Mar05

I have heard quite a few locksmiths mention that sometimes when they pick a pin tumbler lock the plug will jump round a couple of degrease and then stop, this seems to cause confusion with some locksmiths as they seem to think they are getting very close to having the lock picked only to find they cannot get it open, believing that there must be just one pin left which has not been picked properly. In frustration of the lock not opening they then drill or snap the lock. The reason that the lock will not budge is because it’s stuck in anti-pick also commonly known as a false set. More and more of the cheaper pin tumbler locks now incorporate anti pick pins so it’s important to try and come to terms with them. Most locksmiths will know all about a false set already and how to deal with it but I thought I would write this post for the people that are still struggling.

I am going to focus on spool pins for the time being as I find they are by far the most common type of anti-pick pin. A locksmith friend of mine once told me that spool pins are the cheapest type of security pins to manufacture and that is why they are more common unfortunately I can’t confirm whether or not that is true so it’s still just a theory at the moment.

So firstly, what are spool pins?

Spool pins are type of driver pin, the driver pin is the one that sits in the chamber of the barrel just above the spring on a euro lock i.e. pins at the bottom of the plug and just below the spring on a rim cylinder type lock i.e. pins at the top of the plug, the pins which sit in the actual plug are known as the key pins. A spool pin is the same diameter as any other pin on the top and the bottom but is much narrower in the middle this creates a lip on the top of the pin which is designed to catch on the shear line preventing the lock from turning.

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How do spool pins work?

Spool pins can only seize up a lock once the rest of the pins are picked into their correct position. Let’s take a 5 pin euro lock as an example. In a 5 pin anti pick cylinder you will probably have 3 normal driver pins and 2 spool pins (some may have more than 2). The 2 spool pins will not activate until the other 3 pins are picked to the shear line, this is because the normal driver pins are full width all the way down. Once they are set in position there’s only the 2 spools to be picked but because the spools are thinner in the middle they will lean over because tension is being applied to the plug causing the underside of the top lip to catch on the shear line, this causes the plug to rotate slightly. If you imagine looking at a clock the plug will normally stop between 2 minutes past and 5 minutes past. Once the pin is jammed in this position usually no amount of hand raking or electric pick gunning (EPG) will open the lock.

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How to find and defeat spool pins

Once you know that anti pick pins are present in the lock you are picking there are a couple of ways around it. The first method is quite easy when it works but also very hit and miss. Method number 2 is more of an exact science but requires more skill and patience and should work every time.

Method number 1

On cheaper brands of locks the anti-picks can sometimes be beaten by simply turning the plug back to its start position, this will allow all the pins to reset. Once you have the lock back at the start position try either hand raking or EPG the lock using light tension or if unsuccessful try feathering tension on and off. Sometimes you can catch the lock just right and open it without activating the anti-picks at all. I find that a round sprung tension tool works well for this as I find they are easier to manipulate the tension on and off with rather than a standard tension tool. This technique will not work every time maybe even less than 50% of the time but it’s worth a try as it is nice and quick when it works and fairly straight forward to do.

Method number 2

Method number 2 is slightly more complicated but should work 100% of the time once the technique has been mastered. When the spool pin has activated and caused the lock to go into anti pick the pin is trapped above the shear line instead of underneath it. This means that the key pin which is above it will usually be sat slightly higher in the plug than the pins which are set correctly. Using a hook pick or a half diamond pick go in all way all the way to the back of the plug, hold the pick nice and loosely and very slowly and gently move the pick over the tops of all the pins looking for any key pins which feel slightly higher than the rest. You should see the pick rising and falling as you move over the pins. When you think you have found one release 95% of the tension you are applying to the plug and push down on the key pin. If you are on the correct pin you will feel the tension wrench pushing back on your finger and you will also see the plug start to move on its own back towards the dead straight position, this is the spool trying to straighten up which causes counter rotation on the plug. Allow the plug to move back until you hear a snapping sound or feel the spool pin click into place then with split second timing apply full tension back onto the plug again. The timing does have to be spot on because as the spool straightens up the other normal pins which you set earlier are going to try jump back up and reset to their normal positions. If this does happen you will have to start all over again. It is important to test out all the pins and look for counter rotation looking for the high pin is only a general rule. Once the spool is picked into its correct position the lock should open. If there is more than one spool pin preventing the lock from opening the procedure will need to be repeated on each anti-pick pin until the lock opens.

The second technique will require a fair bit of practice but once you have mastered it you should find you are able to pick a much greater number of locks, as I said at the beginning many locks including low budget cylinders now include anti pick pins.

Thanks to Chaz from Fenland Locksmiths for the supplying the images for this post.


 

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