Guide to Lock Picking

Ted the Tool
September 1, 1991


Copyright 1987, 1991 Theodore T. Tool. All rights reserved.
Permission to reproduce this document on a non-profit basis is granted provided that this copyright and distribution notice is included in full. The information in this booklet is provided for educational purposes only.


  1. It's Easy
  2. How a Key Opens a Lock
  3. The Flatland Model
  4. Basic Picking and The Binding Defect
  5. The Pin Column Model
  6. Basic Scrubbing
  7. Advanced Lock Picking
    1. Mechanical Skills
    2. Zen and the Art of Lock Picking
    3. Analytic Thinking
  8. Exercises
    1. Exercise 1: Bouncing the pick
    2. Exercise 2: Picking pressure
    3. Exercise 3: Picking Torque
    4. Exercise 4: Identifying Set Pins
    5. Exercise 5: Projection
  9. Recognizing and Exploiting Personality Traits
    1. Which Way To Turn
    2. How Far to Turn
    3. Gravity
    4. Pins Not Setting
    5. Elastic Deformation
    6. Loose Plug
    7. Pin Diameter
    8. Beveled Holes and Rounded pins
    9. Mushroom Driver Pins
    10. Master Keys
    11. Driver or Spacer Enters Keyway
    12. Vibration Picking
    13. Disk Tumblers
  10. Final Remarks
  1. Tools
    1. Pick Shapes
    2. Street cleaner bristles
    3. Bicycle spokes
    4. Brick Strap

  2. Legal Issues

While the "MIT guide to lockpicking" is reproducible on a "non-profit basis", some concern has been expressed on behalf of the MIT 'hacking community'. See:


Comment or guidance from any current members of the MIT community would be welcome.

Please read the text at one of the above links for full details. I reproduce the Executive Summary and a bit of other context below:

The MIT Hacking community is saddened by the series of recent events which have made the "MIT Guide To Lockpicking" available electronically in a indiscriminate fashion. We would like to state, once again, that we believe such distribution is inappropriate. Since we clearly have no control over the guide's dissemination, we would, at the least, like those distributing the guide to do the following:

  1. Add an integral section on Hacking Ethics (which see);
  2. Disassociate the MIT name from the distributed guide

The guide was originally written to pass on non-destructive methods of entry to members of the MIT Hacking community.

"Roof and tunnel" hacking at MIT is concerned primarily with non-intrusive exploration. ... The goal is to discover and learn, not to steal, destroy, or invade anyone's privacy. ... The "MIT Guide" was never intended to be distributed separate from the oral tradition and indoctrination associated with the MIT Hacking community.

The MIT Hacking community does not support the guide's distribution in electronic form ... we feel it is inappropriate for the guide to be labelled as an "MIT Guide". At this point, the guide is neither being distributed by MIT nor with the blessing of the MIT Hacking community.

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