Sunday, December 07, 2008

an introduction to lock picking

yesterday was awesome. i spent the afternoon picking locks in a spy shop in skokie.

we've got a pretty healthy lockpicking contingent at our 2600 meeting here in fact, the meeting is concurrent the chicago meeting of toool, the open organization of lockpickers. i had tried picking a lock at a previous meeting, but never really done much with it--and got very frustrated, because i could not get a supposedly easy lock open to save my life. i didn't pick any locks at the meeting friday night, but i overheard that one of the lockpickers at the meeting worked at u-spy, a store in skokie that sold spy gadgets and lockpicking equipment. i had been batting around the idea of getting some lock picks for a while, since i thought there'd be no way i'd ever get decent at picking locks if the only practice i got was at the 2600 meetings. i didn't have anything planned for yesterday, so i decided to go up there and see what they had.

even the ride to and from skokie was awesome. if it had been a weekday, i would have been able to take the train, but the skokie swift does not run on weekends. however, there were buses that got me to within about half a mile of the store. the bus rides were gorgeous. snow was falling. i saw snowy houses, snowy shops, snowy parks, snowy groves of trees...i highly recommend taking a long bus ride on a snowy day, because you'll see so many breathtakingly beautiful scenes.

i had a blast at the store, as well. i was in there for an hour and a half. the guy from the 2600 meeting was there, and he gave me a detailed tutorial about how locks worked, and some basic techniques for picking them. it turned out the biggest reason i couldn't get the lock open a few months ago was that i was pressing down really hard on the tension wrench--if you put any more than the lightest pressure on it, the pins inside the lock will get stuck in weird positions, and the lock will never open. i got the hang of how little pressure to put on that, and then i started to see some success. i was playing with a board of four locks: two easier ones, and two harder ones. i got the two easy ones open several times in rapid successsion, which made me feel good. even one of the harder ones i got open several times quickly, which gave me a boost of confidence. one of the hard ones took me about forty-five minutes to figure out, but i eventually got all four locks on the board open.

i was having interesting conversations with people in the store while i was picking, and i even taught a middle-school-aged kid who came into the store the things i had learned about locks that day. after i explained all of that to him, he was able to get the two easier locks on the board open. that felt pretty good, that i was able to explain what i had learned well enough to teach someone else how to do what i was doing.

i finally left after about an hour and a half. it was a long way back from skokie on the buses, and i wanted to get back to chicago before it got too dark. i bought a set of lock picks, and he gave me a lock to practice on. [yes, i have managed to open it several times...yay!] i want to pick up a few more practice locks today at the hardware store around the corner.

my goal is to be able to pick my apartment lock. it's probably going to be tough, since it's hard enough to get open with my key. however, it would be awesome to figure my own lock out...not to mention convenient, if i am an idiot and leave my keys at home.


sabrebutt said...

I've had to pick my apartment lock open before. Boy does that suck.

Eric Allix Rogers said...

After all my lockouts, maybe I ought to go learn and pick up some lock picks, too. Are they pricey?

nicolle said...

eric: they're not particularly pricey. the set i got ran me about thirty bucks. there are ones at the store starting at twenty bucks, but i got the more expensive one because it had a couple more picks in it, and they were a little heavier-duty...good for a noob like me who would probably break a thinner set.

Megan said...

omg teach me!

nicolle said...

i'll have to show you next time we see each other! :)