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Phillosoph

Tools for Wafer Locks

Decades ago, someone got locked out of their desk. My name was volunteered as “someone who knows about that sort of thing”. Not sure what that actually says about how my colleagues thought of me!
I had never actually picked a lock at the time, but I had read about how it was done so was game to give it a go. I gathered a selection of screwdrivers, paperclips and small allen keys and set off to see what I could do.
My first experimental jiggle of the lock caused the entire plug to separate from the lock. I used a long screwdriver to turn the catch at the back of the lock and the desk was opened.
This doesn't really count as my first lock picking, but it was a useful experience. A couple of years ago the plug of the front door did the same thing. I didn't have a long screwdriver, but the metal/nail file of my Swiss Army Knife was long enough to reach the back of the lock and open the door.
The reason this story has come to mind is that recently I was once again asked to use my knowledge in an official capacity. An important item was locked in a drawer and the key-holder was home sick. I was asked to get the item, no matter what damage was incurred by the cabinet.
Naturally, I reached for my EDC picks, not having any other tools available. Much to my annoyance, my bogotas and snake-rake had no effect. No feedback from the lock, and I could not feel any pins moving. I managed to open the cabinet by levering the top with a screwdriver. It got the job done with surprisingly little damage.
Personally, I was a little miffed thatI had been unable to pick the lock. On the other hand, I had gained considerable kudos from my colleague and manager that I had managed to retrieve the vital item. A nice example of the positive uses of entry techniques?
The challenge and mystery of this lock remained. Was I simply having an “off-day”? I have done little picking recently, and what little I have done is with familiar locks. The next day I tried by skeleton keys on the lock, suspecting it might be a warded design.

Know Your Enemy

With my colleague recovered, I asked to see the actual key. The lock is a wafer lock, the key with teeth on either side.
I have never knowingly picked a wafer lock. I suspect a couple of locks I have successfully raked have been wafers. General opinion seems to be wafers can be picked the same way as pin-tumbler locks. They supposedly have lower manufacturing tolerances, so should be easier. I have even seen them dismissed as “pickable by paperclips” or as obsolete (although still commonly used).
None of this made me feel any better about being beaten by this lock. When I had the chance, I would try and pick this lock again, and try some of the other tools I have acquired.
As chance would have it, the video channel of ukbumpkeys ran an item on the KLOM Wafer Rake kit, which is available at a very reasonable price. This has just arrived today and is very nice. This has a turning tool, 14 double-sided rakes and a fifteenth tool that looks like a half-diamond. The turning tool has a coated handle and the other tools each have a plastic grip. The tools can be used with the turning tool or on their own like jiggler keys.
KLOM Wafer Rakes
I will let you know how they work on the wafer lock.

Gathering My Forces

While I was enjoying my morning coffee I was looking at other potential solutions to this lock. Several years back I purchased a set of jiggler keys that I had found virtually no use for. What is not made clear on many sites is that jiggler keys are mainly intended for use on wafer locks. Other keyway types tend to include wards that prevent them entering, or worse still, prevent them being removed after.
The cabinet wafer lock is double-sided, which suggested that a full snowman pick might be useful. I had forgotten about it, but my first cheap Chinese lock pick set included a full snowman. (My Serentiy Plus kit included a half-snowman that I had ground down from a full double-ball rake)
Some lock pickers list snake-rakes as their go-to tool for wafer locks. I was tempted by this Rytan Rp-14 tool, but alas, horrendous overcharging  for international postage!
Rytan RP-14

Buyer Beware!

While looking for other ideas, my search engine threw up some surprising results.
One item, described as a “40-piece lock picking set” has the following illustration:
Mystery lock pick sets
Absolutely no attempt to show or describe what is inside the cases! The closest you get is this photo:
Not a useful photo of a lock pick set
This shows the ends of the picks, but not the ends most lock pickers would be interested in!
Even more worrying was that searching for lock picking kits threw up these as options:
Not lock picks
Lock picks barely included
Most of the tools shown in these photos are for key-removal. Admittedly, the description does mention that the set has key-removal tools, but it also mentions lock picks, of which their appear to be none. Just to add to confusion, the set of key-removal tools includes a training padlock and set of turning tools.
The kit in the second photo does include some lock picks, although they are hidden inside the credit-card shaped container. I have several of these credit card kits, and they tend to be variable. The first set that I brought from a UK supplier is actually very nice. Other sets I have since acquired are of lower quality, being poorly finished or made from thick (yet surprisingly tough!) steel. They can be nice picks if you are prepared to put in the time to grind and polish them, but a newcomer to lock picking may not know this.
I have to wonder how many would-be lock pickers buy the above kits and waste hours of their time trying to pick with key-removal tools!
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Phillosoph

Morse Code Memory Card

A short blog today, reminiscent of the “free gift”-editions of the comics of my youth.
How likely are you to need Morse code in the modern world? Probably not very much! But as preppers we like to prepare, just in case.
As I have aged, my memory has got demonstrably worse. Also, stress can do odd things to your recall. Therefore it is not a bad thing to have a printed copy of the Morse code, no matter how well you can remember it on a good day.
Morse Code Tree
Morse Code list and Sun Navigation
The Morse code “tree” was taken from here. I like this particular version better than some of the alternates. The tree is useful when translating from Morse code.
The alphabetical list is more useful when converting a message into code. The large and bold print of this version makes it easy to use.
Also included is an aide memoir for navigating by the sun with a watch. While I have figured direction by the sun and time on several occasions, I can seldom remember the modifications for the hemispheres.
I suggest you print both images out, paste them back to back and laminate them.
They can be sized with art programs such as GIMP. I made mine 7 cm high so the laminated card could fit inside the red pouch that is part of my EDC.
EDC Pouch Contents
The card could also be used as a fan to nurture the beginnings of a camp fire.
As a bonus, a Morse code table using peaks rather than dots and dashes.Mountain Morse Code

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Phillosoph

SERE Pin and EDC Bypass Knife

I have been promising to write about the SERE pin for some time.
SERE Pin and EDC Bypass Knife

SERE Pin

The SERE Pin is an implement for escape and evasion applications. It is very easily concealed. You can push the shaft down the seam of a garment, for example.
The SERE Pin has four applications:
• It acts like a key to lift the pawl of handcuffs.
• It can disengage the double lock mechanism of handcuffs.
• It can serve as a shank to separate the teeth of a ratchet mechanism of handcuffs.
• It can be used to shim or lift the pawl of a zip/cable tie.Handcuff Internal Mechanism

For an explanation of these terms I will direct you to my older posts on double-locking and shimming.
To disengage the double-lock or handcuffs, use the long, curved end of the tool. In the illustration, one would introduce it at around the 4:30 position on the keyhole and use it to push the double-locking mechanism (the red part in the image) upward.
Once the double lock is disengaged, the pawl can be shimmed or lifted.
To lift the pawl, insert the short hooked end of the SERE pin at around the 11 o'clock position and use it to lift the lock bar (green component) inward.
To shim, insert the long part of the tool between the teeth. You may need to tighten the bracelet a little to achieve this. If the shim becomes caught you may have to straighten it a little.
SERE pins are easily fabricated from bobby pins. Do not make the short hook too long. I recommend rounding off the corners and bevelling the tips.

EDC Bypass Knife

The second item on today’s “show and tell” is a work in progress.
After I wrote yesterday’s blog, I set about creating a bypass knife that was compatible with my EDC kit.
Basic design requirement is that it should fit within the pouch that carries part of my EDC. Whether this is where I will carry it, I have yet to decide.
EDC Pouch Contents
As a lock picker, I acquire any windscreen-wiper inserts whenever I come across them. For this project I selected a narrow one that already ended in a partial point at one end. Width is about 3 mm.
The point was tapered further with a hand-file and a Dremel tool. One side was left reasonably straight, the other tapered more so the point is offset.
Once the point was formed, the end of the insert was cut 10 cm from its end. The butt end was rounded and smoothed.
The point was smoothed and polished with several grades of glass-paper.
It is possible that the point needs to be made more acute. The only bypass knife I have is a cheap Chinese one. My tool is already better finished than that! Also, I lack any bypass-knife-vulnerable locks to try it out on.
How often will I encounter a vulnerable lock I might need to use the tool on? I don’t know. This did get me thinking about other functions it may have. (Using it as a nail-cleaner probably shouldn’t count!)
The butt end may serve as a skeleton key. The width is virtually the same as the shanks of my bunch of skeleton keys. It has already opened a small warded luggage lock I have.
The pointed end could be used on the pawl of a zip-tie.
I can also confirm that the tool makes an effective handcuff shim. Worked better than I expected, if I am honest. It might be prudent to polish and smooth the rest of the shaft for such applications.
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Phillosoph

EDC Lock Picking and Bypass Kits

As regular readers will know, the lock picking contingent of my EDC is rather small:
— A pair of Bogotas.
— A small snake rake.
— A double-ended turning tool.
Bogota Lock Picks
Other items, such as the three-inch pocket prybar, may have applications in bypassing locks. When the barrel of my doorlock came out with my key, it was the long file on my Swiss Army Knife that was needed to open the door.
Today I will bring you two interesting videos on lock picking and bypass tools for EDC. Credit to Dean for directing me to the first one.
While I have done a bit of lock picking, I don’t have as much experience with bypass techniques as I might wish. When the zombies come, I will be grabbing my kukri, crowbar and brick hammer. Those will bypass a few obstacles!
Some thoughts on the suggestions:
— The plastic shim seems like a very prudent choice.
— I have never used them, but padlock shims might be worth having. I seem to recall padlock shims can be cut from soda or beer can material. The edges of these will probably be surprisingly sharp, so take care.
— I have a number of bobby pins in my general EDC pouch. These are in a bag with some paper clips and about a dozen safety pins. A few weeks back some of these safety pins were used to repair my girlfriend’s jeans.
— I have some comb-picks, but have not been able to open any locks with them. The same can be said of my set of jiggler keys, although I suspect the latter are intended for car doors since they are too large for all my locks. Most keyways I encounter have kinks in them, so the straight combs and jigglers would be difficult to insert or move within them. I think my Bogottas and snake are a more effective and versatile option.
— Similarly, my set of skeleton keys stays at home since large warded locks seem to be relatively uncommon. If long enough, a bypass knife may serve instead. The small warded locks often used on luggage can be popped by a variety of implements, including sturdy picks like the Bogotas.
Bunch of Skeleton Keys and Decoder
— My bunch of skeleton keys includes a decoder I made from a cut-out shape of soda can (top). I do not think I have tried it out, since I seldom encounter combination locks. There are ways to crack combination padlocks without a decoder tool, and I have used these at least once.
— A bypass knife seems worth having. My Serenity Plus kit includes one that came with a set of my Chinese picks. I cannot recall if I have ever opened anything with it. Most of my padlocks are not vulnerable to this technique. I plan to try making a bypass knife that will fit in my EDC.
Mini-Slim-Jim Dimensions
— The mini-slim-jim is interesting. Obviously this is too short to be used to open car doors. That is probably not a drawback given the number of vehicle vulnerable to slim-jims is probably decreasing every year. The mini-slim-jim is actually intended to bypass the latches of doors. The large notch on the tool is probably a legacy of its ancestry. Sparrows makes several sizes of slim-jim. They also make the “Hall Pass”, which is a credit-card-shaped tool in either metal or plastic. Southern Specialities offers their own design of tool for latches, the “Multipass”.
Sparrow's Hall Pass Southern Specialities Multipass Sparrow's Orion Hall Pass
I have tried making something similar out of an old plastic card. I didn’t have any success opening a door, but at the time I had yet to locate the correct dimensions. I am also now more familiar with the manual technique needed, so it might work better in future.
I have, however, managed to pop a latch using a TOK turning tool. This experiment seemed to indicate that a traveller hook hook may be a better way to attack a latch than a slim-jim. Being able to rotate the tool would have advantages. This is what the bent piece of music wire in the first video is intended for.
Sparrow's Traveller Hooks
I may try to fabricate a traveller hook hook that can fit in my EDC. Sparrows sell two sizes of traveller hook (also called traveller’s, travellers, shrum tool or travelling hooks). Auto-stores sell something similar as “O-ring pullers”. Skewers, ejector pins and music/piano wire can be used to fabricate traveller hook hooks. For reference, the Sparrow hooks use shanks 2.6mm (0.1 inch) thick.
Latches can sometimes be opened by threading a cord or wire behind them.
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Phillosoph

Adding a Pin to a Swiss Army Knife

The tools on a Swiss Army Knife sometimes end up performing tasks you never imagined! A few months back I went to unlock my front door, only to have the entire barrel of the lock detach and come away with the key! The metal file/saw proved to be ideal for reaching to the back of the lock and turning the bolt.
My girlfriend’s son had asked me why I always carry my SAK. Exactly for times like the above!

The Early Years

For the first few years of my early adulthood I carried a Chinese-made version of a Swiss Army Knife. I vaguely recall there were actually two, although I do not recall why I had to replace the first. To be fair, these were quite nice knives, with a good assortment of tools. The only problem I actually recall is a time when the corkscrew straightened out as I attempted to open a bottle of wine.
Back in those days, they were all I could afford, and they served well.
Once I had some money, I invested in a genuine Victorinox Swiss Army Knife (aka SAK).

Victorinox Champion

The model I selected was called the “Champion”, not to be confused with the “SwissChamp” that had become available a few years previously. The longer named Champion was less bulky than the Champ, lacking the pliers.
Swiss Army Champion
The seven-layer Champion was about the ideal maximum size for a SAK, and had a really useful selection of tools.
Sadly, my Champion was lost in an unfortunate chain of events that do not need to be told here. Even worse, the Champion had been discontinued, so I could not buy a replacement.
There was no ebay back then, so little chance of locating a second-hand one.
All the features of a Champion

Rise of the Ranger

As a replacement of the Champion, I selected a Ranger model. The most obvious difference between the two was the Ranger lacked a magnifying glass, fish scaler and Phillips screwdriver:
Swiss Army Ranger
• The Phillips screwdriver had proved useful at times.
• I don’t recall ever using the fish scaler/ hook disgorger, at least not for its intended purpose.
• I didn’t make much used of the magnifier either, although now that I am older and more decrepit, I suspect it might prove more useful. As an aside, the magnifying glass on the Champion was very cleverly thought out. Its focal length was the same as the magnifying glasses’ height. In other word, if you placed your knife on a map, the detail under the magnifying glass would be in focus. This may have been the case for other models that had the magnifying glass. I wonder if the same applies to the newer pattern of magnifier?
Since I wear glasses, an early addition I made to both the Champion and the later Ranger was to add the mini-screwdriver that fits into the corkscrew. Originally this tool was only included with the SwissChamp. They were sold as spares, however, so I acquired one. This has proved very useful over the years, often coming to the rescue of companions rather than myself. Half a lifetime ago I repaired the glasses of a grateful Swedish beauty in old Jerusalem.
Corkscrew Mini-tools
Victorinox now offer three alternate tools, each with a different coloured end.
I have carried the Ranger for many decades now. The lack of Phillips screwdriver is compensated for by the Leatherman Squirt mini-tool I also carry. If you are in the market for a medium-size (91mm) model SAK, the Ranger must be one of the best options. The Huntsman model is a good choice, but I have often found uses for the file/metal saw of the Ranger.

Swiss Army Knife Wiki

Recently I came across the Swiss Army Knife Wiki. This site is worth a look around.
Some interesting information on how to use the various tools, and some applications for them you may not have known. My Ranger had a Phillips screwdriver all along and I never knew! I discovered that the tip of the can-opener is actually intended for use with Phillips screws as well as slot.

Adding a Pin to a SAK

The original reason I have been thinking about Swiss Army Knives recently is that I came across a blog post discussing the pin carried in the handle scales.
Below is a video on possible uses for “needles” [sic pins]. The channel has many other videos on various features of Swiss Army Knives.


Even before I watched the above video, I was thinking about adding a pin to my Ranger. I own a number of very fine drill bits, so creating a channel for a pin would not be too difficult. I could probably add a pair.
I have lots of cheap pins. I decided to try and find the pins actually used, since they were probably better quality and the head looked a little wider.
A number of ebay vendors offered replacement pins for Swiss Army Knives. The one I chose got my money since they offered another idea. Included with the five pins was a small magnet. This magnet was sized to fit in the can-opener. With such a magnet, a pin could be magnetized as a compass needle.
The bits arrived this morning.

Fitting the Magnet and Pin

The 5.8mm magnet was a perfect fit for the can-opener. The vendor included the advice that the tool next to the can-opener usually needs to be opened before closing the can-opener with the magnet stored in it. If this is not so, the magnet tends to pull out of position, attracted by the neighbouring steel. Although stainless steel, the blades of a Swiss Army Knife are magnetic.
Magnet in Can-Opener
Finding a drill bit small enough for the pin was not a problem. Problem was most were too short to drill a channel as long as the pin. The other problem was my Ranger has solid scales. It lacks the airspaces found on some newer and alternate scales.
Drilling a channel deep enough and straight enough proved problematic, and inevitably the very fine drill curved and the channel exited on the inner side of scale. This actually proved to be fortuitous, allowing me to file a notch on the inner side for end of the pin to rest in.
I settled for adding just one pin for now. Most of the alternate positions for a pin are obstructed by the rivets the scales snap on to.
Ranger Knife Modified
My Ranger with pin added (blue arrow) and notches on scale (green arrows). If the balloon goes up, I am ready!

Other Modifications

Incidentally, the back scale of my Ranger has two additional non-standard features.
One is a chip, where an idiot friend used my knife as a bottle-opener without using the bottle-opener! I could fix this damage, but it is a useful reminder to be more cautious of whom I trust.
More useful are a series of three notches. The second is five millimetres from the first, the third 57mm for the first.
The first and third notch are used to draw a circle of 57mm radius. The first and second are used to mark the circumference in five millimetre increments. Each millimetre of the circumference closely approximates one degree. Such a compass face can be used with various improvised modes of navigation.
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Phillosoph

The Soft Core Bag.

Today I am going to introduce what I call my “soft core bag”. This is not a “bug-out bag”, although it could be included in the contents of one.
I have a number of bags and rucksacs, and there are certain items that I would invariably want in one of I was carrying it. Stocking each pack with necessary items is not economically practical, however. Perhaps, I thought, I should have a box containing the necessary items and potential alternatives. This was part of the solution, but I quickly realized many items could be packed together so they could easily be grabbed in one go.
I drew on the lists given in the previous post to select the current loadout.

  • Top left: A small first aid kit. This supplements the items I carry in my skin-level EDC.
  • Directly below the first aid kit in a dark brown camouflage bag is a rain poncho.
  • The white plastic bag beside the poncho contains a toilet roll.
  • Middle top can be see a bag of boiled sweets and a pair of warm gloves. These are sitting on top of a dark green all-weather blanket. You can see some of the shoelaces that are tied to the grommets of this. I intend to add a pair of silver space blankets.
  • Top right, a red and black shemagh. This is a spare/ additional shemagh since I am often wearing one these days.
  • Bottom centre is my Advantage-camouflaged boonie hat.
  • Sitting on the boonie hat is a plastic bag carrying a small fire kit. This has two butane lighters, two nightlights, a 35mm film container filled with Vaseline-soaked cotton wool and a Fresnel lens.
  • Below the fire kit and to the left is an ACU-patterned headover which can serve various roles including as warm headgear.
  • Bottom right is a one-litre Playtpus waterbottle. Sitting on it are a shoelace, hank of general purpose string, hank of green paracord and some braided fishing line wrapped around a piece of plastic (yoghurt carton).
  • Not shown: two supermarket carrier bags. I wear photochromic spectacles. If you do not, a pair of cheap sunglasses may be a prudent addition.

The whole collection packs into a draw-cord bag, as shown. Note snap-link added to one carrying cord. This bag is lined with another plastic bag to provide better water resistance. The headover is folded into a pouch and used to contain some of the smaller items. This pouch, in turn, is placed inside the boonie hat. Most of the pack contents are soft and crushable so no great genius at packing is really needed. Put the blanket in first and add the other contents. Put your water-bottle away from your back and ensure your poncho rides near the top of your bag.
Packed, but without water, the soft core bag weighs about 1.3 kg. The volume of water I will carry and which water-bottle I will carry will vary with climate and anticipated conditions.
The soft core pack is easily stuffed into a larger bag, immediately adding a collection of very useful items. On its own, it is a good bag to have for trips where you do not want to be bothered by a bag. It is light and low-density, and makes a pretty good pillow.
A quick glance inside the first aid kit. Items in this kit are consumed in preference to those in the skin-level EDC. Vaseline is good for chapped lips and other ailments.
The soft core bag probably has more cordage than it needs, but I had some hanks already made up. This is a nice example of paracord carried using hojo-jitsu configuration.
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Phillosoph

In Praise of Shemagh and Keffiyeh.

Previously, I wrote about the fallacy that most face masks would protect you from infection. Inevitably, most of humanity has ignored the facts and taken comfort in superstition. Somewhere along the way members of our kleptocracies have realized just how much money can be made selling ineffective protective measures to the gullible.
Wearing face covering has become a requirement on public transport and in certain buildings. The stated purpose is to prevent carriers infecting other people, which admittedly has some merit. My objection here is in the lack of enforcement. As a microbiologist and a scientist I believe any safety equipment should be used properly. Masks serve no purpose if they do not cover the nostrils or are worn on your chin! I also, unreasonably, believe that laws and rules should apply to everyone. Being overweight and being unable to stop stuffiing your face on the bus is not a legitimate reason to go unmasked.
I have taken to wearing a shemagh/ keffiyeh when I travel on public transport. Looking like a pissed-off Palestinian shows my contempt for the farcical handling of the situation. Does it look intimidating? Probably, but I don’t really want people getting close anyway. Perhaps I should carry a rucksac too; I might get the whole carriage to my self!
On a more practical note, I have discovered a new respect for the shemagh. I had been thinking of it as a large banana, (or possibly a tea-towel!). The weave of my shemaghs is very loose, allowing the easy passage of breath or perspiration. On one particularly sunny day I kept my shemagh on when back on the street. It successfully kept the sun off my bald dome, and I was not bothered by perspiration running down into my eyes. It also helped keep my earphones in. Being cotton, dunking the shemagh in water may be a good way to keep cool in hot weather.
I have discussed the need for facial camouflage on other pages. I believe I have also mentioned one of the purposes of the ninja ensemble is to muffle the sound of breathing. The shemagh can meet these needs. In cold weather the shemagh may help prevent your condensed breath revealing your position. Something to experiment once it gets colder.
A brightly coloured shemagh might be used for signalling. One of mine is red and black, although in honesty this a bit dull in colour for signalling or location. Might be good in snow. Most shemaghs are white and have little virtue as camouflage save in snow. Dying them more tactical colours may be possible. Most “tactical” shemaghs are green/ olive drab, but except in jungle this is not as versatile and useful a practical colour as brown. I have one of brown and black, but ideally brown and sand or brown and grey would be most useful.

Tying the Shemagh

You will find a number of videos on how to tie a shemagh on-line. My usual method is to take the short, right end up near my left temple. Take the long end round the front, round the back and tie the ends together. I have been using a reef knot, but may experiment with a simpler overhand (half a reef!). This may be easier to untie when necessary. Tied correctly, the shemagh forms a hood and face-covering that can easily be lowered or raised. Down, it makes a useful neck gaiter. Position the part over your head so it does not expose a large area of forehead.
Another simple tying method can be used if you just need to cover your lower face, such as in the event of a dust storm. Fold your shemagh diagonally and place the widest/ tallest part over your mouth and nose. Take the ends behind your head and bring them around the front and tie them together under your chin. This gives your lower face area an irregular texture that contributes to shape disruption.
You should always have a bandanna or two on your person. A shemagh is a very worthy addition to a coat pocket or rucksac.
I am prone to migraine attacks, and one of the remedies is to breath in carbon dioxide-rich air. Carbon dioxide is a vasodilator so this increased blood flow to the brain. Note that this is not the same as re-breathing from a paper bag. You need to take in fresh oxygen as well as an increased CO2 level. One way to achieve this is to cover your mouth and nose with your hands. This is a little inconvenient, and my fingers get in the way of my glasses. Last night I grabbed my shemagh and knotted it around by lower face. As the migraine attack eased off, I was amused to note that I was wearing the two garments that pretty much summed up my lockdown: a dressing gown and a shemagh.
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Phillosoph

Bogota Lock Pick and Rake Review

I suspect that the readers of my posts on lock-picking fall into two broad camps. The first are those interested in lock sport, and that, like me, are relatively new to the field. The second are those who are not particularly interested in lock sport as a hobby but wish to add a new capability to their repertoire of survival, self-reliance and preparedness skills.
To both groups, I give the same initial advice: If you only ever buy or carry one set of lock picks, it should be the Bogotas!
Euro-twist Bogota lock picks
Euro-twist Bogotas
standard-twist Bogota lock picks
Standard-twist Bogota lock picks
As I have mentioned elsewhere, the Bogotas are the invention of a lock sportsman called “Raimondo”. You may see similar picks under other names, which is often an indication that the maker is trying to avoid copyright and IP.
There are number of options when it comes to Bogotas.
In addition to stainless steel, they can also be found in non-magnetic titanium. Interestingly, some of my steel Bogatas are strongly magnetic, others much less so. More of that later.
“Mini-Bogatas” have a shorter handle. The actual pick part is the same, don’t think these are better suited for smaller locks. Mini-Bogatas can be found in either stainless steel or titanium.
Two-hump and four-hump versions of Bogotas can also be found. I have no personal experience of these, so this article will be about the more commonly found triple and single hump set
Another option you will encounter is “standard” or “euro-twist”. This reflects that in the US cylinder locks are usually mounted with the pins uppermost, while in Europe they can be encountered with the pins down or up. A “euro-twist” Bogata has the humps pointing in the same direction as the handle curves. Even if you are in the USA, I suggest you buy “euro-twist” if you can get them. If you are using the other pick as a turning tool, this lets them curve away from each other, giving you a bit more room. There are also flat “no-twist” Bogotas.
Most paired sets of Bogota picks have handles designed to act as a turning tool for the other. And they work very well for this too! I often reach for them before other turning tools when using other picks. It is possible these handles might serve as shims. Regrettably I do not have any handcuffs to experiment with.
The single hump version can serve as a half-diamond or probably as a hook too. This form is sometimes called a “knuckle” or “p-nuckle”. I’ve not made much use of the single-hump as a hook, but have SPP picked locks using it as a half-diamond. The single hump is also good as a skeleton key for small warded locks and can be used to pick dimple locks.
I have seldom actually needed to use the single hump for SPP, since the triple hump rake is the most consistently performing pick I have used. With the right action, some locks pop in seconds. I have some rakes that open certain locks faster than the Bogotas, but if these do not work the Bogotas usually do the job. I use my Bogota rake more than any other pick I have. My other rakes are mainly for locks that are too small for the Bogota or that I know open faster with another design.
The inventor of the Bogota recommends that the rake be used with a jittery action, “like you have had too much coffee”. The Bogota rake actually lends itself to a variety of techniques. I generally start with a see-saw rocking action that becomes a scrubbing action if the lock does not yield. I guess that might qualify as a jiggling or jittery action. You can also use the Bogota with a zipping action. I have even opened some locks with the rake inverted so that the bumps rather than the peaks contact the pins.
I now have a couple of variants of Bogotas. In addition to my original Dangerfield pair, I have a more conventionally handled version from the Dangerfield Serenity set. I also have some pairs from Mad Bob. The Dangerfields have taken up residence in my lock sport kit, while the Mad Bobs I intend to place in an emergency kit.
The Dangerfield pair are not as flexible as some picks out there, which is a good thing since when you are starting out you may get some locks to open with a lateral jiggle. These Bogatas seem unlikely to bend or break with such applications, although as your finesse develops you tend to drop this technique.
The flat-handled Bogota from the Serenity kit seems more flexible than the other Dangerfields. According to UK Bump Keys, all three are 0.022" (0.558mm). Initially, I found the Serenity Bogata easier to use in the narrow twisty keyway of an SKS lock. This has been cured with practice and I now have no trouble using the stiffer Dangerfields in this lock. I actually prefer these Bogotas over the others I currently have.
The Mad Bob Bogotas are offered in both “standard” and “euro-twist” configurations and in both 0.6mm and 0.8mm thicknesss. Mine are 0.6mm euro-twist. They seem a little more flexible than the paired Dangerfield. That is not a bad thing for narrow keyways once you have learnt to be gentle with your picks. Interestingly, the steel used on the Mad Bobs does not seem to be magnetic, while that on the Dangerfields is. I’d not try taking them through a metal detector, but this might be significant if you plan to magnetize your picks to make an emergency compass.
I have seen it said that Mad Bob picks need additional sanding. The picks I have have no detectable rough spots and the finish seems adequate.
The Mad Bobs are somewhat cheaper than the Dangefields, although this is somewhat offset by the shipping and handling charge the former has. Mad Bob also failed to notify me when the picks were back in stock.
I discovered something interesting while trying out my newly arrived Mad Bobs. My stubborn little Abus padlock refused to open. Usually it opens with a Bogota, although the Octo-rake is quicker. The problem seemed to be with which turning tool I used. Using another Mad Bob Bogata pick as a turner seemed to leave insufficient room inside the small keyway for the rake to rock. When using the Dangerfield and Serenity Bogotas stored in my lock sport kit, I must have used the “L” tool in the kit.
My attempted solution was to cut the handle down to about half an inch (12-13mm). I achieved this by cutting a grove with the cut-off disc of a Dremel, then bending it until it sheared. Use something like the stone of a Dremel to re-shape the end then finish with a needle file and abrasive paper. This increases the pick’s capability as a turning tool but makes it more compact, intermediate between the unmodified pick and the often much more expensive 2" mini-Bogota. Bending the handle to a right angle decreases the overall length further and may make them easier to carry in certain locations. On the other hand, the 60 degree bend of the original may be better at reaching recessed locks, and I am not convinced that shortening the handle has that significant an effect on stowage. If your lock pick kits do not contain a Bogota bent as shown, it is worth making a turning tool with a 60 degree bend.
A Variety of Bogota Lock Picks
Despite these efforts, the Abus won’t open unless certain turning tools are used on it. Specifically, the Dangerfield Bogotas and Sohos or the Serenity L-tool. The Mad Bobs are either thinner or more flexible. They work fine on other locks I have tried, but the Abus remains a baffling exception. I later hit upon a simple solution.
Dangerfield Bogota and batarang lock picks
This image shows some “batarang” rakes (aka w-rakes) that at first glance may appear to be Bogotas. These are from one of my Chinese pick kits, which seem to have been “inspired” by an American brand called “Majestic”. Note that some of them lack the undercutting of some peaks: a feature that strengthens the Bogotas. Also note that the “wavelength” of the peaks is less. They do work, I have opened locks with them, but they are not as good as Bogotas. Incidentally, these particular examples have a number of burrs that could be sanded off, but this is likely to remove the nasty black finish that shows up the brass. I have not experience of genuine Majestic picks but expect they are better finished.
The mirror finish of other picks helps them move around inside a lock and does not show up brass marks like some other pick finishes.
Bogota-like rake made from steel rule
An honourable mention goes to this rake, which is effectively a Bogota without the innovation of the undercuts. The original Bogotas were made from the steel blades from a streetsweeper, illustrating that these are a relatively simple construction project for those with hand tools, material and patience.
Carry options for Bogotas
A pair of Bogotas constitutes a compact but very capable lock-picking capability. In other posts I have shown how a pair can be carried using the spring from a cheap pen. The safety pin lets the pair be carried where they are concealed or most convenient. An alternate method uses a few inches of gutted paracord. A safety pin may be added with a needle and thread.
If you are new to lock-picking, the Bogotas are great for building your confidence and teaching you finesse.
Given their performance, quality and versatility, a pair of Bogotas are great value for money and worth adding to you tool kit, survival kit etc. Newbie or veteran, you should give them a try!