Budget Lock Pick

What Are All Those Picks Used For?

I would like to cover budget lock pick sets, but I first felt it necessary to put in my thoughts on the best types of lock picks to look for in a set, and why. This will be more of a guide on the different types of lock picks and their purpose.

All These Picks

So many picks to choose from! So expensive!! What should I buy? Well, let’s answer first why I should buy this or that particular set.

There are essentially 2 different types of picking methods when compromising a pin tumbler lock. We have Single Pin Picking (SPP for short) and Raking. Sure, you can combine the two and it’s called “Bitch Picking” but it’s not a real technique someone should spend too much time on, it’s just something you can do when frustrated, or you have a really cheap lock. Bitch Picking uses luck. SPP and Raking use skill.

Single pin picking is considered the best method as it’s not only more precise, but it also helps develop skills that can be moved over into high-security locks. This is important because there are very few high-security locks that you can open by using the raking method alone. Single pin picking just gives you more control over the lock and provides more feedback to what is happening within the lock.

With single pin picking you’re manipulating each pin individually, one at a time, by lifting them and setting them, or leaving them alone because they don’t want to set, and then moving on to another pin. This can be arduous, to say the least, and there are other factors involved like tension on the torsion wrench (“tensor”, and “tension wrench” are other names for a “torsion wrench”) as well as looking for a binding order. You may also be looking for security driver pins, and possibly in rare situations security key pins. So the single pin picking method has its advantages, as you will run into many different obstacles in every lock.

Raking is considered a “novice” method by many locksport enthusiasts, but locksmiths swear by it, and it’s definitely a go-to method when encountering an everyday pin tumbler lock in the field. This method is also commonly known as “rubbing” or “scrubbing” because you are essentially scrubbing the key pins with your rake pick in a violent back and forth motion, almost like your cleaning the pins inside the lock. By doing this, you are manipulating the key pins and driver pins, while simultaneously applying rotation to the plug with a tension wrench. In time, all the pins will be set at the “shear line” of the lock, and it will open. Note: When the cylinder finally turns inside of the lock, it’s activating the tail-piece, which in turn releases or rotates a latch or deadbolt and allows you to open the door.

Most lock pick sets will consist of picks that are designed to apply the above two techniques (SPP and Raking). The only other picks commonly found in North American lock pick sets, that are not used for single pin picking nor raking, are The Snowman a.k.a. “Double Ball,” The Half Snowman a.k.a. “Single Ball,” the Half Ball, and Double Half Ball picks.

These picks are primarily used for Wafer Locks only. Wafer Locks are not pin tumblers as they do not have pins, but instead flat wafers. These locks are found on cabinets, desks, small money lock boxes, and even glove compartments in cars. However, they are not the same as a vehicle door nor ignition locks that utilize wafers, because they are assembled much differently in that regard, and therefore require different tools and techniques to be manipulated. The Snowman, Half Snowman, Half Ball, and Double Half Ball picks should be only used for single pin picking on Wafer Locks, however, they have been known to be used for raking pin tumblers, but that is not their intended purpose. Additionally, you can just use a normal lifter pick to single pin pick a wafer lock, so there is not really a need to add them to your lock pick set.

 Single Pin Picks

The most common lock pick of choice for single pin picking is the Hook Pick, also know as a Lifter Pick or Short Hook Pick.

Hook Lock Pick

There are honestly at least a dozen variations of the classic Hook Pick. There are Gonzo Hooks, Rocker Hooks, and Rocker Picks to name a few.

Types of Hook Picks

But when it comes to single pin picking, the simpler and smaller the better.

Rake Picks

So now onto Rake Picks. The fact is, a lock doesn’t know if you have a legitimate Bogota styled rake pick, an “S” pick, or a “Z” pick. Nor does the lock know if it has 2 ridges or 3. Raking a lock open isn’t exactly technique as much as it is probability and luck. So the most common rakes you will find can be summed up in 4 styles, all of which work the exact same.

First, there is the oldest style… the S Rake, or better known as the Snake Rake or Squiggly Rake.

Snake Rank Pick

These are most common in HPC and Southord sets as they have been around for over 50 years.

Next is the W Rake, also known as the Z Rake or Triple Rake.

Triple Rake Pick

The above is my favorite style of rake and is found in Peterson Pick Sets and some cheaper sets.

Next, we have a Bogota Rake, designed by Raimundo from the locksport internet forum Lockpicking101 about 10 years ago. He was inspired by the mountains in Bogota, Columbia. Below is a Bogota Rake pick.

Bogota Rake Pick

And lastly, we have the L Rake, also known as a Long Rake, or the City Rake. (This is my second favorite rake pick.)

Long Rake Pick

Other Picks

As previously discussed, the only other picks you should encounter will be the Snowman and Half Snowman picks used for wafer locks. These are better known as the Double Ball, Single Ball, Double Half Ball, and Half Single Ball. Either way, the lock doesn’t know the difference, does it?

Ball Picks

Yes, there are about 50 other picks I did not cover… like the Diamond and Half Diamond picks, or the Deforest pick (Hooked Diamond), or the “King” & “Queen” picks. But guess what, they all do the exact same thing as the picks previously mentioned. They either lift the pin or they rake the pins as a whole. That’s it. No other special tricks!

The only other pick that might do anything remotely different for a pin tumbler lock other than single pin picking and raking, is the Groove Pick, also known as “DCAP Lifter Pick 1″ or“High Reach” pick. It was originally offered by Peterson Lock Picks and now by several other companies such as Sparrows.

The only purpose for that pick is to physically grab the pin for either lifting or rotating it. Some high-security locks require the pins to be rotated before being lifted to the sheer line. That usually means you’re probably picking a high-security lock such as Medeco, and you’re dealing with a high-security pin tumbler lock. These locks are not very common and I will not go into further detail on that lock or tool right now. However you can argue that the Groove Pick is great for single pin picking, and that’s totally fine because, in the end, it’s just another hook pick with a small groove cut out in the tip.

Groove Pick

So that’s it. All you really need are two picks. One for single pin picking and one for raking. If you want to have a complete set, then add a ball pick in case you run into any nasty wafer locks, but you could just use your common lifter pick on that with some practice.

Be sure to keep an eye out for my next article where I will cover some budget lock pick sets that include the picks mentioned here.

Question or Comment?

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I just want to let you know that I would like to say thank you. I’m sorry to say that I have been fighting like crazy for a pick set of any kind to start with, and once the time came to really touch base with the first pick sets out of the box. I have to say that you can say it was a little bit of a FUCK OFF FEELING I got from the start being that I knew nothing about the arrangement style ANYTHING. and was a little bit overwhelmed. Your site. Put me at immediate and… Read more »


I would just prefer nobody use it lol

Jason D Trammell

Your article was very informative. I got just the information I was after, with no fluff or bullshit. A rare thing on the net these days. I thank you very much for your “to the point” writing style.


I totally agree. Very well said.


Great site and great advice. I was looking for the different uses of the diamond pick (which is my go-to). Just didn’t know the reason for the difference in size, but like you said they all do the same thing so I guess it doesn’t really matter lol.


Just wanted to say thank you for this website and all the interesting fact and as stated below ” No bullshit and no Fluff”. It’s very refreshing. All of a sudden I was looking at a website Budk.com and noticed that they have a lock picking set for emergencies as I am already stocking up for years and other things, in case of anything crazy happens. I’ve noticed that I wouldn’t mind having a bit of a challenge in working on something like this. If I can work and build and fix computers, why not try something else, Nothing wrong… Read more »

Dewey Landrum

Finally, an explanation of the picks and what they’re used for. Thank you!


I was in a security command in the Army. We were taught lock picking and field-expedient tools. I had the most luck with a torsion bar, double ended in size, and a half-diamond that I made.
We would see who could pick locks that fastest.
In the field, if you see your lock was damaged or cut, you will change your codes and times. So, a clean picking is necessary.


What Are the different types of tension bars and there uses?

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