Hi all. Picking locks has become my latest obsession. I'm glad I've found this forum because every one I know in the real world thinks I'm insane and that I should just get a job. They are probably right, but for now, let me tell you all about my wrench.
The first lock I picked took me about 2hrs first time, now I can do it in about 10 seconds if I'm lucky. So far I'm yet to find a lock as hard as this one (that I can actually pick anyway), so perhaps it wasn't the best choice at first. The lock seemed to open when it felt like it, no matter how scientific I tried to be. Though thanks to my new wrench style, it never takes me more than a minute any more.
While I've always been interested in different types of locks and have had a good understanding of how they work for years. I've only been picking locks (just padlocks) for around 1 week or so now. During that time I have spent a lot more time trying to make better and better tools than actually picking the locks. Through trial and error I've managed to make a torque wrench perfect for precision lock picking. My torque wrench allows you to increase and reduce the amount of tension on the barrel by minute amounts, making it perfect for small locks and locks where you need to put the wrench in the pin side of the barrel. The biggest problem with putting the wrench in the pin side is it tends to slip out easily when the pressure is too much or the barrel gives a little. My wrench provides suspension and makes it easy to keep the pressure below the level that might cause it to slip out.
Keep in mind that I made many reject wrenches before I got this one just right. Even following my instructions below, you should expect to have to customize yours before it's just right for you. I recommend you copy this text so you can follow it step by step when you are ready to try to make the wrench.
Here's how to make it:
1 or 2 sets of pliers (a big and a small set), and ideally a clamp.
1 piece flat spring steel (or you can even use a hairpin for itty-bitty locks, just scale everything down).
Step one, the tip:
Using the big pliers, grip the end of the rod about 1/4" to 1cm in from the desired length you want the wrench to protrude in to the lock. If you are making the wrench for placing in the pin side, you will only want it to go in a short way.
Bend the rod in a few places between here and the point at the top of the insertion area. This bend should be 90o in total. You want to make the bent area as small as possible with out breaking the steel, this is critical. It doesn't matter if the very tip is a bit longer than you were originally planning, you can grind it down when it's finished.
Step two, do the twist:
Now this part is the secret to the precision of the wrench. Instead of the force being directed rigidly, straight from your finger, were going to make a spring. This means a lot more force must be added to increase the force that acts on the barrel. Use the big pliers or a clamp to hold the rod about 2cm or 3/4" in from the bend. Use the small pliers to get a grip as close to the bend as possible (with out squashing it). Now you need to twist the rod 90o so that the rod would now lay flat if the wrench was placed on it side, excepting the tip and the twist of course. It's hard to describe the direction of the twist with out a diagram. It may not matter that much which way you do it, but if you look at the way the thread on a screw goes, this is the way I twist mine.
Step three, the lever:
This step seems to improve the stability of the wrench in the lock and also makes it easier to use if you're holding a padlock. Take care because if you make this bend in the wrong direction the wrench will be less stable. Holding the wrench horizontally in your right hand, the tip on the left side and pointing away from you. The goal is to bend the wrench 90o upwards as close to the end of the twist as possible. Make sure you make lots of small bends like you did for the tip so the rod doesn't break. It's okay for this bend to be a bit wider than the first one. If you are planning on using the wrench for pad locks, it's okay and even preferable if the lever bends down a little, and hence the twist is a little less than 90o now.
Step four, adjustments:
Try it out. I found that if I increased the first bend to over 90o so that the lever sits just below the level of the face of the lock, it greatly reduces the chance of the tip slipping out of the lock (I realize this would not be practical for door locks however). While you experiment with getting the angle just right, notice the lever doesn't sit flat against you finger tip? You can fix that with some careful twisting. The plain of the lever should almost be parallel to that of the very tip, except the lever should go in a little (remember it will flex outward when you apply pressure).
Step five, finishing touches:
Because a mad man once told me that everything I do should be done professionally, here's a great final touch I put on all my home made picks. Not only because it looks cool, but dude, it saves your fingers from getting ripped up. I wouldn't have been able to practice nearly as much as I have if it wasn't for this. Go to you're local electronics store and buy that heat shrink plastic coating they use for electrical wires, they sell it in long lengths. Make sure you're pick will fit inside it. Now just cut a good length of it for the tool. Put the tool through it in a good position. Hold it with some pliers (it will get hot). Heat it up with a lighter until it wraps tightly around the tool.
I once heard a saying "a tradesman is only as good as his tools". While I don't agree with every aspect of this statement, it certainly has a lot of truth to it. Practice can only get you so far if you're using a toothpick to open a vault. After you have played with this design a bit and found something that works for you, I guarantee you wont want to go back to a rigid wrench. I've made several of these spring wrenches in different sizes and the only locks I can think of where they might be a disadvantage is one which is rusty and requires too much pressure for the spring to take. I'm sorry to those of you who are left handed, I acknowledge that my wrench might not be so friendly for you. Please feel free to share this information in whatever way you see fit. I haven't really considered if it's ethical to make information available to just anyone. However, I hope any kids that read this understand that if they break the law, they could stuff up their lives. Keep it clean, and have fun.
P.S. I have a big padlock made by a very fine company (the same one that made the first lock I every picked). The barrel doesn't give even slightly and the pins slide smoothly giving absolutely no hint as to the sheer line. Is it possible that it just can't be picked? Is there some way of making the pins stickier with out destroying the lock? It's incredible, the exterior of the lock is weathered and old but the inside is like new. Let me know if you have any of your own tricks or tips to give. Us newbies need to stick together if we're going to catch up with the old school.