How to Pick a Lock With a Knife — Three Useful Ways

Lock picking is the art of adjusting a lock’s minuscule internal parts through a tiny keyhole. Sadly, a knife is unable to perform this task with the necessary precision and agility.

Knives struggle to provide the precise lifting action required to pick locks because they are fairly clumsy objects with only a small amount of precision at the tip of their shank. If they can even fit through the keyhole.

Knives aren’t entirely useless as tools for picking locks, though, so this isn’t a definitive statement. With a knife, we can use some inventive techniques to unlock a locked door!


Method 1: Stick and Wiggle

A tension wrench that rotates the lock and a lock pick that manipulates the pins are the two tools used in traditional lock picking to open a lock.

In the first technique, we’ll attempt to use the knife as both the pick and the tension wrench. The knife’s blade must be smaller than the keyway and able to fit into the lock without significantly lifting the pins in order to use this technique. If not, you might want to continue with a different approach in this manual.

Stick and Wiggle’s objective is to wiggle the pins up into position, much like we do with a rake-style lock pick.

The Step-by-Step

Start by pushing your knife as far into the lock as you can, until you feel the tip of the knife strike the back of the lock.

Next, turn the knife very gently, as if you were trying to turn a key. This slight rotation on the lock’s core will apply a binding force to the pins and allow us to raise and set them at the shear line – otherwise said, the pins will sit and stay at the height that the correct key would raise them to.

It’s time to move now, wiggle!

Start gently moving your knife in and out of the lock while rocking it up and down. Do this for a further 10 to 15 seconds.

Restart the process by releasing the rotational force on the lock and allowing any pins you may have set to fall if the lock doesn’t open. Reapply the rotational force and give it another go.

Lifting the pins and rotating the knife should be done with care and a variety of forces. You’ll typically have more success using lighter forces when picking a lock that has a motion similar to rocking.

So please be gentle, and good luck!

Method 2: Getting a Little Help

In the following technique, we’ll enlist some assistance.

Instead of attempting to use the knife as both a turning tool and a pick, we will only use it as a turning tool this time.

We will then request the aid of another object to use as our pick – such as an actual lock pick, bobby pin, paperclip, or any other stiff and thin object that can fit in the keyway.

This also means that we need enough space above the knife so that we can manipulate our homemade lock pick, though!

An excellent illustration of how to use a knife as a tensioning tool while still having room for a pick is shown in the image to the right (or above if you’re reading this on a phone).

Just watch out not to nick yourself!

The Step-By-Step

As demonstrated above, start by gently rotating your knife while putting it into the bottom of the keyway.

The next step is to fully insert your lock pick—or whatever other makeshift tool you may be using—into the lock.

Start raising your pick until it just begins to lift the pins, and then quickly jerk it out of the lock so that it pulls across all of the pins. This method of picking is called zipping, and its purpose is to strike the pins with enough force to throw them up into the lock.

Give the lock four or five good zips, and if it still won’t unlock, try releasing the rotational force on the lock to let go of any pins you may have set. Try again after reapplying the force.

Remember to rotate the knife with varying degrees of force.

Important Tips

This technique involves swiftly bringing your hand up against a knife’s edge. Avoid self-cutting by being extremely cautious, and if at all possible, cover the blade with a small piece of cloth or folded paper. Try another object, such as a screwdriver, bobby pin, or even the tip of another key, to use as a turning tool instead. Knife lock picking is not worth numerous stitches.


Method 3: Put Your Knife on a Diet

Okay, so the next technique needs a little more preparation and is probably not something you want to try with that $100 set of steak knives.

Why don’t we make our knife into a lock pick instead of attempting to pick a lock with a large, bulky knife and dealing with all the issues that entails?

You can make yourself a masterpiece that will completely slaughter locks and look pretty cool in the process with a little elbow grease, a few good metal files like these, and some quality time!

The Step-By-Step

Planning usually yields the best results, as it does with most things.

Start by deciding on the design of your knife-pick; if you need ideas, refer to our guide to the various lock picks!

Next, take a marker and draw the shape of your pick on the knife so that you have a clear idea of how much metal you want to shave off.

Although drawing some guidelines is always a surefire way to ensure you don’t grind away too much, freehanding is perfectly acceptable. Later, more metal can always be removed, but it can never be added back.

We should start moving.

In order to avoid cutting yourself while working on the blade, start by filing away the extra metal that is surrounding your template. Be a little more gentle and watchful of how much you file away as you approach your marked lines. The edges of your pick should be as smooth as possible.

Now depending on the thickness of the knife, you may have to thin out your pick by also filing down the sides. You’ll be prepared to open most locks if you can make the blade of your new lock pick thinner than a US quarter!

A beautiful polish can also be applied to your new pick using various grits of sandpaper if you want to take it a step further. The friction that builds up between your pick and the lock can be reduced by polishing your pick, which will improve its performance.


You now know three distinct techniques for using a knife to pick locks.

A knife isn’t the best tool for the job, but it’s also not the worst, which shows that if you keep your head against a problem long enough, a solution will eventually emerge!

But a good set of lock-picking tools will always do the job much more effectively!

Just watch out for cuts and have fun while doing this.

If you enjoyed this article, have any feedback or queries, or even your own knife lockpicking technique, please share it in the comments section below!


Can You Really Pick a Lock With a Knife?

In the art of lock picking, tiny internal parts of a lock are manipulated through a tiny keyhole. Precision and agility are required for the task, which a knife regrettably lacks.

Is Lock Picking a Crime?

Many states only forbid the possession of lock picks or the act of picking locks when there is a malicious intent, making the simple possession of lock picks entirely legal.

Does Picking a Lock Hurt the Lock?

A lock can be permanently damaged in a number of ways by lock picking. The springs can be broken, internal parts can erode, or even your pick can break in the keyway are a few typical methods. You shouldn’t ever pick a lock that is in use for all the above mentioned reasons, as well as others.

What is the Hardest Lock to Pick?

Granit locks have a tensile resistance of over six tonnes, making it nearly impossible for attackers to forcefully release the shackle from the lock body.

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