On twitter recently, a conversation arose between myself and some other lockpickers and locksmiths regarding everyone’s favorite pick tools for everyday carry, typical entry, etc. I promised folk that I would document my personal gear, and no disrespect to Team #RockAdvocacy, the following are the lock tools that tend to be on or near my person all of the time…
My Main Pick Kit
This is what most folk would expect me to show if I were asked to take out my “pick kit”… it is a case made in the style of the HPC “Superior” kit, but the leather is far softer and I like that the inside is left as a natural suede. It was obtained from my friend Ed, a locksmith in New Jersey… and hand crafted by a friend of his. It’s been with me many years.
Unzipping it and looking inside, we find…
… an assortment of various things, certainly not all of which are picks and turning tools. But every last item in this case has been useful enough to me (more or less) over the years that I keep it in this form pretty much all of the time now. Let’s take a closer look and I’ll list what’s in there…
… going more or less in rows from the upper-left on down, my zippered leather case contains:
- a Mini-Jim is at the top left, because why pick a lock if you can bypass a latch?
- laying on the open case is a key decoder card, similar to these from Pro-Lok. useful while impressioning or just when you want to re-pin a lock or quickly learn key bittings
- the red-tipped item is a chopped-down Grobet Swiss #2 file half round, for impressioning and other small work (like making a bump key or adjusting small parts or bitting cuts. I use it a lot actually)
- LAB brand small-size pinning tweezers. These were a gift from Clay, the owner of Lockmasters and S&G, when he couldn’t bear to keep watching me re-pin locks by hand with nothing but a half-diamond and my slotted wooden dowel follower. I insist that I was doing just fine that way. 😉
- a Peterson American Lock bypass driver is seen, with blue tape covering the spot where the plastic dipped handle has chipped away over the years.
- the next row begins with a two-pronged Wishbone style turning tool. Lots of folk don’t like them, and I seldom need it, but I like having it. It doesn’t fit well next to the other turning tools, so off on the left wing it lives, next to…
- my keyring full of wafer jigglers, warded lock tools, and the decoder for my convertible 7-pin/8-pin tubular pick (kept in my other kit, below)
- a Traveler Hook (a.k.a. Shrum/Loiding tool) is seen with a green finish. you won’t see that in anyone else’s kit because there are no others exactly like it (in green) but similar ones are available online.
- starting the next row is a small wooden dowel that I use as a plug follower when servicing locks in a non-serious way. solid core and no lip on either end, that makes it perfect for me. i’ve carved a small notch slot in the wood (with the Grobet file) and that’s all i need most of the time. One layer of blue painter’s tape made the surface smoother and fits it nice and snug into almost all typical plug housings
- Bobby pins with the little balls cracked off of their tips are great for demos of improvised handcuff tools (or when you need to un-set a double lock on a handcuff)
- Most of the time, the handcuff shims right next to those pins are all I need, however.
- I also keep one of the tools that some outfits call an “EZ Decoder” but I simply refer to as the “Master 175 bypass blade”
- A thin sliver of metal can be used to rear-shim a lock during disassembly, and next to that is a tiny S&G safe dial spline key… good to have when you really need one!
- What remains in the kit photo, therefore, are my pick tools… and there aren’t a lot. One medium-sized hook, a half-diamond, and three rakes (one classic Bogota and two long-handled faux-gota picks) are kept in there along with over a dozen turning tools… and each one is slightly different than all the others. I find the best fitting turning tool possible in whatever scenario I’m facing and go from there.
Now, there are some times when it’s really useful to have a larger item that can’t fit in this case. Hence, in my backpack (where this above-kit lives) I also have this auxiliary pouch…
Auxiilary Tool Pouch
This leather-ish velcro-flap case was probably originally for sunglasses or something like that…
- A tubular pick convertible between 7-pin and 8-pin operation
- A custom impressioning key gripper made from a Wiha screwdriver handle
- a small allen key (mostly for the key gripper’s set screws)
- A “proper” follower tool that I basically never use
- A small 45x microscope (for impressioning work)
- A milled metal pin tray
- An S&G safe dial change key
- A threaded 6/32″ tap tool and handle (for cutting threads into the pin chambers within plugs as outlined in this article)
… so that is an assortment of items that are sometimes useful (both for entry work as well as field-servicing tasks) but I can’t fit them (or choose not to attempt to stuff them) into my “main” pick case. In any event, the above items (both the main pick kit and the auxiliary tools kit) live in my backpack most of the time, and aren’t typically in my coat or in my pants pockets. However, I will in all but the most RARE circumstances, always have picks on me. Let’s move on to…
Pocket Carry Kit
The following item is almost always present in the hip pocket of any pants I’m wearing…
… fashioned from an old leather cigar case, I use this mostly to prevent my everyday-carry flashlight (a Klarus XT2C) from flipping sideways in my pocket and being uncomfortable. This little leather case allows me to easily manage the flashlight, a small lip balm, and also what we’ve come to call my “golf bag” pick set…
… so-named because of how the beige tube (fashioned simply from gaffer’s tape with a tiny rare earth magnet in the bottom) looks with all the picks and turners sticking out the end.
… honestly, the “golf bag” pocket kit gets far more use from me than my “main” pick kit does. Why reach into my backpack in order to open a lock when chances are I have all I need in my pocket? This little kit contains…
- one faux-gota pick (the only full-size pick in this little case)
- a double-ended medium hook and snake rake (rarely used)
- a chopped-down HPC half-diamond
- a chopped-down thin stainless steel half-diamond
- a chopped-down HPC medium rake
- over a dozen turning tools in a wide range of thicknesses and styles (some unbent)
… yeah, 9 times out of 10, when I want to get something open, that little pocket kit is enough for me to do it. I can always turn to the leather zippered case since my backpack is often around (especially at cons or on jobs) but I usually don’t need that.
On the off chance that I don’t have my “pocket holster” as the above-seen brown leather item is sometimes lovingly called (maybe I’m in a suit at a formal affair, let’s say) I will always have my wallet on me…
Underneath my licenses and credit cards and other blah blah in my wallet, there are some other tools that I always keep beneath me when I’m seated. 😉 They tuck in small extra pockets, some of which I’ve stitched into the lining, etc…
… these last-ditch “wallet carried” tools include a TOOOL Emergency Pick card behind my credit cards and the following items slipped below my license…
- A “Husky Head” tool – once available in the 70’s and 80’s, this awesome little item is sadly discontinued now. Check eBay or vintage sites for them. It was a keychain that would work well with large or small screws, both phillips and flat-head. Is it as perfect as a proper screwdriver? Of course not. But it’s flat as flat gets. And that’s enough to make it worthwhile.
- A diamond wire blade – never needed to use it, but SERE pick sells a LOT of them for a good reason!
- titanium Bogota pick (triple hump only)
- titanium flat metal stock converted to a simple turning tool
- titanium cuff shim (split pawl style)
- S&G new style cuff key (which I should really get around to converting to a TOOOL universal key)
… so, there you are! Those are my various “everyday carry” lock tools. It’s more than most folk might tote around, but less than you see in a lot of “ultimate” kits that contain way too many items, in my view.
These items, carried in the way I have described, have pretty much always guaranteed that I never complain about wishing I had something but not finding it on me. Well… every so often, I wish I had a plug spinner. 😉