Creating Better Lock Picks.

I must start this article by pointing out that I have very little formal training in engineering, so there may be flaws in the following proposition. My main intention is to provoke some thought and discussion on the subject.
Recently I came across a statement about lock picks breaking. Lock picks are used for repetitive actions and this may lead to fatigue and breakages, no matter how much you paid for your picks. Being relatively new to the field of lock sport I have yet to have a pick break on me, personally.
When a pick does break you are likely to discover that the only way to get a replacement is to buy a new kit, many suppliers not offering singles on their websites. Or you can make your own, using the old pick as a model.
The question I want to raise is, is it possible to reduce the likelihood of breakage?
Below is an assortment of picks that I own. For better comparison I have selected hooks.


Chinese Goso Plastic Handle

Cheap Chinese (Goso?) Metal Handle

Dangerfield from Serenity Kit

Dangerfield Bogota Hook.
Obviously, some parts of a pick need to be small to fit into a lock. Does the rest of the pick need to be so fine, however? Even if you include large padlocks most keyways seem to be less than 50mm.
Most of the picks shown above have a relatively long, narrow neck that abruptly widens into a handle. The Dangerfield Serenity pick is off-set and widens with a step arrangement. In one of the Chinese picks the neck and handle are separate pieces joined by a pop-rivet. The Bogota (and Soho) picks remain fairly constant in width, twisting to form a handle that also serves as a turning tool.
Which of these configurations is stronger? The Bogota/ Soho configuration has the merit of versatility and compactness. Four such picks within a pouch take up much less room than two more conventional picks and eliminate the need to carry a standard width L-turning tool. Unfortunately this style is only available in a limited number of configurations. As well as the Soho and Bogota variants there is the Reina from Mad Bob, which appears to be the Princess/ Prince. Other than the Bogota single hook/ half-diamond hybrid there are no other hooks or lifters of this style, at least not commercially available.
If a pick does need a wider handle, would it not be mechanically stronger to have it widen as a curve rather than an abrupt step? Would some lightening holes in the wider part of the neck strengthen the tool and help disperse stresses? Perhaps there is a case for making picks from thicker stock and thinning the head section down?


Lock Pick Kit: WIP

I have been planning to do a little “show and tell” piece on my growing lock sport kit. Unfortunately it seems every time I go to do this I think of another thing to address. Currently I have another pick in the post and I am intending to add some narrower and wider tension tools once I source some material. I am planning to make a post specifically on tension tools so it is appropriate that I post these pictures today as a work in progress.
Regular readers will know that I purchased a Dangerfield Serenity kit from UK Bump Keys, who very nicely upgraded the pouch and threw in a pair of Soho picks. To this basic but useful foundation I have added my Bogota set. Both the Sohos and the Bogotas also serve as tension tools. For easy identification the Sohos have been marked with red enamel paint and the Bogotas with blue.
Here is the pouch packed. In the right section are rakes. In the left are the hooks, lifters, tension tools and everything else, such as the Bogotas, Sohos and a razor pick.
The rakes laid out. I thought that the winter sun would be a good time to take photographs but the effect is more artistic than I intended. This will have to serve until the final photography session. From the top:
  • Swerve Rake (Serenity)
  • Bogota Rake (Serenity)
  • Prince Rake (Serenity)
  • Princess Rake (Serenity)
  • Sandman (Sparrow)
  • Trio of Snake Rakes: small, angled small and large (SouthOrd)
I was going to purchase a King and Queen but learnt these are too big for many locks and that the Princess and Prince effectively serve the same function. It may be the King and Queen work better with US locks. See my first post on lock picking for a caution on differences between US and UK/ European/ Japanese locks.
The hooks and lifters:

  • Partial hook (SouthOrd)
  • High hook (Serenity)
  • Angled Reach Ball pick (Serenity)
  • Curved Reach Ball pick (Serenity)
  • Half-Diamond pick (Serenity)
  • Razor pick (Withoutakey)
As you can see, I have expaned this section with a more conventional hook and added a razor pick (note homemade point cover).
The tension tools:
  • Bogota picks
  • Pry bar/ TOK tool (Serenity)
  • Standard L tool (Serenity)
  • Soho picks
The Sohos, Bogotas and L-tool are all the same width. This kit needs some narrower and wider tensioners.
Bogotas, Sohos, Serenity kit and Sandman were all purchased from UK Bump Keys. UK Bump Keys do not sell many “singles” so the SouthOrd picks and razor pick were brought from Withoutakey. Like UK Bump Keys, Withoutakey are a very nice and helpful company to deal with. The free ebook they send for signing up with their newsletter has some interesting stuff on combination locks.


         Those of you who have enjoyed my non-fiction writings may be interested to know my first novella is now available.


Serenity Lock Picks Review

Regular readers will have noticed that I do not usually write unboxing articles. Firstly, this is because funds are very limited (buy some books please!) and this is not a blog that gets sent free stuff. Secondly, I would rather write a post after I have had some time to try the items out.
Currently most my time is committed to another project but I would like to record some impressions on the Dangerfield Serenity lock pick set I have just received.
It has been a tough couple of months so I decided to treat myself. In my previous post I told you about the Bogota picks I brought and the cheap Chinese set of picks I had been playing with. The pair of Bogota picks was very reasonably priced but cost at least twice what you can pick the cheap picks up for. The two Bogotas, however, are much more useful than the dozen or so tools in the Chinese kit. Conclusion is, if money is tight or you only want one set of lock picks, buy a pair of Bogotas. Have a pair for practice and at least a set with your emergency kit(s).
I’ve been getting more into the leisure side of picking and wanted to improve my single pin picking (SPP) skills, hence decided to treat myself to a better quality set of tools. I opted for the Dangerfield Serenity ten-piece set. Firstly, because it has a nice selection of hooks and lifters for SPP. It also contains a Bogota-style pick. It was also currently on discount and UK Bump keys had been nice enough to send me a 10% off voucher. Kit arrived yesterday but I only had time to unpack it this morning. Initial impressions:
Dangerfield Zip Pouch
The kit is supposed to come in a webbing/ vinyl(?) pouch with a snap-button. Instead UK Bump keys upgraded this to the Dangerfield leather zip pouch. If, like me, you grew up watching cop shows where lock picks are always in a little black zip pouch, this will give you a buzz. The zip is in a nice brass rather than the black of the cop shows, but nice enough. I had noted that UK Bump keys was running an offer where if you brought this pouch you got a free pair of Dangerfield Soho lock picks, which are similar to Bogotas. That is a pretty nice deal in itself if you want a pouch. Thoughtfully, not only did UK Bump keys upgrade the pouch with the Serentiy kit, they threw in the pair of Sohos too! Like the Bogota set, the Sohos are designed to also act as tension tools. My ten-piece kit is actually twelve piece now, and effectively has four tension tools rather than two. I quite like this type of tension tool and often use the Bogotas as tension tools in preference to other tools to hand.
Soho Lock Picks
I’ll stress there is no guarantee that you will get these upgrades if you order a Serenity, but it tells you a lot about UK Bump keys’ approach to customer care that they made these additions.
Serenity Lock Pick Kit
The actual Serenity itself has the following contents:
Classic Slimline Wrench
Pry-Bar Wrench
Half-diamond Pick
Angled Reach Ball Pick
Curved Reach Ball Pick
High Hook Pick
Bogota Rake
Swerve Rake
Prince Rake
Princess Rake
The “pry-bar wrench” is what Americans called a “top of the keyway” (TOK) tension tool. American locks tend to be mounted pins upward while in the UK and Europe they are often pins down, which confuses terminology. Note that the Bogota rake has the same handle as the other rakes and picks, not the tension tool handle of the “stand-alone” set. The Swerve rake resembles an elongated snake-rake and the tip can be used for SPP. The Half-diamond pick is often termed a “hybrid” since you can rake with it too.
All of these picks, rakes and tools are made of a thinner metal than the Soho rakes and the stand-alone Bogotas. I have heard this described as 0.22" steel, but do not have a micrometer to measure this for myself.
I have tired a couple of these tools on a practice lock and they have worked as expected. My little stubborn lock is resisting the thinner picks, but this may be due to me being a little out of practice over the last few weeks. It pops for the thicker Sohos. (Update: The Serenity Bogota rake works perfectly on this lock. The Prince and Princess also work. The Swerve is not suited to this size of lock.)
The zip case is pretty much ideal for the Serenity set. You can fit four rakes in one side and the other four picks in the other. Place the tension tools how you wish. There is room for the Soho rakes/tension tools. It begins to get a little cluttered when I add my other “good” pick, a Sandman, but there may be room for an additional snake. If I was asked to suggest one improvement, it would be to add a pocket to keep the tension tools separate.
I got this kit from the same company I got my Bogotas from, UK Bump keys. I have found them prompt and very helpful. From youtube videos I note that they have a number of American customers and I can see why. Register on their site and you will be sent a download link to a free 40+ page ebook on picking. You may also get a voucher towards your next purchase. Their webpage has a blog with some interesting articles and there is no shortage of instructional videos too.