Home All Outdoors How to Pick a Lock With a Knife: Top Methods & Steps

How to Pick a Lock With a Knife: Top Methods & Steps

How to Pick a Lock With a Knife: Top Methods & Steps

If you want to learn how to pick a lock with a knife, you have come to the right place. 

The secret to traditional lock picking lies in the manipulation of small components through an itty-bitty keyhole.

However, because of its size and structure, a simple sharpened knife is not the best tool for the job. That said, there are effective and reliable methods you can use.

There are four different ways to pick a lock with a knife in case you get locked out.

Before we get to them, we must first talk about the different locking mechanisms available.

Different Types of Locks

The success or failure of your lock-picking technique depends largely on the lock mechanism in place.

So, before anything else, let us take a closer look at the common types of high-quality door locks today.

Knob Locks

This type of lock is the most common, and there’s a good chance this is what you have on your door.

It features a cylindrical lock that sits on the doorknob instead of the door, distinguishing it from other locks.

In some brands, you need a key to engage the locking mechanism.

For others, there is a button lock on the inner side, and you just need to push it to lock your door.

There are also a few locksets with keyways on both sides, and you can lock or unlock it from either one.

Knob locks are considered low-level locks and are not good options for external doors.  

Cam Locks

This type of lock features a fastener and an attached arm, which works as the cam. It is a component that converts rotary motion into linear motion. 

The cam is connected to a cylindrical locking mechanism. You just have to rotate it if you want to lock the door.

While it is not unusual to see a cam lock on a door, it is more commonly used on vending machines, cabinets, and desks.

In some installations, the cam lock is not readily visible, making it even more effective in safeguarding the contents of a cabinet.

Deadbolt Locks

If you are looking for a higher level of security, you should consider the deadbolt lock. It is a type of lock you mount to the door, similar to a cam or cylindrical lock.

What sets it apart is the bolt. When locked, the deadbolt extends as much as one inch into the door frame.

Once in this position, it’s almost impossible to force it back by applying pressure at its end.

This feature makes it less susceptible to hand tools like bulky knives or even pocket knives.

Mortise Locks

Mortise locks are very powerful locks, especially if you use them on heavy-gauge metal doors.

They can house either a knob or a lever and are safer than using cylindrical locks alone.

That is because it contains a recessed or mortised box lock secured by a set screw and a cam. This system creates the locking mechanism.

Moreover, there is a cylindrical component that comes at varying heights to suit different types of doors.

Note that the mortised part of the door becomes weaker, so this type of lock is not ideal for wood doors.

Drop-Bolt Locks

In this type of lock, the strike plate and the body of the drop bolt have interlocking leaves. The mechanism looks a bit like a door hinge when in the lock position. 

When closed, lock pins inside the body drop down into matching holes in the strike plate, securing the door.

The pins and the strike plate essentially become one unit, which is very hard to separate or break apart.

Keypad Locks

Keypad door locks come with a numerical keypad and typically use deadbolt locks, mortise locks, or knob locks as locking mechanisms.

They can be powered by a battery, or they can use a mechanical system.

Keypad locks allow entry without a key, and most brands accommodate multiple custom codes.

This feature is handy for building managers who want to restrict access to a building.

That said, they also usually come with keyholes as alternative unlocking mechanisms. This is an important feature in case the system fails.

Smart Security Locks

Smart locks are electronic door locks that enable or restrict entry in many different ways.

They often come with a keypad and a keyhole, but you can unlock them with your phone or a key fob.

Most brands connect to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and you can also integrate them into your home automation system.

Note that they require power, and you need to replace their batteries regularly.

How To Pick a Lock With a Knife

Before we discuss how to pick a lock with a knife, we must lay down a few ground rules.

Firstly, understand that you can’t use any of these methods on smart locks and keypad locks.

If you get locked out by this locking system, it is better to wait for someone with the code or access.

Next, use a knife blade only as a last resort. A steak knife, chef knife, butter knife or cheese knife is not the best tool for the job. 

So, if you know someone who owns a Peterson knife tool or something similar, try using that instead.

Finally, you must only use these methods on your own property. Breaking and entering is a serious offense that could land you in jail.

With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at some of the usual methods of lock picking using a knife.

Method 1

The favorite method of professional lock pickers involves using two tools.

One is designed to apply a rotational force on the lock, while the other manipulates the pins. The right knife can do both jobs at the same time.

In this technique, make sure your knife blade is smaller than the keyway.

You wouldn’t want to shift the pins too much out of place, or else this method wouldn’t work.

The first step is to insert the knife into the keyway as far as possible. Ideally, it should hit the back of the lock.

Once you have done this, turn the knife as if you were turning a key. You can do this by applying light pressure as you rotate the knife blade. 

Next, rock the knife up and down as you move it in and out of the lock. Perform this step for 10 to 15 seconds.

If the lock does not disengage, take out the knife and repeat the process using a different amount to force.

Method 2

If the first method does not work, try delegating the role of a lock pick to another tool. A bobby pin or a flattened paper clip will do just fine.

You can keep using the knife as the tension wrench to rotate the lock and shift the pins with the other tool.

To do this, insert the knife into the keyhole and rotate the lock while applying a light force.

Next, insert the clip or bobby pin all the way into the lock. From this position, raise the clip or improvised pick to lift the lock pins.

Finally, pull out the clip or pick quickly in a jerking motion and try to hit all the pins along the way. Repeat this step four to five times. 

If the lock does not disengage, take out the knife to reset the pins and do everything again from the start.

Apply varying degrees of rotational force using your knife with every fresh attempt.

Method 3

Many have managed to open stubborn locks using the first two methods. However, success is by no means guaranteed.

If you failed in your attempts with the previous techniques, you might need to take more drastic measures.

One is by turning your knife into an actual lock pick. As expected, this requires a bit more patience and some elbow grease.

That said, if you put in the time and effort, you will have a reliable tool for your next door-related emergency.

The first step is to use a marker to outline the shape of a lock pick on your knife blade. Next, remove the extra metal using a grinder or similar equipment.

Switch to a file once you get close to your markings. If the knife blade is too thick, file out the sides and sand out the rough surfaces.

Method 4

The fourth method is a crude technique that will only work for doors with cheap locks. These locking mechanisms do not have deadbolts extending into the door frame. 

Another requirement is that the slant of the latch is facing you and that you can access it with your knife.

If your door meets all of these conditions, then you might be able to unlock it quickly.

The first thing you need to do is insert your knife inside the gap between the door and the frame. Make sure it is at the same height as the doorknob. 

Probe around with the knife and look for the latch. Once you feel it, push it back into the door. This should open the door if there are no other locks present.

Here’s a short video you can check out:

Different Types of Lock Pick

As mentioned, the knife is not the best tool for lock picking. Your best bet in this situation is an actual lock pick.

Some might think that investing in these tools is a bit of an overkill. 

That said, knowing the other types of lock pick might give you a better idea of how to pick a lock with a knife.

Here’s a rundown of the different types of lock picks. 

Short Hook

There are two main techniques for picking locks: single pin picking (SPP) and raking. 

The short hook is the first of three types of SPP lock picks. It features a pointed hook you can use to manipulate one lock pin at a time.

However, it is not suitable for systems where the short-cut pins you are trying to work are shielded by longer pins.

Setting the short pins into the shear line would be difficult in this situation, especially for newbies.

Deep Hooks

This lock pick comes with an extended hook, addressing the shortcomings of the previous type.

It is the go-to tool for lockpickers dealing with systems that have heavy warding and paracentric keyholes.

However, note that deep hooks are a bit bulky compared to short hooks. Also, it is not good for much else other than picking locks with single pins.

Between the short hook and this lock pick, the short hook is more useful.

Still, any lockpicker worth their salt would tell you that no lock pick set is complete without a deep hook.

Offset Hook

Short hooks are easy to maneuver but have limited reach, whereas deep hooks provide extra reach but are harder to control.

The offset hook combines the best of both worlds.

This type of lock pick features a slight curve at the tip of the shaft, “offsetting†the hook.

It allows you to pivot and rotate around pin stacks without sacrificing your ability to move the pick.

Scrubbing Rakes

Scrubbing rakes fall in the second category of lock picking.

As its name implies, you use a scrubbing motion to bounce the pins into the shear line and release the lock.

Rocking Picks

This type of pick is a gentler version of the scrubbing rake. You can change its angle slowly within the keyhole to get the pins into the shear line.

Zipping Picks

Zipping picks use a more explosive method where you vigorously bounce the pins by yanking the rake out quickly.

A Useful Skill for Emergencies

For some people, learning how to pick a lock with a knife might seem unnecessary. In truth, it is a valuable skill that could come in handy in case you get locked out.

Virtually every home has a knife, but only a few people have lockpicks at home. So, make do with what you have and practice any of these methods today.

It might not be as useful a skill as learning how to change a car tire, but who knows? It might just be what saves the day if you ever find yourself locked out.


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