts (these are strips of metal found running through the rubber wipers), basically any good saw blade can be used, a used spring from a tape measure etc etc, once you start looking around you will come across many different forms of material, some will be suitable and some will not. For the basis of this guide we will use hacksaw blades, they are by far one of the best material sources and very easily obtainable, there are various grades of blades but if you get the bog standard ones used or not you will be pretty safe. Silicon carbide + bi-metal blades are probably the most common around and these are totally fine for tools.
The inserts of wiper blades are ideal for making tension wrenches; you simply cut to length and bend into an ‘L’ shape.

Tools and Safety,

The tools required for making lock picks are really down to what you can get your hands on and how skilled you are.

A vice – Although not necsacary, if you are making picks with hand tools a good vice will be priceless, you don’t need the fast travel quick release types, if it grips your wok and can be fastened down your halfway there.

Something to cut the material – This can go down the route of some form of grinder or you can use hand tools. It is true that you can make tools a lot faster with a grinder and make them from the raw material without firstly prepping it but you can do damage to the properties of the metal if you are not careful and you also have the dangers of flying swarlf in the form of sparks and you will possibly have to renew cutting discs on a regular basis depending on what type of tool you use. By using hand tools you will first have to prep the material but you wont do it any damage but nor will it be a fast job, you can and will get a better finish with hand tools which will seriously cut down the finishing time. Its up to what you want to do and how you want to do it. If working in the house stick with hand tools, if outside and the tools are to hand go with a grinder of some sort.

Grinders – If you decide to use a grinder you have quite a few options to choose from, many will depend on cost but that a side here are some points.
A bench/pedestal grinder, two separate machines but the same sort of set up, you have 2 wheels with an electric motor in between them, the wheels are mounted directly on to the motor spindle and have various guards and stops to make the use of them a lot safer than they could be, the cutting area of the wheel is usually around 30-40’, the main advantage of these machines is that they are fixed and so don’t have to be turned off every time you quench the work, the wheels last a lot lot longer than hand grinders, they are safer to use, you can have 2 wheels, one for hard materials and one for soft materials, hard materials need a fine grit wheel and soft need a course grit, the hard materials like carbide lathe tools use a green wheel but the standard black wheels you will get on as standard will be more than adequate for picks the drawbacks are that you need to have it situated somewhere permanent, and the main draw back of course is that you can not do narrow slots with one.
A hand held grinder can be bought in many guises but the ones you will probably be most familiar with is the Dremel range. These are a hand operated grinder that acts like an oversized hand tool, you have a collet on the spindle in which you can insert many different types of cutting wheel depending on what material and style of job you are doing/cutting. The main advantages are that you can usually pick them or a cheaper copy up at a cheaper price than a bench grinder and definitely cheaper than a pedestal grinder, the bits are readily available and you can use various sanding and polishing wheels when it comes to finishing your picks, you can also easily cut very thin slots in things. The main drawbacks of these tools is safety or lack of, the wheels have a tendency to break and fly out at great speed which can be very painful if hit with one, the wheels don’t last very long, they have no guarding, you can not (should not) place the tool own whilst turned on, the free hand control doesn’t lend itself to a good cut finish meaning a lot of finishing is required.
Personally a bench grinder is what I would advise basically due to how easy it is to control the work piece, you will soon get proficient enough to be able to make any one of the picks found in today’s commercial sets.

Files – If a grinder isn’t your cup of tea you can make pick with hand files, due to the material you using you will have to first anneal it by heating it up to a cherry red and letting it go cold in air temperature, do not quench it or in any other way speed up the cooling process, a cherry red hacksaw blade is usually cool enough to touch within 5 minutes anyway so its no real deal. You will need a vice to accurately make picks with a file. You would hold the material in such a way so that the point being cut/filed is as close to the vice so that you will not file the vice but be pretty close, this cuts down on vibration which a) gives a poor finish, b) makes a lot of noise, c) can weaken the material. You use a file by holding both ends, you should then stroke the file across the work surface in a straight motion but with the file set at an angle, basically hold the file at around 45’ and push forwards and lift up coming backwards, regularly check for straightness and square-ness of the cut and alter if necessary. If cutting a ‘V’ or a slot you have to then keep the file at a 90’ angle to the work. You can use a file in a way that the file will be pushed up and down the longest part of the work using the length of the file, this is more for finishing and will not take much of a cut off. There are many types of file roughness starting with a rasp going through melener (spelling?), bastard, very rough, rough, etc etc, you probably need a selection of roughness, stay away from the rasp, melener, bastard etc as they are for softer materials, stay with a medium, a fine and a very fine, get a selection of needle files and perhaps a square or triangle fine file.

Grit paper – There are many many types of grit paper. Just to clarify grit paper is for metal work and glass or sand paper is for wood and plastics and is no good for metal work. Grit paper can be used on wood and plastics but you will find it marks the material and leaves scratch marks in it. Without going into all the grades and numbers you will find the higher the grade number of grit paper the smaller the grit is hence a finer smoother finish can be achieved. The correct way of going about it is to work your way down through the grades until you get to the smoothest, in this instance that’s not necessary so go for something like a 400-600 grit and then get something like a 1200 grit. You can also get an oil stone or some grit paper regularly referred to as ‘wet n dry’ paper, this is a grit paper car body shops use and can be used dry to give a fine finish or wet with water for body work or a bit of oil for metal work to give a very fine finish, it is possible to achieve a mirror finish with this stuff if used correctly. Wire wool is also a good idea for a finishing medium.

Scriber – Depending on how you are marking out your picks a scriber can be a great advantage, you need one that will keep its point and is made from good quality steel.

A small centre punch – Again depending on how you are marking out your picks a sharp centre punch can be the make the difference to a well-made tool.

A hammer – Just a quick lesson here, a hammer is made of metal, a mallet is made of plastic or rubber. A small hammer to hit the centre punch with and also to knock rivets in is a must, if riveting you need a ball pein hammer, this is a hammer on one side and a ball on the other.

I pack of rivets and suitable drill bit and drill press – If you want to make riveted handles these are a must have if not don’t bother.

A rubber mat and a wooden block – The block is for wrapping your grit paper around and the rubber mat is for putting you pick down on.

A Bucket or such like – You need a watertight container the size of a bucket or there abouts, this should be full of CLEAN and COLD water.

A first aid kit – Only for small injuries like a cut finger, if you are annealing the pick material or if you are correcting a manufacturing mistake (see end)

A source of flame, a lighter isn’t recommended but a gas ring, a blowtorch etc are acceptable methods, only needed if heat treating.

A fire extinguisher – Need I say more, see below.

Marking ink, Black marker, Heat proof paint, Glue stick – Which of these you may need depends on the method your going to use to mark out for your picks.


This is important and shouldn’t be taken lightly nor should it be skipped, I know from experience of others and myself, read, take heed, do what you feel is adequate and then make it better.
Firstly the obvious, safety goggles or glasses, I must state here that although either are adequate form many years of engineering I now always use goggles, although on a different area when using tipped machine tools and the chips are flying all over the place I have on numerous occasions have them bounce up behind my glasses and badly burn my eyes, the same has happened with angle grinding and for this reason I only use goggles and I suggest you do as well. Be sensible with your eye protection, its not just whilst grinding you will need to wear them but I would suggest you put them on before you turn the grinder on until you turn it off, if using a hand grinder it could stop a damaged wheel shattering in your eyes on start up and if on a bench grinder it could stop dust blowing in your eyes which is just as bad if not worse than a spark going in there. For those that are filing, it may seem over the top but if new at this game yes I would advice you at least think about it, if the material isn’t properly annealed you could in theory shatter the material which could go in your eye or you could do something as simple as blowing the filings away off the vice without thinking and then they could go in your eyes, its your decision.

Gloves, I would not recommend them myself, they are dangerous on machinery such as small hand grinders as you loose feeling in you fingers and could actually not grip the tool as well as you should, on a bench grinder you may not be able to hold the material well enough against the wheel and if that material goes between a safety stop and the wheel there is the possibility of it shattering the wheel. Leave the gloves, you should not need them you should not be getting the work hot nor should you be moving your hands that close to the wheel.

The bucket of water, should you burn yourself you always have the bucket of water handy to dunk your hand in, any big grinding bits will be at the bottom, any small stuff will be on the top, dunk you hand in to the middle and move it around will be a good stop gap until you either get medical attention or the pain subsides and you carry on, a spark from a grinder will not burn you so don’t jump if one hits your hand just be careful and carry on, sudden movements can lead to accidents.
Make sure the grinding area is free from oily rags, barbeque fluid, dust sheets etc etc, if there is stuff anywhere in the same vicinity that you have to grind keep an extinguisher next to where you are.
You must NOT grind on the side of wheels, if you are using a slotting disc on a handheld grinder that means you do not use either face of the disc, you use the edge and that’s it, if on a bench grinder you do not grind on the side of the wheel unless it as been stress relieved, as 99% of bench grinders on the market do not come with stress relieved wheels do not do it, I will not go into how they are stress relieved as its easy to confuse a stress relief and a normal wheel, be safe don’t do it. The reason for not grinding on the side of wheels is because you can shatter them and a shattered handheld grinder wheel can implant itself into your face or a bench grinder wheel shattered can implant itself into your skull and in bigger machines ive seen photos of some that have decapitated the users head. Treat grinders with the greatest respect they need it.
If you get cut by a grinder wheel you may not realise it, you can in effect even go so far as to cut your finger off and you wont a) know about it until a min or 2 later or unless you see it and b) almost no blood will appear this is because the wheels cut the vessels and nerves and sear them shut, nerves don’t send the pain messages and the vessels don’t spurt the blood, be warned and keep your pinkies away from the cutting edge, cutting your finger nails with a Dremel is highly dangerous and a stupid thing to do but ive seen it done in the past.
Set your guides up on a bench grinder so they are only mm away from the wheel, these are not only to act as a tool rest but to stop bits going down in between the wheel and the guide, if that was to happen and the wheel doesn’t shatter, turn off the machine at the socket (pull the plug out) and then remove the material, do not try and pull it out whilst the grinder is running, if it scraps the work it scraps the work at least you’ve still got your fingers, the guards should also be set so that you can just get under them with the material to be cut, having them flipped over the top of the wheel housing is no use and you may as well throw them away, they are there for a reason.
Do not wear loose clothing when grinding for obvious reasons.


There are numerous ways to get a rightly sized pick a few are described below.
Firstly you need to decide what you want to make and go and look for a template, there are loads on this site and on zekes site along with many other members post etc, print them out to size on to white paper and you have your template, you then need to copy this so you have an original to refer back to at all times.
You can make your own by either drawing one or measuring a key blank and a cut key, compare them all together and decide which way you want to go, what ever way you are best if you are left with 2 sheets of paper with an actual size pick draw/printed on them.

Marking out.

Now you need to get that drawing onto the metal somehow, again there are loads of ways this can be done, bear in mind that you will be regularly dipping the metal into water and it will also get warm (but not hot to touch).
Centre popping – Place you hacksaw blade over the drawing and run a pencil along each side, cut the paper into the strip you’ve just drawn and glue it onto the blade using a paper glue. You then carefully go along the outside edge of the drawn line for your pick with a centre punch and hammer marking the material every few millimetres, on complicated shapes or on ‘V’ shapes mark the top points of the ‘V’ and then the place they meet, only hit the punch once in each poition and dont go over the top. You then remove the paper to see a drawing of the pick in dots around the material.
Scribing – Remove the paint from the hacksaw blade, do not burn it off scrape, sand or file it off. Clean it up with some grit paper and then blue it up with some marking out blue (or white) or just colour it in with a permanent black marker. Using a steel ruler and scriber mark the pick shape by measuring the paper template press in quite hard and only go over the same spot the once, don’t go back and forth it will just mess it up. Although accurate in skilled hands this process isn’t really for the total newbies.
Heat proof paint – Cut the pick shape from the paper and glue it down to the material. Spray it with an oven paint or such like and then let it dry. Remove the paper and you will have a drawing of your pick on the material. Don’t get the stuff that only dries with heat as that wouldn’t work.
There are quite a few ways to transpose your pick design on the material, some more can be found on this site and for more info you can also look at model maker sites but the better methods are the centre punching one and the heat proof paint one.


Right depending on which method of cutting you are doing you need to prepare.
Get your bucket of water next to you, the object in cutting your lock pick is to keep that material as cool as possible.
If filing you do not need to quench but let the file do the work and don’t force it to cut more than it wants to.

To quench the aim of the game is to keep an eye on the colour of the material, if its painted you quench as soon as the paint begins to change colour, if unpainted or you have removed the paint you need to quench if the colour of the metal starts to change.
In any case you need to quench regularly and if the material starts to feel warm.
If you don’t regularly quench or if you don’t do it when its needed you will damage the pick, in most cases you can rectify this and that is explained at the end of this guide but try to refrain from getting that material any hotter than warm.
A good quench is to hold the least amount of material in your fingers as possable and dunk in to a bucket of cold clean water, you then swirl it around in a figure 8 for 2-3 passes and then remove, the material should be cold now. I say use a bucket of water because if you are using something like a tin can the water soon gets warmed up itself and then the quenching properties disappear and your not actually helping the material cool properly.
If the material hisses and spits its far to hot, at the very very most it should make a split second psst as you put it into the water, do not slowly put it into the water either, you dunk it in.
I can not stress this procedure enough, if you do not quench the material you will be left with a tool that will bend, snap or wear out the first time you use it, be warned.

Your aim on the grinder is to cut the material away until you have it looking like a pick, on a bench grinder you can get quite smooth edges with practice but on a Dremel type machine you will only get a good rough out.
Don’t be tempted to keep cutting to try and get a smooth edge as this can be done in the finishing stage, my advice is to not grind the surface of the pick at all unless the material is too think, if that is the case grind the back side of the picking portion only before you grind the form on, you will need to quench a lot more regularly if grinding the surface. Dont grind both sides.


There are a few ways to finish the pick but all should lead to the same outcome and that is a smooth edged tool with a smooth surface finish, although easy to achieve a mirror surface finish isn’t necessary especially if making a handle.
The first thing to do is a good de-burr that means to remove all the little flaps of metal around the cut edges, if you have filed an annealed pick you have probably already been doing this as you’ve been going along but if you’ve ground your tool you need to do it now.
First try it with a file, don’t be heavy handed, your not trying to remove material just all the bits that are stuck around the edges, if you don’t have ‘flashings’ well done youve gorund well but you still need to take the sharp edge down a bit.
After you have done that lay the pick down on the rubber mat, wrap the 400-600 grit paper (emery cloth) around a rectangle wooden block and lightly rub up and down the length of the pick, don’t go side to side and try to keep the forwards and backwards motion straight, if you go from side to side you will find it is in an arc and you don’t want that, always go along the length of the tool.
Once done turn the tool over and repeat turning the grit paper on the block so you have a fresh bit every now and again.
Once all the paint is gone and any marks etc and a shiny surface is showing change to the 1200 grit, put a dab of wd40 on the pick and continue the process, if done right you should have a very good surface finish now.
Now starting with your 4-600 grit again wrap it around a file or needle file depending on what type of detail your pick has (ball=file, rake=needle file etc) repeat the process you did for the sides, you are aiming for a smooth edge, where any peaks and troughs are make sure they flow nicely into each other (you will soon realise the importance of accurate grinding) once smoothed out go over with either an oil stone or your 1200 grit with some oil on again.
Finally you need to re-sand the sides with your oiled up 1200 grit (wet and dry).


There are countless methods to get countless styles of countless finishes on pick handles here are only a few,

Moulded – You can get what’s called poly morph (in the uk anyway) this is a granule that when mixed with hot water turns in to a pliable ‘dough’ this can be moulded to the desired shape or in this case around the pick handle and once set makes a hard plastic form.
Shrink wrap tubing – This is something electricians use for covering wires, in this case you would slide it over the pick handle and using a gentle heat source heat it up and it will shrink around the handle to form a thin plastic/rubber coat.
Plastic coated – You can get a tin of plastic dipping stuff that you would dip your handle in to and once set leaves a plastic handle.
Hot glue – Not a very good result if not very careful but achievable non the less, try a plastic bag around the glue to mould it to shape and remove it before fully set.
Alloy riveted – This is my preferred way but not easy to do, before finishing the pick you need to drill 2 holes in the handle along the centre line but at each end (you will have to anneal the pick to do this, cheery red etc) finish the pick and then once polished up you need to then make 2 alloy side pieces or brass or stainless etc, these should have the same sized and spaced holes in. You then insert a rivet and pein the other end over, there is a skill to doing this and there are various ways to do it to achieve different results, a flat flush finish can be achieved by countersinking the holes first, a domed head on each side can be achieved by using a rivet mandrel, a raised flat can be achieved by either using another mandrel or careful hammering on a steel block, which ever way you do it this is a skilled process that can justify another separate guide if need be.

Rectifying mistakes.

The first and main mistake your going to make is to get the material too hot, on material like hacksaw blades you can rescue a ‘soft’ pick by following these few steps,
Do this before the finishing process but after the paint has been removed if not already removed as part of the marking process.
You need a bucket of clean cold water, a pair of pliers and a blowlamp.
First heat the material up to as bright as you can get it sensibly, this will vary depending on material but a bright cherry red is the minimum you’re looking for.
Once up to this temp quench it.
Rub the sides with some wire wool or your 4-600 grit paper.
Re-heat again until you see the metal turn a yellow straw colour, be warned this will happen very quickly, quench again.
If you miss the straw colour by a split second you will be fine but if you miss it by a lot carry on heating to your cherry red again and then quench to clean up and reheat to straw.

If you annealed your material to hand file it you now need to re-harden it by following the above steps.

Right ladies and gents that’s it, a brief flyby of how to produce a good pick, I plan to sort some pics out to go with each stage but that wont be until the recent frost has gone as its too cold :lol:

I’m not saying its comprehensive by a long shot but once the pics are uploaded it should be good enough for a newbie to follow and make his/her own pick from.

Have fun.
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Postby ju_ » Sun Nov 20, 2005 3:37 pm


(You had nothing to do at 2.30am then :D )
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Postby digital_blue » Sun Nov 20, 2005 3:47 pm

Wow. I'd like to see Shrubs comprehensive guide. ;)

Great work tho Shrub! Thanks for that!

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Postby Chrispy » Sun Nov 20, 2005 5:00 pm

Well Shrub, you're the only member here to have two threads in the Homemade Tools thread. Well done. :)
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Postby wtf|pickproof? » Sun Nov 20, 2005 6:43 pm

Yeah, man! Way to go. Finally someone did a comprehensive guide on how to make picks. (Pyro's video aside) Thanks!
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Postby Shrub » Sun Nov 20, 2005 10:25 pm

Thanks guys, no i had nothing else to do, yes i was bored, i didnt write it at 2.30 i started earlier than that but my spelling is so bad it took me over and hour to amend it :lol:

Ill try and do some pics this week and either edit the original post or stick them as a new post on here.

Problem is i could go on for pages and pages but i fear i will only just confuse things by getting too technical, afterall pick making isnt rocket science, i did start to get carried away on the safety part but i managed to stop myself (i heard that sigh of relief lol)

Well Shrub, you're the only member here to have two threads in the Homemade Tools thread. Well done.

That is suppriseing.

Im happy to write any guide if you like my style and how i explain things i just dont want to waste my time writing somthing thats going to be found heavy going and ignored.
I just read one to many newbies asking how to make picks so thought i would knock somthing together.

Im open to suggestions :wink: (go jump in the lake doesnt count by the way :lol: )
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Postby night_security » Sun Feb 19, 2006 3:51 pm

I'm new to lockpicking and i found your guide to be very informative and helpul, thank you. :)
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Postby Shrub » Sun Feb 19, 2006 11:35 pm

Thanks, if you have a look around site you will see pics that also show the process hence why i didnt actually get round to doing any.

Have a search for pyro's pickmaking video and go from there.

Welcome to the site.
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Postby CPLP » Mon Feb 20, 2006 12:33 am

Shrub wrote:Have a search for pyro's pickmaking video and go from there.

What about an URL? I couldn't find that video anywere. :(
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Postby illusion » Mon Feb 20, 2006 12:37 am

CPLP wrote:
Shrub wrote:Have a search for pyro's pickmaking video and go from there.

What about an URL? I couldn't find that video anywere. :(

Read the whole FAQ anyway, but here's the link for now:


hope this helps :)
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Postby CPLP » Mon Feb 20, 2006 12:44 am

Yes it did but already seen that movie. I got it half a year ago on eMule, before I even knew about LP101. :P
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Postby illusion » Mon Feb 20, 2006 12:48 am

The video's on Emule !??!??!

Oh dear... here we go :( :?
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Postby CPLP » Mon Feb 20, 2006 1:08 am

I found it on september or October... I think. But it probably was there longer ago because it already had many users with it.
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Postby meow » Sat Feb 25, 2006 6:29 am

can i have some pictures of what it looks like, please?

is it the old and standard pick and tension wrench?
like in the following (ascii) pictures - because i couldn't find a picture of what i mean

a tension wrench:
| |
| |
| |

and a pick:


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Postby Shrub » Sat Feb 25, 2006 6:43 am

Well this guide was to tell how to make anyone of the pick shapes, have a look around for the home made pick threads for pics of home made ones :wink:
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