Handmade lockpicks from old bandsaw blades

The wonderful folks at the Port City Makerspace had me over to their enormous, beautiful spot this evening, and gifted me with "the keys to the city," in the form of a set of handmade lockpicks from their own Tinker Woodworks. The picks are gorgeous. Seriously.

This is a handmade set of lockpicks with a leather case. The picks are shaped out of old bandsaw blades. I chose the pick shapes based on which picks have been most useful to me in my lock picking exploits. The case is made by soaking the leather and stitching it around a form to fit the picks. The case is about five inches long and fits nicely into a jacket pocket. I can do some simple embroidery on the case similar to the key embroidery in the pictures on one of the cases, or a persons initials, etc. Contact me if you want embroidery on the case. Otherwise the case will be the plain ones depicted. The kit comes with the three picks and two different size tension wrenches.

Lockpick tool set with leather case


  1. Sweet! I already have the leather armor and Ring of Invisibility!
    But, yeah, that’s a nice set of tools. The patina makes them looked lived in.

    1. “Blowing” locks? He’s posting about lockpicks, not detcord! *wink*

      As for the professional life of a writer, there isn’t any practical usage for lockpicks, but considering the sorts of works Mr. Doctorow writes I imagine it’s something of a symbolic gesture toward hacker culture.

      But even putting that aside, couldn’t he simply have a hobby? If target shooting doesn’t raise eyebrows, I don’t see why lockpicking should.

      1. Actually, I can see arguments for a writer, in particular, knowing a little about a great many skills — not necessarily being good at them, but understanding what does constitute basic/reasonable/exceptional skill and what the real-world limitations are, in order to avoid writing something which is so incorrect that it completely breaks their story for anyone who does have a basic Clue. (If you want us to suspend belief, breaking the thread it’s suspended from is generally a bad idea.)

        And as a symbolic gift, it’s a nice gesture… independent of quality and of whether Cory ever learns their use. Meets the guidelines set out by Emerson’s essay on gifts.

  2. Hello,

    Interesting.  How are they for everyday use?  I would have thought that a bandsaw blade would be too rigid for use as conventional lock picks. 


    Aryeh Goretsky

      1. A world in which picking a lock is an interesting challenge to take on as a hobby, no different than far more questionable practices like target shooting?

        1. “Officer… it was a… challenge… nothing more… now please take your gun barrel out of my right nostril…”

        2. That doesn’t justify “everyday use”, any more than carrying a gun is justified as an everyday practice because you sometimes go target shooting. Overextended arguments tend to snap in your face.

          Certainly anything can be a hobby, if you’re willing to take it seriously. But not everything is a wise choice to embark upon without knowing what you’re getting yourself into. Cooking up explosives may also be a hobby (I once had a chem teacher who had a taste for this), but for most folks even if they *do* have the knowledge to do so safely it’s somewhere between unwise and socially unacceptable.

          And lock _picking_, in isolation, is a pretty boring hobby in my opinion… not inherently much more interesting than doing other kinds of puzzles.

          Comment on the pickset itself mostly withheld. It was a nice gesture as a gift. Further, deponent saith not.

          1. You’re misunderstanding “everyday use” as I was refering to it, and as I believe the original poster was refering to it.

            If you own a gun purely for sport shooting and you regularly take it to the range, that’s “everyday use”. You might have a separate gun for hunting, for example, which would be something far less commonly used.

            If a lockpicking enthusiast practices their skills regularly with a pair of practice picks, that’s “everyday use”. They might also have a separate pick for antique or otherwise unusual lock designs, which would be something far less commonly used.

  3. Those look really nice for hand-made picks and the leather case is a nice touch.

    Other good materials are metal pallet strapping and the metal bristles that get left in the gutter by cleaning trucks. Works better if you heat treat the pallet strapping (heat up then dip in water or oil) to harden it. The bristles make great torque wrenches.

    Lockpicks = vaguely suitable metal + filing + time. Maybe pliers. If you were dedicated enough (it would take bloody ages though) you could make a perfectly good set with just pallet strapping and a brick.

  4. If you want to pick successfully at all, you have to do it a fair bit. For most amateurs this just means having a practice box of stuff and fooling around every now and then. That’s what constitutes “everyday use” for picks.

    You get really used to the shape, springiness (or not) and “feel” of your picks through hours of practice. Most people will have one or two picks that feel really good to them.  It’s always a minor tragedy when a treasured and “lucky” pick breaks or develops a permanent bend :(  

  5. Simple possession of those tools by a non-locksmith is a felony in several US states.

    Another fun fact about the “Land of the Free.”

    1. Whatever. I picked a lockbox with a straight pin from my mom’s sewing box last week. So we’re felons now.

      Although…well, I was already a felon.

        1.  I once picked the back-door lock of our new house (before we moved into it, but the workmen had locked it) with a hair grip. I’d love to have some real lockpicks. Not in the US, don’t know about Dutch law.

    2. Regardless of the legal status, Cory may get a whole lot of first-hand experience of the TSA’s warm customer service in the next few days even if he puts these in the hold.

    3.  Does anyone know a cheap way to get locksmith credentials?  Traditionally, one does the mail-order thing, but it’s not cheap…

  6. Thank you for reminding me to look up State law on carrying picks. I now have the number for the relevant section of law Sharpied inside my carrying case, and I think it’s time I start playing with them more :)

  7. I’ve always had good luck with the little wavy one.  You can buy a nice set on-line for very little money.

    I’ve found that I can pick the locks to my parent’s house, my apartment, and the locks at the office with very little difficulty. If I bothered to practice I’d do it much faster I expect.

  8. Back in my bonded locksmith days, I found that automobile feeler gauge made the most wonderful pick material.  Ground my own on a grinder.  Never got much juice out of the wavy one, or the one shaped like a single curved finger, but the one with the pyramid tip…ah, that would do anything.  Ground flat sides on a right-angle hex wrench to make the torque.  I found an absolutely rigid torque like that worked better by far than the spring-steel numbers because it transmitted the feel of the pins moving so much better.

    1. Depends on where you are. In most of the US, they’re legal. You can be arrested for Burglarous Implements, but that can apply to anything which looks like it might have been used in a break-in.

      Remember, however, that using them inappropriately, even if legally, can further increase your risk. Apply the zeroth commandment: Don’t Be Stupid.

      Also remember that the excuse of carrying picks in case you lock yourself out doesn’t wash; there’s no good answer to “so why didn’t you just carry or cache a spare key, which is the better tool for that situation.

      Finally: lockpicking is showy and is a fun puzzle but is one of the less interesting areas of the craft… and learning _only_ lockpicking limits even your lockpicking skills tremendously. If you’re interested enough to want to learn to do this well, rather than just having James Bond fantasies, I strongly recommend learning the trade rather than just this one corner of it.

      (I carry a $15,000 performance bond, and I spent a few hundred dollars on classes to establish a paper trail for my skills even though I’d already picked up most of the basics… both because I judged it wise to be On Record, and because that got me entry into opportunities to learn more and access to further educational resources. If you want to be taken seriously, being able to function at or beyond a pro level — even if you’re very much a part-timer — should be your goal, just as with any other hobby.)

      1. (And remember that appealing to federal or state law probably won’t wash if there’s a local statute. If you’re going to dance on the ledge, it’s your responsibility to know where all the edges are.)

  9. Glad to see these got made. My TOOOL chapter (PWM) meets at the makerspace monthly, and we love to see good press about the space and lockpicking. Anyone interested in checking us out can get more info at chapter-pwm@toool.us or @toool_pwm:disqus  on Twitter. 

    Also, lockpick possession laws have been researched by TOOOL and more info is at  http://toool.us/laws.html

  10. As always, free legal or medical advice on the Internet may be useful as insight… but you probably shouldn’t bet life or liberty on it being correct or complete.

  11. Am I the only person who is suddenly very curious about what kind of locks secure the doors at Port City Makerspace?

  12. I was once writing a novel where the hero had to pick a lock. I bought a book (back before YouTube), practiced a few days then told my wife to lock me out of the house (it was like 20 degrees). I was in in less than a minute. I always laugh when I watch TV detectives picking a lock with one pick (no tension tool). The downside of learning is that you will never feel safe in your own home again. I installed locks by ASSA, which have two rows of teeth and the keys can only be duplicated by the manufacturer. I’ve tried my best and can’t budge them. On my daughter’s first day of Kindergarden, about 19 years ago, the teacher was distraught as we came into the room. She had locked her day’s lesson plans in a cabinet and left the key at home. It was a very cheap lock and I used a paper clip and hair pin to get in in less than ten seconds. She always viewed me a little suspiciously after that. 

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