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5 Ways to Open a Lock With a Knife

How to Pick a Lock With a Knife
Last Updated on February 11, 2022
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Is it possible to pick a lock with a knife?

The simple answer is... kind of.

Lock picking is a craft of manipulating the tiny internal components of a lock through an itty-bitty keyhole. It is a task of precision and agility – which is sadly two qualities that a knife cannot provide.

Because knives are fairly bulky objects whose only point of precision is at the tip of their shank, they struggle in providing the accurate lifting action that is needed to pick locks. That is if they can fit in the keyhole at all.

However, this doesn't mean that knives are completely worthless tools for picking locks. There are some unique methods that we can take advantage of to open a locked door with a knife!

So let's get into it and cover five nifty little methods on how to pick a lock with a knife!

Note: The first three methods in this guide can be considered lock picking, as their goal is to manipulate the internal components of the lock. However, the last two are not considered lock picking, but are instead methods of bypassing that exploit other potential flaws in the lock or door!

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Method 1: Stick and Wiggle

In traditional lock picking, there are two tools used to pick a lock – a tension wrench that applies rotational torque to the lock and a lock pick that manipulates the pins.

In this first method, we are going to try to use the knife as both the tension wrench and the pick! Now to use this method, the blade of the knife has to be smaller than the keyway and able to fit into the lock without significantly lifting the pins. If this is not the case, you may wish to move on to another method in this guide.

The goal of Stick and Wiggle is to wiggle the pins up into position – much like we do with a rake type of lock pick!

The Step-By-Step

To pick a lock with a knife, begin by inserting your knife as far into the lock as you can – until you feel the tip hit the back of the lock.

Next, apply a very light turning force on the knife just like if you are trying to turn to a key. This slight rotation on the lock's core will apply a binding force to the pins and allow us to raise and set them at the shear line – otherwise said, the pins will sit and stay at the height that the correct key would raise them to.

Now it's time to wiggle!

How to Pick a Lock With a Knife Animation

Gently begin to rock your knife up and down while moving it slightly in and out of the lock. Continue to do this for 10 to 15 seconds.

If the lock doesn't open, restart the process by releasing the rotational force on the lock allowing any of the pins that you may have set to drop. Reapply the rotational force and try again.

Be sure to play around and apply different degrees of force when lifting the pins and rotating the knife. When picking a lock with rocking like motion, you'll typically find more success with lighter forces.

So be gentle, and best of luck!

Method 2: Getting a Little Help

How to use a knife as a tension wrench to pick a lock

In this next method, we're going to ask for a little help.

Rather than trying to use the knife as both the turning tool and the pick, this time, we are going to use it only as a turning tool.

We will then request the aid of another object to use as our pick – such as an actual lock pick, bobby pin, paperclip, or any other stiff and thin object that can fit in the keyway.

However, this also means that we need enough room above the knife to maneuver our improvised lock pick!

The image to the right—or above if you're reading this on a phone – is an excellent example of how to use a knife as a tensioning tool and still have room to insert a pick.

Just be careful not to cut yourself!

The Step-By-Step

Begin by inserting your knife into the bottom of the keyway – like shown above – and applying a very light rotational force.

Next, take your lock pick – or whatever improvised tool you may be using – and insert it fully into the lock.

Begin to raise your pick until it slightly lifts the pins and then quickly jerk the pick out of the lock so that your pick pull across all the pins. This method of picking is called zipping, and its purpose is to strike the pins with enough force to throw them up into the lock.

Give the lock 4 or 5 good zips and if it doesn't open, restart the process by releasing the rotational force on the lock to drop any pins that you may have set. Reapply the force and try again.

Like before, be sure to apply different degrees of force when rotating the knife.

SUPER IMPORTANT: In this method, you are quickly moving your hand near the edge of a knife. Be very careful not to cut yourself, and if you can, cover the blade with a small piece of cloth or folded paper. Alternatively, find something else to use as a turning tool, such as a screwdriver, bobby pin, or ever the tip of another key. Picking a lock with a knife is not worth a bunch of stitches.

Method 3: Put Your Knife on a Diet

Alright, so this next method requires a little more planning and probably isn't something that you want to do with that $100 set of steak knives.

Rather than trying to use a big bulky knife to pick a lock and deal with all the problems that come with it, why don't we instead turn our knife into a lock pick?

With a little elbow grease, a couple of good metal files like these, and some quality time, you can create for yourself a masterpiece that will absolutely slaughter locks – and look pretty cool in the process!

Check out this awesome little creation by @can_i_nap_first (Instagram)

Lock Pick Swiss Army Knife

The Step-By-Step

Like most things, planning typically spawns the best results.

Start by determining how you want your knife-pick to look and if you need some inspiration, check out our guide on the different types of lock picks!

Next, take a marker and draw the shape of your pick on the knife so that you have a clear idea of how much metal you want to shave off.

Free handing is perfectly fine, but drawing some guidelines is always a sure way to make sure you don't grind away too much. You can always shave off more metal later, but you can't put it back on!

It's time to get physical. 

Start by filing away the extra metal around your template, being extra careful not to cut yourself while working on the blade. As you get closer to your marked lines, be a little more gentle and cautious of how much you file away. Try to keep the edges of your pick as smooth as possible!

Now depending on the thickness of the knife, you may have to thin out your pick by also filing down the sides. If you can get the blade of your new lock pick thinner than a US quarter, you'll be in solid shape to tackle most locks!

If you want to go one step further, you can also put a beautiful polish on your new pick with some different grits of sandpaper! Polishing your pick will help reduce friction while it is in the lock and let your pick perform much better!

Once your pick is complete, check out our beginner's guide to lock picking to learn how to pick a lock with your new and improved knife!

Alright, that's all the ways that I know how to pick a lock with a knife. Now let's look at some other ways to use a knife to bypass a lock or door using other possible exploits beyond picking!

Method 4: Shimmy Me Timbers

This method of bypassing is the same technique that we use when bypassing a lock with a credit card and will only work on slanted-latch style locks – like those found on most doors.

To pick a lock with a knife, you need to attack slant locks like this one

Furthermore, the slant of the latch must be facing you so that you leverage it into the door with your knife!

By just looking at the door, there are three ways that we can determine if this method can work.

  1. There is no deadbolt: Deadbolts work by throwing a metal rod into the door frame that can only be disengaged through the locking mechanism. If the door has a deadbolt, this method will not work.
  2. The slant of the latch must be facing you: In this method, we have to push in the latch with our knife. This can only be done if the slant is facing us. The best way to determine this is if the hinges that hold the door are on the other side of the door. If they are, the slant is facing you. However, if the hinges are on your side of the door, the next method will serve you better!
  3. Nothing is restricting you from reaching the slant: The last requirement is that you can reach the latch with your knife. If there is a ton of molding or metal plates that stop you from squeezing your blade between the door and the frame, this method is worthless.

However, if you meet all three of these requirements, you'll likely find success with this method!

The Step-By-Step

Shimming the latch is extremely simple and won't take very long to figure out if it is going to work!

Take your knife, and at the exact height of the doorknob, insert it between the crack of the door and the doorframe.

Probe around until you feel a hunk of metal extruding out of the door—this is the latch, and it should feel springy!

Leverage your knife and push the latch into the door. If there is no other lock present, the door will swing open!

Easy said, easy done!

Method 5: Jimmy Some Bolts

First off, if the hinges of your door are on the outside – that is the side that you use a key – , you've got bigger problems than being locked out.

While mistakes happen, having your hinges on the outside of your door is an open invitation to many burglars and low-lives looking for a quick and easy way to access your home. If this represents one of your doors, I would highly recommend getting this fixed!

Regardless, this method of bypassing is extremely straightforward but can require a little physical effort.

The Step-By-Step

Take your knife and begin to wedge it between the top of the bolt and the base of the hinge.

Slowly and carefully wiggle the knife until you begin to create a gap underneath the head of the bolt. If you can get the bolt this far and create a noticeable gap, you can safely assume the bolt is loose enough to jimmy the rest of the way out of the hinge.

However, before you waste time pulling the first bolt entirely out, see if you can even move the other bolts. If you can successfully move all three enough to make a gap, then you are likely in the clear and can get to work removing them!

One final tip! As you remove bolts, more pressure will be placed on the remaining ones making them harder to move. So don't fully remove any of the bolts until they are all almost out!

Note: It won't always be possible to use a knife to leverage a bolt out of a hinge. Sometimes these bolts don't want to move. If you see a ton of corrosion, paint, or other gunky crap covering the hinge, you may be in for some trouble. Additionally, some bolts are pinned in and can only be removed with pliers and a hammer.

To Conclude

There you have it! Five different ways to pick a lock with a knife!

While not the best tool for the job, a knife is certainly not the worst and goes to prove that if you bang your head against a problem long enough, a solution will always present itself!

However, a good set of lock picking tools will always be significantly better at getting the job done!

That being said, just be careful not to cut yourself and have some fun!

If you liked this guide, have any comments or questions, or even have your own method of picking a lock with a knife, throw it down in the comments below!

As always, Happy Picking!

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