When we are approaching a new lock what direction do we turn the lock? Do we turn them clockwise or counter-clockwise?
This is a great question because picking a lock and finding that you tensioned it in the wrong direction can cause more heartache than a thousand breakups.
This is a relatively short guide, however, if you would like to learn more about lock picking, be sure to check out my Academy here for more lock picking guides!
Which Way To Tension
This is a really hard question to answer because there are no set standards for the direction that specific types of locks turn. However, when it comes to picking pin tumblers, there are some general rules of thumb that we can use as a guide.
Padlocks will open clockwise (right) and some will even open in both directions—such as laminated Master locks like the #3 or #5.
So your best bet with padlocks is to always try tensioning clockwise first.
Deadbolts will always open in the direction away from the bolt, or that is towards the hinges of the door.
So with deadbolts just remember tension towards the hinges and away from where the bolt jams into the door frame.
Mortise locks will typically open towards the latching mechanism.
So if the latching mechanism points to the left, the cylinder must be picked in that direction as well.
These ones are really a crapshoot.
In my experience, most Kwiksets will open counterclockwise and most Schlage locks will turn clockwise.
Beyond that, I have never truly identified a standard so with these types of locks I always try clockwise first.
If you do end up picking a lock in the wrong direction, typically the plug will turn… but not very far before it stops.
There is also a nifty little tool out there called a plug spinner — such as the Peterson Plug Spinner — for those unfortunate moments.
These tools are spring-loaded and will quickly snap the plug in the opposite direction fast enough so that the pins don't drop. Here is a video on those if you are curious!