Spool Pin False Set

Why do spool pins make locks harder to pick than regular pins? Because the narrow waist of the pin will get stuck at the shear line binding the lock so it can’t turn any further.

The good news is this only happens once the other pins in the lock are already lifted to the shear line. Assuming a lock has only one spool pin,


you’re almost there once the spool pin gets bound. You can feel this happening because the lock plug will rotate slightly when it happens. Unlike the barely noticeable rotation and click when a regular pin reaches the shear line – the binding of a spool pin is much more obvious. The rotation is enough that you can see the plug has turned a little – but just a little.

So what do you do when a spool pin has bound and the lock rotates that tiny bit before becoming helplessly stuck? Continue to lift the spool pin slowly while letting the lock rotate backward as the pin is lifted. If you’re slow and careful enough (and lucky enough), the spool pin will reach the shear line without the other pins dropping back to the locked condition.

If you’re not lucky enough and some of the other pins drop, that’s okay. Now that the spool pin is at the correct height, you can continue to single-pin-pick the lock normally.

Spool pins are tough to overcome but they are a common feature of many different locks today and the hobby lock picker will come across them fairly regularly in the real world.


Spy Swag

international-spy-museumWe had an opportunity to visit the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. last week. The museum was definitely worth the visit if you’re ever in the nation’s capital. It’s only a couple of blocks from Chinatown which makes it convenient for an interesting day of spy swag and lo mein.

One surprising thing about the spy museum: no lock picks in any of the exhibits. There were watch cameras from the 1950’s, James Bond cars, glove and lipstick guns, and cypher machines – but not one lock pick.

I thoroughly enjoyed the museum but was hoping to see some covert entry tools represented.

How to Keep Your Ultimate Challenge Lock Looking its Best

vinegar-brassoThe Ultimate Practice Lock is made from Brass. Brass is a great choice for high quality lock cylinders because brass is self-burnishing. As brass keys slide across brass pins thousands and thousands of times, the brass surfaces polish each other instead of grinding away at each other. If locks, pins, and keys were made of iron or steel, repeated use would wear all parts. This happens less with brass.

Brass does have one downside – brass will corrode and loose it’s shine. Fortunately, the solution is easy. The old standard for keeping brass polished to a shine is Brasso brand brass polish and it does work great. But if you want a quick solution to tarnished brass, you can soak your lock in white vinegar for a couple of minutes and the dirt and corrosion will disappear.