What’s the difference between picking a single pin and raking a lock?
What do I put it to use? Is it a stumbling block?
This is a point of contention and a series of truthful questions for many locksmiths and lock-picking hobbyists.
Typically, these are questions asked by newcomers who want to make sure they’re doing it correctly.
People sometimes mistake the easy thing for the wrong thing in life.
If anything is overly easy, it could be considered cheating by one person and Occam’s Razor (the easiest answer is always the best) by another.
Is this a problem that goes beyond personal preference?
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but let us stick to the truth.
Raking is a lock picking technique that involves moving several pins at once with a lock picking tool.
With low-security locks and keys with calm bitting, this method is designed for speed and performance (the pins do not fluctuate between the highest and lowest depths).
The rat, the worm (the snake’s sister rake), the city (or L) rake, and the widely beloved Bogota rake are the most famous rakes.
Both of these tools are made of metal that has been bent in various ways to mimic key grooves (also known as bitting).
Despite the fact that this approach works best on low-security locks, there are times when it is faster than single pin picking (known colloquially as SPP).
Although the ability to rake a lock raises the question of whether it is really a security lock, very calm biting on the key will enable security pins to be set quickly.
Raking is mostly a beginner technique, but professionals use it as well, even though they want to SPP the lock later.
When using SPP with a rake, the pins may get a false collection.
A false set might alert the picker to the presence of security pins.
In addition, a rake might get lucky and open the door.
A basic solution for simple locks, as well as a secondary option for more complicated locks.
- It is easy to understand
- Beginners should expect fast results.
- Immediate gratification
- Quite successful on locks with a low level of protection.
- Fast access to locks with calm bitting keys
- Lock manipulation is difficult to control.
- Internal protection of the lock is extremely difficult to determine.
- For high-security locks, there hasn’t been much luck.
Single Pin Picking
SPP (sometimes changed to SPP’ing or SPP’d to indicate verb tense) is how the lock picking culture refers to single pin picking.
This is the tried-and-true method for unlocking any bolt.
Any lock can be single-pin picked with enough time and practice (granted that time maybe decades).
It’s a method for opening every lock as though you had the key.
It isn’t always the quickest process, but it gets the job done.
Single pin picking is a more specialized skill that necessitates refinement for each lock targeted.
It necessitates the use of multiple tools in order to access various keyways with enough room to manipulate the pins individually.
Each tool comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the hooks and half diamonds are the most common.
The hooks allow for vertical pressure to set the pins, while the half diamonds allow for horizontal pushing and pulling to set the pins.
This level of personalized attention to each pin makes it easier to detect when a pin has overset (beyond the shear line), false set (when a pin has caught on the shear line but is not set), or even the presence of security pins at all.
The user can feel the input from the pin to the pick because of the time it causes them to take.
This information helps the picker to gain a better understanding of the lock’s inner workings.
- It gives you a better understanding of how the lock works.
- Security pins are easier to find.
- Most reliable and efficient at the highest level of lock picking.
- Can work on any lock given enough time.
- Learning is more difficult.
- Beginners can open the locks slowly.
- Not recommended in high-stress situations: patience and calmness are needed.
Lock picking is an art form, and raking has been compared to the creative equivalent of guitar power cords.
It’s how most beginners learn to play, and the immediate results will help them fall in love with the instrument.
Success in learning a skill can entice people to pursue it more, but it can also lead to a sense of complacency.
Raking, according to many lock pickers, is a crutch that many hobbyists and professionals rely on to the exclusion of single pin picking.
While not every lock can be opened with only a rake, proponents of raking argue that it is a useful tool in the lock picking process.
Raking is a useful skill that can be used in combination with single pin picking.
The pro-raking claim is based on the premise that it is a valuable ability to have and that although it may not be a universal solution, it does have value in the craft.
In a musical comparison, anti-raking single pin picking (or SPP) proponents will lean toward the classically trained guitarist.
The idea is that there is a right way to do things that leads to excellent results when followed with discipline.
Raking is considered a bad habit that allows a person to be disorganized.
Why would you do anything that would turn into a bad habit?
“Habits begin as cobwebs but ripen into chains,” according to a Spanish proverb, and that is the point of view of the purest lock pickers.
“One of these days, I will need to give up the rakes and retrain myself only using [single pin picking] if I really want to keep up,” professional competitive lockpicker Schuyler Towne has said about his competitive lock picking.
The flaw in this logic is that it only refers to the most advanced lock picking techniques.
“What is the point of doing anything if you are not still trying to improve, and by improvement, becoming the best?”
may be a good question to ask.
The schism between the camps is caused by this issue—the (possibly false) dichotomy between personal pleasure and craft.
The Bottom Line
There is no easy solution, but each approach has a purpose.
Depending on your capacity, they will perform the role better or worse.
True, the best lock pickers in the world don’t use rakes, but that is maybe more of a goal to aim for than a rule to follow.
If you want to be a locksmith, you’ll have to use what you’re comfortable with, what serves your interests, and what best suits your customers’ needs.
If you enjoy lock picking, go with your heart and do what you enjoy the most.
If you’re into lock picking as a hobby or want to get into competitive lock picking, be mindful of the pitfalls of raking, but don’t let that stop you from succeeding.
Whatever decision you make now, there’s still time to improve; just make sure the patterns you’re developing don’t bind you to mediocrity’s indifference.
Be outstanding. Be law-abiding. Also, stay safe.