| March 14, 2018

Last updated: April 18, 2018

Manly Skills, Tactical Skills

How to Pick a Lock With a Paper Clip

pick a lock with a paper clip

So you know how to pick a lock with a tension wrench and rake. This is an incredibly useful skill, which will allow you to get in your house if you get locked out without having to call a locksmith, and will also allow you to help others who’ve become locked out. You might even need to pick the lock of a door behind which someone is incapacitated and in need of emergency help.

But, what do you do if you find yourself needing to pick a lock, but you don’t have your lock picks on you?

You use the manly art of improvisation and MacGyver yourself out of this tough spot with nothing but paper clips and pliers, of course.

Picking a lock with paper clips works pretty much the same way as picking a lock with a traditional tension wrench and rake. You just need to turn two paper clips into those two very same tools, and then pick the lock with them like you’d normally do.

Below I show you how.

What You’ll Need

  • 2 metal paper clips — the sturdier the better. Don’t use plastic paper clips. They’ll just break.
  • Pair of pliers (like you’d find on a Leatherman)

How to Pick a Lock with Paper Clips

Make Your Tension Wrench

Straighten out one of your paper clips but leave one end still bent. Squeeze those two parts together. This is the part that will go in the lock. Using your pliers, bend the long, straight end of the paper clip 90 degrees to form the handle of the tension wrench.

Make Your Rake

Straighten out the second paper clip. Pinch the end of the paper clip with the pliers and bend the long part 90 degrees to form the first ridge in the rake. Move the pliers down on the long part of the paper clip, and bend again at 90 degrees. Keep doing this until you have 3 ridges in the paper clip. 

Pick Your Lock

With your jerry-rigged lock picking set, you’re ready to pick your tumbler lock. Just follow the instructions in our how to pick a lock article.

Warning: Paper Clip May Break Inside Your Lock

Paper clips aren’t very sturdy and may break while inside your lock. This happened to me while working on one of the doors to my house. Now I’ve got to replace the lock. Doh! Because of this vulnerability, using a paper clip to pick a lock should be a last resort. It’s far better to keep a real lock pick set on you. You can get one at SERE Pick