Making Lock Picks

Lock picking is a really useful skill to have and an easy one to teach yourself. You can buy picks online quite cheaply from places like, but they’re also quite easy to make yourself. Since I’m waiting for some parts I ordered for my 240z before I can do much more work, I made a set up this weekend.

I read an article way back in the late 90’s in a popular handbook that shall remain unnamed with some general information about it, which suggested, as I recall, three materials to try- Brick strap, feeler gauges and street sweeper blades.

Brick strap I found to be a pain to grind into shape- there’s a lot of material to remove. Using feeler gauges is far too expensive- you may as well just buy picks… but street sweeper blades… they’re everywhere if you keep your eyes open and easy to work with.

You’ll find them in the gutter on the side of the road every now and then. If you keep your eyes open every time you cross the road, you’ll find a bunch in no time. Once you’ve found four or so, you’re ready to make a set.

Street sweeper blades from the side of the road.

First, you want to clean them up a bit. You can use sandpaper or a linisher if you have one.

Blades after cleaning with a linisher

Next, I bend a loop into one end of all of them. I do this so that I can keep the whole set on a key ring so I don’t lose any. The blades are too brittle to bend cold, so you’ll need a small blowtorch to heat them up first.

They’re too brittle to bend without heating them up first with a blowtorch

grip the hot bit about 5mm in from the end with needle nose pliers and smartly grab the cold end with your other hand and bend around the plier’s tongs.

Bend a loop on the end with needle nose pliers

With a bit of corrective squeezing here and there, you end up with some nice looking loops, (along with an attractive oxide pattern).

Now you can put the picks on a keyring.

Now you want to make the profiles on the business end. You can file them, though I’d want to anneal them with the blowtorch first. Instead, though, I use a bench grinder. If the wheel’s in good shape, you can get a nice tight profile.

Ground the patterns on the picks with a bench grinder

The torque pick can be made in the same way as you made the loops. DON’T BLOODY QUENCH IT! The blades are very brittle when quenched. Judging by that and the amount of spark they throw while being ground, they must have quite a lot of carbon in them.

A half twist at about the halfway point makes them a bit easier to handle

The last set I made, I put a half twist in them about half way. This makes them a bit more comfortable in your hand and also gives them a springier feel.

The finished set

All done!

I’m not going to write about how to pick locks, as there’s a stack of information about it here and here for example.

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One Response to Making Lock Picks

  1. Scott Younes says:

    This is awesome! Made especially so by the vintage Castrol work bench.

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