How to Pick a Lock with a Paper Clip: A Step-by-Step Guide

Lock picking is a skill that has been around for centuries. It’s often associated with criminal activity, but it’s also a valuable skill for those who have accidentally locked themselves out of their homes or cars. Even if you’re not interested in becoming a professional locksmith, knowing how to pick a lock can come in handy in various situations. This guide will teach you how to pick a lock using just a paper clip, a skill that can be useful in emergencies or as a fun hobby. So, let’s dive into the world of lock picking with a paper clip!


Lock picking is a fascinating skill that has been around for centuries. The art of lock picking involves manipulating the internal components of a lock to unlock it without using a key. While lock picking may seem like something out of a spy movie, it’s actually a skill that anyone can learn with practice and patience. One tool commonly used in lock picking is the paper clip.

Using a paper clip as a lock pick may seem unconventional, but it’s a surprisingly effective method when done correctly. With the right technique and a bit of know-how, you can open many types of locks with just a paper clip and a tension wrench.

However, it’s important to note that lock picking should only be done on locks that you own or have explicit permission to pick. Picking someone else’s lock without their permission is illegal, and could result in serious consequences.

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of lock picking with a paper clip. We’ll cover the materials you’ll need, the steps involved in picking a lock, and some tips and tricks to help you become a successful lock picker. By the end of this article, you’ll have a good understanding of the basics of lock picking with a paper clip and be well on your way to mastering this useful skill.

Is It Legal to Pick a Lock?

Lock picking is a skill that has been practiced for centuries, and it’s not difficult to see why. Whether you’ve accidentally locked yourself out of your home or you’re simply looking for a new hobby, lock picking can be incredibly satisfying. However, many people wonder whether lock picking is legal, and the answer is not entirely straightforward.

Firstly, it’s important to note that laws vary between countries and states, so what may be legal in one place could be considered illegal elsewhere. In general, however, owning lock picking tools is legal in most places, including the US, as long as they are not being used for criminal purposes. Using lock picking tools to break into someone else’s property is illegal and can result in serious consequences, including fines and imprisonment.

In some cases, even possessing lock picking tools can be considered a crime if there is evidence that they were intended for use in a criminal act. So, if you’re interested in lock picking as a hobby, it’s crucial to ensure that you’re using these tools responsibly and not engaging in any illegal activities.

It’s also worth noting that certain professions, such as locksmiths and security professionals, may be legally permitted to possess and use lock picking tools as part of their job. These individuals are typically licensed and trained in the proper use of these tools, and they are expected to follow strict ethical guidelines when it comes to their work.

In conclusion, while lock picking itself is not necessarily illegal, it’s important to understand the laws in your area and use these skills responsibly. As with any hobby or profession, acting ethically and in accordance with the law is key to avoiding potential legal issues and enjoying this activity safely and responsibly.

Materials You’ll Need

Materials You’ll Need

Before you begin your journey of picking locks with a paper clip, you must ensure that you have the necessary materials. Fortunately, all of the items you need are probably already in your home.

The three essential materials you’ll need are a paper clip, pliers, and a tension wrench. Here’s a breakdown of each item:

Paper Clip

A paper clip is the primary tool for lock picking. Choose a paper clip that is made of metal and is sturdy enough to bend without breaking. The ideal paper clip should be thin and long enough to reach deep inside the lock cylinder. To get started, straighten out the paper clip until it is as straight as possible.


While not strictly necessary, pliers can be very helpful when making adjustments to your paper clip. Use the pliers to bend the paper clip into the right shape and length for your needs. Pliers can also help you create the tension wrench you’ll need later on.

Tension Wrench

The tension wrench is a vital component of your lock-picking set. It’s used to apply pressure to the lock cylinder while you pick the pins with your paper clip. There are many different types of tension wrenches you can make, but a common one involves using the pliers to bend a paper clip into a small ‘L’ shape. This will allow you to apply the appropriate amount of tension to the lock cylinder as you’re picking the pins.

In conclusion, these three materials – a paper clip, pliers, and a tension wrench – are all you really need to get started with lock picking. However, it’s important to remember that lock picking is a skill that takes time and practice to master. So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t succeed right away. Just keep practicing, and soon enough, you’ll be a pro at picking locks with nothing more than a paper clip and some basic tools!

Step-by-Step Guide to Picking a Lock with a Paper Clip

Step 1: Straighten the Paper Clip

Straightening the paper clip is the first step to successfully picking a lock with this everyday item. The key to using a paper clip as a lock pick is to make sure it’s straight and sturdy enough to effectively manipulate the lock pins. Here are the steps you should follow:

  • Grab a paper clip and unfold it so it’s as straight as possible. You can use pliers to help you get a smooth and even surface.
  • Make sure there are no kinks or bends in the wire, as these can weaken your tool and make it difficult to use.
  • Use your fingers to apply pressure along the length of the paper clip to ensure that it’s completely straightened out. Take your time and work carefully to avoid breaking or damaging the wire.
  • Once you’re satisfied that the paper clip is straight enough, move on to the next step.

It’s important to note that the quality of your paper clip will significantly impact your ability to pick a lock. A flimsy or weak paper clip may not be able to withstand the pressure required to open the lock, so using a more durable material is recommended.

With this simple yet crucial step completed, you’re now ready to move on to the next step of bending one end of the paper clip to create your lock pick tool.

Step 2: Bend One End of the Paper Clip

Step 2: Bend One End of the Paper Clip

Now that you have straightened your paper clip in the previous step, it’s time to bend one end of it. This will create the pick part of the instrument that you will use to manipulate the pins inside the lock cylinder.

To bend the paper clip, take one end of it and use your pliers to make a small L shape at the very tip. This L shape should be no more than an eighth of an inch long and should be bent at a ninety-degree angle from the rest of the paper clip.

It is important to note that the shape and size of this bend will depend on the type of lock you are trying to pick. If the lock has tight keyways, you will need to make a smaller bend to ensure that the pick can fit inside the lock. On the other hand, if the lock has larger keyways, then you can make a wider bend.

Another thing to keep in mind while bending the paper clip is to avoid making any kinks or creases in the wire. These imperfections could prevent the pick from smoothly gliding over the pins inside the lock cylinder, making it difficult to pick the lock.

Once you’ve bent the paper clip, move on to the next step of creating a tension wrench. We will use this tool to apply tension to the lock, which will allow us to manipulate the pins with our pick.

With just a simple paper clip, you’re one step closer to unlocking the mystery of pick-locking!

Step 3: Make a Tension Wrench

Step 3: Make a Tension Wrench

One of the essential tools for lock picking is the tension wrench. Without it, even the best lock pick will not be able to unlock the door. A tension wrench applies pressure to push the pins up and helps keep them in place while you are trying to set them with the paper clip.

Making a tension wrench is relatively easy, and all you need is a regular pair of pliers. Start by taking a paper clip and straighten it out as much as possible. Then, bend one end of the paper clip at a 90-degree angle about one centimeter from the end. This bent part will act as the handle of the tension wrench.

Next, use the pliers to bend the other end of the paper clip into a “Z” shape. This shape should fit snugly into the keyway (the slot through which the key enters the lock). The inner part of the “Z” should be at an angle of around 45 degrees, so it can apply torque to the lock cylinder.

It’s important to note that different locks require different levels of tension. Too much or too little pressure can ruin your chances of opening the lock. So, it’s best to experiment with different levels of force until you find the sweet spot.

In conclusion, making a tension wrench is a crucial step in lock picking, and it’s relatively easy to do with just a paper clip and a pair of pliers. By applying the right amount of pressure with your handmade tool, you can increase your chances of successfully unlocking the door.

Step 4: Insert the Tension Wrench

When it comes to lock picking with a paper clip, using a tension wrench is just as important as the paper clip itself. In step 4 of this guide, we’ll take a closer look at how to insert the tension wrench into the lock cylinder.

The tension wrench is a small tool that applies pressure to the lock cylinder, simulating the action of a key turning in the lock. This tension creates space for the paper clip to move the lock pins out of position.

To get started, select a tension wrench that fits snugly into the bottom of the keyway. You’ll want to apply enough pressure to create tension, but not so much that you break the wrench or damage the lock.

Insert the tension wrench all the way into the lock cylinder, making sure to keep it in place with your thumb or index finger. The tension should be firm, but not too tight.

Next, use the bent end of the paper clip to push up on each of the lock pins, one at a time, until you hear a clicking sound. Each click indicates that a pin has been lifted and is now out of place.

As you work through the lock pins, continue to apply pressure with the tension wrench. Eventually, all of the pins will be out of place and the lock will turn.

While it may take some practice to get the hang of it, inserting the tension wrench is an essential step in successfully picking a lock with a paper clip. With a little patience and persistence, you’ll be able to unlock any basic lock in no time.

Step 5: Insert the Paper Clip

Step 5: Insert the Paper Clip

Now that you’ve made your tension wrench and straightened and bent your paper clip, it’s time to insert it into the lock and begin manipulating the lock pins.

To do this, you’ll want to gently slide the bent end of the paper clip into the keyhole so that it is facing upward. Once inside, you can move the paper clip up and down, applying slight pressure until you feel resistance. This resistance indicates that you’ve reached a lock pin.

Lock pins are small metal rods within the lock cylinder that need to be pushed upward in order to unlock the door. To push the pin upward, apply pressure with the paper clip, using a gentle twisting motion until you feel the pin give way. It’s important to note that different locks may have a varying number of pins, and some may require more force or pressure than others.

As you work on the lock pins, use your tension wrench to turn the lock cylinder in the direction that would normally open the lock. If you’re successful, the lock will begin to turn, and the door will unlock.

It’s worth noting that picking locks takes practice, patience, and skill. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work the first time – keep practicing, and you’ll soon master the technique.

Overall, inserting the paper clip is a crucial step in picking a lock, as it allows you to manipulate the lock pins and eventually unlock the door. With practice, anyone can learn how to pick a lock with a paper clip.

Step 6: Apply Tension and Turn

Step 6: Apply Tension and Turn

Now that you have inserted the paper clip into the lock pins, it’s time to apply tension and turn the lock cylinder. This step is crucial as it separates successful lock picking from unsuccessful attempts.

Apply Tension

The first thing you need to do is apply tension to the lock cylinder. Hold the tension wrench in place with your non-dominant hand, applying a slight amount of pressure in the direction that the key would turn. The goal is to create tension between the lock pins and the cylinder so that the pins bind against the shear line.

Turn Lock

Next, use your dominant hand to insert the bent end of the paper clip into the lock pins. Gently push up on each pin until you feel a slight click or movement, indicating that the pin has reached the shear line. Once all of the pins are set, turn the tension wrench in the direction that the key would turn. If you’ve applied the right amount of tension and set all the pins correctly, the lock should turn and open.

It’s important to note that this step requires practice and patience. You may need to try several times before successfully picking the lock. Don’t give up, though! With time and experience, you’ll become more proficient at applying tension and turning the lock.

In conclusion, applying tension and turning the lock is the final step in the paper clip lock-picking process. It requires precision, patience, and practice. By following this step-by-step guide and implementing the tips provided, you can successfully pick a lock with a paper clip.

Tips for Successful Lock Picking

Lock picking can be a difficult skill to master, but with enough practice, anyone can become proficient at it. Here are some tips for successful lock picking using a paper clip:

  • Practice Makes Perfect: The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Start with simple locks and work your way up to more complex ones. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t succeed at first – keep at it and eventually, you’ll be able to pick even the most stubborn lock.

  • Use the Right Tools: While a paper clip can be used to pick a lock, it’s not always the best choice. Consider investing in a set of lock picks specifically designed for the purpose or at least a few different sizes of paper clips. Having the right tools will make the process easier and increase your chances of success.

  • Apply Gentle Pressure: When inserting the tension wrench into the lock cylinder, apply gentle pressure in the direction you need to turn the lock. Too much pressure can cause the wrench to slip out and ruin your progress.

  • Listen for Clicks: As you insert the paper clip into the lock pins, listen for clicks. Each click indicates that you’ve successfully moved a pin into the correct position. Once all the pins are clicked into place, the lock should open easily.

  • Be Patient: Lock picking requires patience and concentration. Take your time and don’t rush the process. If you get frustrated or anxious, take a break and come back to it later when you’re feeling more focused.

By following these tips, you will increase your chances of successfully picking a lock with a paper clip. Remember to always use your newfound skill ethically and with respect for the property of others.


Lock picking is a skill that requires patience, practice, and the right tools. While a paper clip may seem like an unlikely choice for a lock pick, it can be surprisingly effective in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing.

In this guide, we’ve provided a step-by-step process for picking a lock with a paper clip, as well as tips for success. However, it’s important to note that lock picking should only be done for legal purposes, such as retrieving keys from a locked room or vehicle.

If you’re interested in learning more about lock picking, there are plenty of resources available online and in-person. Locksport communities have sprung up all over the world, offering workshops, competitions, and opportunities to connect with other lock pickers.

In addition to being a fun hobby for some, lock picking can also be a valuable skill for professionals such as locksmiths, law enforcement officers, and security consultants. By understanding the mechanics of locks and how they can be bypassed, these individuals can better protect their clients’ property and safety.

Overall, while lock picking may seem like a niche interest, it’s a fascinating field with a lot of practical applications. Whether you’re a curious beginner or a seasoned pro, there’s always more to learn when it comes to this unique craft.
Lock picking is not only a useful skill to have, but it can also be a fascinating hobby. While using a paper clip to pick a lock may seem like an impossible feat, it’s actually not as difficult as you might think. By following the steps outlined in this guide and practicing regularly, you can become proficient in lock picking with just a paper clip and a tension wrench.

However, it’s important to note that lock picking should only be done legally and ethically. Always ensure that you have permission to pick a lock or are doing so for legal reasons. With that said, picking a lock is a useful skill to have in emergency situations or when you’re locked out of your own property.

In conclusion, learning how to pick a lock with a paper clip can be a fun and practical skill to acquire. With the right tools, patience, and practice, anyone can learn how to pick a lock. So, go ahead and give it a try – you never know when this skill will come in handy!

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