> How to open an old lock

How to open an old lock

Before we start to explain any method to open an old lock, we must know what we are dealing with. Because we well know that there are many old locks, they could be more.

So since we like to do our job well and guide you properly is our main objective, we will start by identifying that old lock that is possibly causing you problems.

What is an old lock

Are you really clear with what is an old lock? Or, rather, do we refer to the same concept? Because we can well consider an old lock as those locks of the relic type; that is to say, locks whose manufacturing date dates back almost a century. Something like “the first locks.”

Those that contain the chests and suitcases of the grandparents and that are opened with a rare iron key, but also can be easily opened with any thing, even with a finger. Yes, because in many the hole is so big that at least one little finger fits. Of course, there are other types.

On the other hand, we have the locks that we consider old, either because their installation time is quite old, because they are not as safe as other more recent models or because simply, of how old they are, they look deteriorated and therefore, old, then we say that we are in front of an old lock.

Do you identify with any case? Surely yes, but as we mentioned before, old locks of the first type are very easy to open and it is unlikely that you will require guidance in those cases so in this article we will focus on teaching you how to open an old lock based on the second option.

In any case, we will be pointing out which technique could also work with the locks of the grandparents’ cabinets. If you’re ready, continue reading the methods for picking old locks.

Methods for picking old locks

All the methods that I will mention below will be of great help to us to open old locks:

A knife

The knife technique works in two ways:

  • To open old knob locks. That is to say, the classic locks that are used indoors and that have changed very little, but that recent models are somewhat more secure.
  • To remove the latch from the door-frame tab.

For the first shape we will use a thin blade knife that fits through the keyhole. If it is a little wider we can file it down until it reaches the appropriate dimensions.

  • We insert it through the keyhole.
  • We push it to the bottom of the hole by pressing hard.
  • Finally, we turn the knife while continuing to apply pressure.
  • With your free hand we move the knob to open the lock, without stopping pressing and turning the knife.

The second knife technique involves insert it into the door-frame slot, near the lock. The knife should not be sharp, you could cut yourself.

  • We put the knife in the slot.
  • We move towards the lock in search of the latch, with the knife in an almost vertical position.
  • We exert a little force and speed while we go down or up towards the latch, so that it runs into it and inserts itself into the strike, pulling it out at once.
  • If it does not come out with that, we keep the knife in the strike, move it to a horizontal position and pry.

The advantage of old locks, to apply this method, is that they usually do not have protection for the latch. Otherwise it would not work.


If it is an old lock for a chest, suitcase or closet, we insert the knife in the separation of the lid or door with the frame or box. We precisely move the knife to the closest point with the lock and pry to separate both parts.

Hair clips

Unlike many modern locks, the older locks do not have anti-bumping, anti-pick, or any other protection. So we will create a homemade pick with hairpins, to open our old lock.

For this we will need a pair of forks, preferably the large ones, but the small ones will also work.

  • We take one of the forks and open it to create a 90 degree angle.
  • We do not open the second one, but if it is one of the large ones we fold it in half to create an angle of 90 degrees. In this case we will have a pressure wrench with a double wire and an L shape. In the case of being a small fork, we keep its original shape.
  • We insert the second fork, whose role is to make pressure, in the lower part of the keyhole, pressing the bottom of the hole.
  • The fork pick (the first one), goes on top of the tension wrench and with the tip bent, which is generally upwards. We must tap up and down to align the pins and open the lock, while continuing to apply pressure with the fork at the bottom.

The forks also work to open the other type of old locks. Depending on the type. For example, some older cabinet locks can be opened by spreading the tips of one of the forks to create a 90 degree angle.

Subsequently, we take one of the ends and bend it in half forming a flat v, making the tip of that bent end approach a few centimeters towards the first angle created and rub against the other half of the fork.

Finally we will have an angle of 90 and another of approximately 45 degrees. Now, at the end of the fork that was not operated on we bend a few centimeters from the tip to lean on it when turning.

  • We introduce the hairpin with the V-shaped fold lying in the keyhole.
  • We turn the fork to open the lock.

A nail or lace

Ideally, take a long and thin nail because we will use it to perform the same procedure as the knife to remove the latch. Inserting it through the slot and prying it off. Due to the thinness of the nail, it is easier to reach the latch, although it is important that it be long to work comfortably.

Wardrobe Cabinet Basic 2 Lever Lock picked open using a screwdriver to tension the bolt

Wardrobe Cabinet Basic 2 Lever Lock picked open using a screwdriver to tension the bolt

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