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Picking Small Lock and Tiny Keyways
January 14, 2021
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How to Pick Small Locks & Tiny Keyways

One of the trickiest aspects of learning how to pick a lock is dealing with small keyways. As a general rule, the more room that you have to maneuver your tools in a keyway, the easier that lock will be to pick.

As we can guess, small locks and tiny keyways make things harder for us.

But no worries, whether it be a small padlock or a tiny keyway, this guide will help you fit and maneuver your tools within the tiniest of spaces!

Three Common Approaches to Tiny Keyways

Alright, so before we jump into the best ways to approach small locks and tiny keyways, let's briefly talk about the two dimensions of the keyway and how it affects our picking technique and tools!

These two dimensions are:

  • Width: How much distance there is between the walls of the warding. This mostly affects the type and size of lock pick we should use.
  • Height: How tall the keyway is and affects the type of tensioning tool and lock pick we should consider using.

Keyway - Two Dimensions

When it comes to tight and tiny keyways, there are only two solutions:

  1. We can minimize the space our tools take in the keyway.
  2. We can utilize our tools differently.

Let's look at three common approaches to picking tiny keyways that build upon these two solutions.

1. Change Your Pick

Alright, so the first approach is to reduce the amount of space that your lock picks take up in the keyway.

This can be done in several ways.

The first option is to use lock picks with a slimmer profile—good examples are Peterson's hook 2 or a snake rake.

Small Keyways - Shallow lock picks

The second option is to use lock picks with a "euro shank." Euro lock picks have a reduced shank height giving us more room to leverage them.

Standard vs Euro Lock Pick Profile

Lastly, we can use thinner gauge lock picks called "slenders." Contrary to most advice, using thinner gauge lock picks on tiny keyways should always be your last resort.

A tiny keyway means a higher chance of snagging and breaking your now thinner and more fragile lock pick.

A better alternative to thinner picks is simply more practice. That may seem like a silly and obvious answer, however, challenging yourself to pick tiny keyways with thicker tools is a sure-fire way to skyrocket your skills and your orientation within the lock!

Alright, that's about all we can change with our lock picks, now let's look at the tension wrench.

2. Change Your Tension

Our second approach to picking tiny keyways is reducing the amount of "usable space" that our tension wrench takes up.

The simplest solution here is to position your tensioning tools in a place where it will never interfere with your lock pick—such as at the top of the keyway.

If the keyway is just too small to pick and tension at the same time, a creative option is to epoxy a tensioning tool to the outside of the keyway. This solution may sound ridiculous, however, it works pretty well and gives you the entire keyway to play in!

3. Direct Lifting vs. Leveraging

This last approach will only help you while single pin picking and relates to how you use your picks to lift pins.

There are two main ways to lift a pin. Let's briefly cover each of them!

Direct Lifting

Our first method is to manipulate pins by directly lifting our lock pick. The animation below is an example of direct lifting

Direct lifting helps maximizes the feedback from your pick, however, it comes with a cost. As we can see from the animation above, it takes a lot of room in the keyway to lift a pin.

Leverage Lifting

The alternative to direct lifting is leverage lifting. This occurs when you use the bottom of the keyway, the warding, or even your tension wrench as a pivot point for your pick.

This type of lifting leverages the most out of your lock pick and is the ideal way to approach smaller and tighter keyways.

Note: Now most pickers are unaware that they likely use a combination of lifting and leveraging. However, by intentionally switching to leverage only lifting while picking small keyways, you'll likely find that you can maneuver within the lock much easier.

Best Tiny Practice Locks

ABUS 55/40 - Best Beginner Lock

Alright, so now that we have the knowledge we need to tackle these tiny keyways, let's look at three tiny locks that you can use to reinforce the concepts above and take your picking to the next level!

1. ABUS Titalium 64TI/40

The first tiny training lock that you should consider getting is the Abus Titalium 64TI/40. This is a 40mm lock that includes 4 standard pins and a moderately small keyway.

This is an excellent introduction to tiny keyways and will teach you a lot about bullying pins in tight places.

1. ABUS 55/40

The ABUS 55/40 is an amazing little training lock that has a four-pin core and three nicely cut spool pins. Dealing with the spool pins on this lock will teach you a ton about leverage lifting.

I personally use this as a warm-up lock as it really helps dial in my orientation and precision.

3. ABUS Titalium 64TI/25

Misery, pure misery. But like they say, no pain—no gain.

The ABUS Titalium 64TI/25 is the last and hardest lock on this list only because the keyway is so ridiculously small.

There is not a cheaper and more widely-available lock on the market that will teach you a lot about using your tools in tight places!

Wrapping It Up!

Picking small locks and tight keyways can be one of the most frustrating aspects of learning lock picking. However, by rising to the challenge and taking these tricky locks head-on, we can learn a lot about leveraging the most out of our lock picking tools.

So what are you waiting for? Pick yourself up a small lock and embrace the pain!

I hope that this little guide answered all of your questions. However, if it didn't, please leave those questions in the comments below. Your questions and comments fuel this website and help me better refine my content. Also, be sure to check out my Academy for other lock picking guides like this one!

Happy Picking!

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One comment on “How to Pick Small Locks & Tiny Keyways”

  1. Thank you for the reminders and tips

    Question... On most filing cabinet locks, there is only one way to turn the cylinder plug.
    Is there a way to know by locking at the lock ?

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