Interview with the Lock Picking Lawyer

Lock Sport Interview

Alongside practicing law, the Lock Picking Lawyer also runs one of the most popular, most viewed, and most respected lock picking YouTube Channels out there. With almost half a million viewers, he is a force that inspires both newcomers and seasoned pickers alike.  Learn more about his journey into lock picking and his opinions regarding the craft with our exclusive interview with none other but the Lock Picking Lawyer.

Q: Let’s start this interview off by telling us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living, and how are you involved with the locksport community?

“It’s funny how often people ask, “are you really a lawyer?”  The answer is “yes.”  I’m a 37 year old practicing attorney from the Washington, D.C. area.  The focus of my law practice has nothing to do with locks or security.  On a far more limited basis, I also help my wife run a ballroom dance studio, a ballroom dance competition, and a cancer charity.

How am I involved in the locksport community?  My main contact with the community is through the Lock Picking Lawyer YouTube channel.  YouTube is an inherently social platform, so that has led to me developing relationships with many people all over the world who are involved in the community in different ways.  Hobby pickers, locksmiths, pick makers, and lock makers are among the people I speak with almost every day.”

Q: What got you into lock picking?

“I’ve been fascinated with locks since I was a little kid.  I even tried lock picking when I was in middle school.  But I was flying blind.  My only resource was Ted the Tool’s MIT Guide to Lock Picking (which was relatively new back then) and my homemade picks were absolutely terrible.  It’s probably for the best that I was pretty terrible back then, because there’s no doubt that I would have gotten into trouble.  After several months of consistent failure, I abandoned my efforts.

Many years later, I happened across BosnianBill’s YouTube channel, and my fascination with lock picking was reignited.  After a couple weeks of watching his videos (and those of many other lock picking YouTubers) during every spare moment, I decided to try picking again.  I ordered a set of picks, and dove in head first.  This time around was different.  It turned out that I had a real knack for it.  About four months later, I started my YouTube channel.”

Q: Who were some of the people in the locksport community that you really looked up to or aspired to be as good as when you first started?

“That’s easy to answer:  BosnianBill.  The list is short only because I didn’t really know of anyone when I got started.  There is a long list of talented and inspirational pickers in the community, but I didn’t know who they were until much later.  In retrospect, that may have been a good thing.  My separation from the larger community allowed me to develop my own less conventional style of picking that might never have come to pass had I more exposure to the locksport community.”

Q: Some of our readers are curious as to what tools you have in your “go-to” pick set. Can you tell us in detail about what you carry in your kit? 

“My fingers are getting tired just thinking about typing the entire set out.  My “go to” set is actually quite large – roughly 90 tools right now.  Before I list them, here’s a word of explanation.  Beyond my “go to” set, I have more picks than I care to admit – largely because I have tried darn near everything, and selected what works best for me.  The picks that made the cut are in a Sparrows “Sherman” case that is absolutely packed… and while there are many picks in the case, know that if it’s in my case, I think it’s useful.  There’s no fluff.  I’m constantly taking less used tools out and replacing them with something new that I found useful, but as of writing this, here’s what’s in the case:

TENSION:
.050” Peterson Prybar
.050” Peterson Toothless Prybar
.040” Peterson Prybar
.040” Peterson Toothless Prybar
.032” Sparrows Prybar
.025” Sparrows Prybar
Peterson “Flat Five” set
Sparrows Wiper Insert Z Bars (2 each of all 3 sizes)
USALockPicks Tubular Lock Tension Tool
Peterson SFIC “Control Line” Tensioner Set (3 tools)
6 Assorted Chinese Dimple Lock Z Bars

HOOKS:
Peterson #1 Hook in .025”
Peterson #1 Hook in .018”
Peterson #1 Hook in .015”
Peterson #4 Hook in .025”
Peterson #7 Hook in .018”
Peterson #7 Hook in .015”
Sparrows SSDev 3 Hook Set (w/ handles)
Sparrows Short Hook in .015” (w/ handle)
Sparrows Short Hook in .025” (w/ handle)
Sparrows Deep Hook in .015” (w/ handle)
SouthOrd Max Short Hook in .023”
SouthOrd Max Medium Hook in .023”
SouthOrd Max Deep Hook in .023”
SouthOrd Slimline Short Hook
SouthOrd Slimline Medium Hook
SouthOrd Slimline Deep Hook
Peterson Gem in .018”

RAKES:
Sparrows Triple Peak (w/ handle)
Sparrows Worm (w/ handle)
Mad Bob’s Prince
Mad Bob’s Princess
Peterson Shallow Boggie in .018”
Peterson Deep Boggie in .018”
Sparrows King
Sparrows Queen
Sparrows Rook
Sparrows Knight

DIMPLE:
SpooXe Small Flat Flag
SpooXe Small Offset Right Flag
SpooXe Small Offset Left Flag
SpooXe Small Curved Right Flag
SpooXe Small Curved Left Flag

OTHER PICKS:
The Entire Sparrows .020” Lineup – 9 Picks (currently under evaluation)
SouthOrd Slimline Small Half Diamond
Peterson Half Diamond in .025”
Peterson Half Diamond in .015”
Peterson Warded Pick Set
Sparrows Wafer Lock Jiggler Set
2 Odd Picks that Defy Description

BYPASS/MISC:
Peterson Plug Spinner/Flipper
Sparrows Quick Jim
Peterson Saw Tooth Broken Key Extractor
Peterson Knife
Peterson Mini Knife
Screw type Broken Key Extractor
Peterson Padlock Bypass Tool”

Q: In your videos, you seem to be able to pick open dimple locks with ease. What is your favorite pick set to use on dimple locks? What are some good beginner dimple locks someone can start with?

“This is a question that requires some background to answer.  When I just started picking, I was terrified of dimple locks and avoided them.  I had built them up in my mind as these super-high security locks that mere mortals should avoid.  Then I received two dimple euro cylinders in a trade:  an Abus D6 and an Abus D10 (featured in my videos Abus D6 Euro Cylinder Picked and Gutted and Abus D10 SKG** Euro Cylinder Picked and Gutted).  For those of you who are familiar with these locks, you know that they have a pretty tight keyway.  At that time, the only dimple tools I had were part of a Goso pick set.  But none of those picks would even turn in the keyway.  So I got to modifying one of the picks to fit in the tight Abus keyway… contouring the flag, rounding the shaft, rounding the corners, polishing everything, etc.  Once I was done with my modifications, I was pleasantly surprised – actually stunned – at how quickly I opened those two Abus’s.  That gave me the confidence to try other dimple locks.  But the only other dimple locks I had were a Mul-T-Lock Interactive and a Mul-T-Lock Jr.  So I tried them, and was again, pleasantly surprised that they were not as bad as I had imagined in my head.  After that, my love of picking dimple locks was firmly set.

In retrospect, I think that starting on that tight Abus keyway was a true stroke of luck.  Had I started with “easier” dimple keyways, I may not have modified my picks right away.  It wasn’t until several months later when I broke my first dimple pick that I appreciated exactly how important the modifications that I made were.  I tried using an unmodified pick and I was instantly unable to pick even the easiest of dimple locks.  That led me to the conclusion that there are serious problems with darn near every dimple pick on the market.  Chief among them are square (or flat) pick shafts.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a square shaft is not going to turn smoothly in a square hole (keyway).  Yet for some reason (probably cost), every pick maker produces dimple picks with square (or flat) shafts.  This is my long way of saying that I don’t think there are currently any really good sets of dimple picks on the market.  The picks I am currently using are from a German company called SpooXe.  They appear to be Chinese Goso picks that have been hand finished to correct many of the problems shared by most other picks.  If I had to recommend one set, that would be it.  That said, I know that there are new products coming to market soon, so keep your eyes peeled!  In addition to the picks, tensioning dimple locks is an important part of the equation.  For my most recent thoughts on the best dimple tension tools and techniques, see my recent videos Special Considerations in Tensioning Dimple Locks and Banggood 14 Piece Tension Tool Set Review.

As for starter dimple locks, that’s hard to say.  I’d go with whatever is most common wherever you are.  I’d stick with 6 pin locks with keyways that are not too complex.  Yale, Yardeni, Abus, Cisa, Master, Iseo, and many other companies have locks that fall into this category.”

Q: What are some locks you are working on at the moment? Are there any locks that you just absolutely cannot open?

“Well, recently I have been spending a great deal of time on Mul-T-Lock’s MT5+ system.  If you watch my channel, you will see those efforts are now bearing fruit, so it’s probably time to move on to something else.  The locks that I will likely concentrate on are Primus and Medeco, if only because they are among the most common high security locks in the US market.  I also regularly spend time with BiLocks, ASSA Twins, and some of the high pin count Kaba’s (Expert, Quattro, 20, etc.), but they are lower down on my priority list… I mostly work on them for a change in pace.  I also have an ongoing fascination with the Ingersoll 10 lever lock…  I find them challenging to pick and mechanically intriguing.

As for what I can’t open (yet) – the list is very, very long so I can’t even begin to list them all.  I will note, however, that I’ve never even tried any of the supposed “unpickable” locks… the  Abloy Protec, the EVVA MCS, etc.  I have no reason to think that I would have any more luck than others who have attempted them.  Maybe someday I’ll try to climb those mountains, but they are not even on my radar right now.  I also have not spent any time working on the newer electro-mechanical systems.”

Q: In your opinion, how has the Locksport community changed over the years? Where would you like to see it go from here?

“Hobby picking has found its way into the mainstream over the last 20 years.  As I noted above, there was very little in the way of resources available to aspiring hobby pickers when I made my first attempts at picking.  Today, resources are abundant and newcomers to the hobby are in much better shape than their counterparts from 20 years ago.  I have tried to add to that knowledge base where I’ve seen gaps in the resources available.  My hope is that those who come after me will have an even smoother learning curve.  The explosion in popularity of hobby picking has also fueled lots of innovation in locksport tools, and greatly increased the availability of those tools to the public.

As for the future, I’d love to see the continued growth in the ranks of hobby pickers.  But what gets me really excited are the unique ideas that new blood will bring to the community.  Never in history have so many people openly practiced picking and shared their ideas with such a wide and public audience.  Hopefully this critical mass of enthusiasts will result in more “outside the box” thinking and more people attacking the higher security locks.  It will be exciting to see how we, as a community, continue to redefine the term “unpickable.”

Q: Finally, what is your favorite beer to drink while picking locks?

“I haven’t really been much of a beer drinker since law school.  That said, I definitely drink while picking.  If you’ve seen one of my videos, chances are that right off camera is a glass of scotch or Irish whiskey.  My favorites right now are Lagavulin 16 for Scotch whiskey and Bushmills 21 for Irish whiskey… but I’m not that picky.  My “favorite” is often influenced by what’s on sale.”

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