Recreational lockpicking workshop at Maker Faire Detroit

20110730-110425.jpg If you are at Maker Faire Detroit come join me at the lockpicking workshop that is conducting!


  1. We also shouldn’t teach people how to drive, since you can use a car as a getaway vehicle in a burlglary.

    1. That is a very weak comparison since the socially perceived need for a car far exceeds that of learning how to break into a locked place. But, to remain realist, the illusion of freedom that borderline legal activities offers is worth tolerating them for the powers that be.

      1. The only types of locked places that exist are those I have no legal or legitimate reason to enter.

        That actually lines up really, really well with Mark’s statement of the only time I’d need a car is to flee a crime.

  2. I understand it’s recreational and fun, and I don’t want to spoil that. But wouldn’t the prudent method for defeating a padlock be a hammer or a prybar?

  3. When’s the recreational bomb making workshop? Hopefully not at the same time as the recreational ATM card cloning workshop.

    1. Shortly before a friend accidentally forgets their bomb on vacation and can’t get into their house, but luckily I know how to make a bomb.

    2. Some people like to know how the technology they depend upon works.  It’s as simple as that.

  4. I think I’ll go tomorrow esp. if this is on. My son is a natural, he is always opening combination locks by feeling the tumblers.

  5. Ugh, I had a dork ask me if he could pick my expensive combo lock for my laptop…  he was unsuccessful but managed to break my lock so now the last 1 or 2 digits isn’t needed and it’s harder to turn.  I later borrowed $100.00 from him and didn’t pay it back.

  6. Wish I could go to this! I picked a lock once with a screwdriver and paper clip, but it took about two hours.

  7. Oh I couldn’t speak for the rest of the world, just Detroit. When I lived in Detroit I felt constantly compelled to steal.

  8. It’s funny how we rely on such archaic technology as locks/keys to provide “security”. Show a modern lock and key to someone in the 1700’s and they would know what you have.  Simple locks are one of those things that people actually think are secure. They are not. We have hundreds of years of culture to fool us into this belief.  Say you simply put a piece of masking tape on your door, which denoted “locked”.  Honest folks would not violate the tape lock…felons would.  A simple padlock is essentially the same…keeps honest people out.  A felon would most likely just break the door or cut the lock anyway.    Teach people how awful our current locks are, and industry will build us better locks.  

    1. +1 

      The bike lock industry went through this a few years ago when it was found that many Kryptonite brand locks could be opened with a pen top. Kryptonite and the rest of the industry improved their lock mechanisms. 

      However, thieves attack bike locks using brute force methods, nothing as subtle as picking. A 36V portable angle grinder is the tool to look out for, not a set of lock picks.

      1. Even the angle grinder is excessively fancy. Bike thieves can defeat all but the sturdiest of locks with leverage, freon (or some other refrigerant) and a sledgehammer, or the old standby of mugging the cyclist after they unlock their bike.

        1. I’ve got zero pretenses that if a serious bike thief  (the kind that has studied how to get a lock off using leverage freon cable cutters and yadda yadda) wants to disappear my bike, that said bike will still be there.  I only paid $175 for the bike, I can’t justify paying the sort of money that will stop a true professional.

          On the other hand, the $20 lock I got is only intended to deter your average idiot drunk or stoned crackhead – and I don’t even expect it to *stop* them, only make it difficult enough that hopefully somebody will notice their antics and call 911.   Yes, it’s easily broken by anybody who’s got a technical clue or two and isn’t drug or alcohol muddled.  But if you’re clear-headed enough to pick the lock, and can still morally justify the theft to yourself, then either:

          1) You’re *really* desperate and need basic transportation even more than I do, in
          which case I don’t feel *too* bad about losing the bike.
          2) You’re a frikking sociopath., and losing the bike is worth never crossing paths with you in person. Stealing an old bike? *Really*?  If you feel a need to steal, at least steal something that will actually get fenced for more than the cost of lunch at McDonald’s.

          And after several years, I’ve still got the bike, so the risk calculus must have worked out. At least for this neck of the woods – I can think of plenty of places I’d re-evaluate my choices. ;)

  9. This sounds like fun. I wish I was in the area.
    And I was just wondering, do burglers ever actually pick locks? Most incidents that I’ve ever heard about involved the thief just coming in through an open window or unlocked door (or simply breaking the windows or door to gain entry).

    1. The local scare industry alarm system hawkers claim that 80% of burglars break in through the door. No ideal at all how accurate this is.

  10. Burglars don’t pick locks for the most part. People who don’t want anybody to know that they opened the lock are who pick locks.
    If I knew that my lock had been picked I’d be at least as worried that someone had left some item as I would be worried that someone had taken something.
    When I was a kid on our farm we would buy the cheapest crappiest padlocks we could get , and weld the hasp to a chain attached to the door frame or what ever. The idea was that we didn’t want anyone cutting a hole in the barn , or messing stuff up in the process of stealing something , but we needed proof of forced entry for the sheriff and the insurance company. The lock was welded to the chain so that fastidious thieves wouldn’t take the lock with them. I could never figure out why they would take the broken lock but they did if they could.

  11. Having those items in the picture is crime in Michigan. I wonder WTF they were thinking? Did they have classes in bomb building, silencer design, or how to saw off a shotgun too? Sheesh.
    See MCL Section 750.116 “Possession of burglar’s tools” (felony)

    1. Just_Ken, Actually read that law.

      750.116 Burglar’s tools; possession.

      Sec. 116.

      Possession of burglar’s tools—Any person who shall knowingly have
      in his possession any nitroglycerine, or other explosive, thermite,
      engine, machine, tool or implement, device, chemical or substance,
      adapted and designed for cutting or burning through, forcing or breaking
      open any building, room, vault, safe or other depository, in order to
      steal therefrom any money or other property, knowing the same to be
      adapted and designed for the purpose aforesaid, with intent to use or
      employ the same for the purpose aforesaid, shall be guilty of a felony,
      punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 10 years.

      I looked in to that law hard before I started the Ann Arbor Locksport group that became the Ann Arbor Chapter of TOOOL. A couple of my members have also contacted their lawyers on that.

      Also note, that Michigan has no requirements to actually be a Locksmith in the state.

  12. no need for fancy tools to pick a lock. Next time you see a street sweeper pass by, look by the curb for the metal bristles that make up the brush. They are perfect for picking a lock. 

    Learning to pick locks is a freeing experience.

    1. The law you mention does not make possession of those tools illegal.  That law says that is illegal to carry those tools “in order to steal therefrom any
      money or other property, knowing the same to be adapted and designed
      for the purpose aforesaid, with intent to use or employ the same for the
      purpose aforesaid”.  Carrying them for a purpose other than to steal property is not covered by this law.

      Edit: This reply was meant for Just_Ken, of course.

      1. Agreed! It is all about the intent you have and or that which can be proven in a court.  Hmmm…I’m not a thief…I’m going to the Maker Faire to learn how to pick locks.

  13. I was one of the people doing the presentations, and helping people learn about the locks. I was the guy wearing the kilt. We had a lot of fun at Maker Faire and some of us are looking forward to doing it again in New York at World Maker Faire.

    As for those that didn’t make it to Maker Faire you can go to the website and find the training material there.

    A few things that we (as a society) have seen in last couple of years as a result of people learning to pick and shim locks:

    – ANTI-SHIM Combination Locks.
    – Locks with Security Pins (spools, mushrooms, serrated).
    – ANTI-BUMP technology (springs, shaped pins).

    1. I’m also the guy that made the home brew AC that we had running up near the screen to help keep us cool. :)

  14. What ever. Just don’t come bitchin’ to me when you need bail money. Our DA here in Wayne county doesn’t do plea bargains that much. Just sayin’.

    1. I live in Wayne county, and know the law here too. I also have several really good lawyers I can hit if I ever need them. The biggest thing about  750.116 is intent. The only place where it would be an issue would be in the city of Detroit proper, but it would be dropped before it went to court, because the State law over rides the local laws. But don’t take my word for it, consult your own lawyer. You can also try the EFF.

  15. I would love to attend a workshop like this. Last month I had to pay a locksmith 120 Euros to open my front door after I forgot my keys inside. Took him all of 2 seconds.

  16. Did you guys read the part about it being a felony?  I guarantee you that there are people in jail right now (here in MI) for having bent screw drivers, pry bars, or slim jims in their cars or backpacks never mind the more specific and advanced stuff shown in the pic. If a cop finds you possession of stuff like that it doesn’t mean you’re about to do something bad, but it’s enough to get you arrested. And then you guys can tell the judge about your little hobby and see what happens. So there’s that consideration.  But hey, If this is the sort of thing you enjoy then by all means, do it. But just know what the potential risks are, eh?

    1. Ken, not to be a jerk, but you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Did you notice for it to be a felony there has to be intent. “in order to steal therefrom any money or other property”.

      The police gave me more crap for carrying my knives (swiss army and HD branded lock blade) than for my picks. The times the cops have asked me about the picks, they thought it was rather cool and asked if I could show them how it worked.

      The truth is, picking takes time, and they know people who are going to break in and steal stuff aren’t going to spend the time to pick a lock.

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