NOTE 1: In the state I live in it is not illegal to own lock picks. Make sure to check out the regulations where you live to make sure you aren't breaking the law!
NOTE 2: There are a lot of steps that use a high speed rotary tool , and a few open flames in this instructable. Please use proper safety equipment and be careful not to injure yourself or anyone else. Be sure to wear goggles or safety glasses, as there is a LOT of metal dust made during the process as well.
I recently attended a few TOOOL meetups and got interested in "locksport" or lock picking for fun, and if you get good, competition! I looked online, and a set of basic lock picks is pretty cheap(under $20), but I also found a bunch of templates for making your own using hacksaw blades.
I already own most of the tools required, and Harbor freight has 50 hack saw blades for $5. Each blade can make 2 picks. So instead of paying $20 for a set of picks i can make my own for about $10, and have 45 hacksaw blades left over, plus the pride of knowing "I made that!"
Sounds like an obvious choice to me.
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Step 1: Tools
You are going to need:
a long handle pair of pliers or (preferably) vice grips
blowtorch (or a stove if you are patient)
Dremel rotary tool with cut off disks, sanding disks and the red(aluminum oxide) grinding drum.
small set of metal files
a small vice(optional)
a small wood block to sand/grind on(optional)
Step 2: Supplies
Hack saw blades (1 for every two picks you want to make)
Propane for your blowtorch
Template for the picks you want to make. You can find tons on Google image search. I just free handed mine, but I took the shapes from the templates, instead of fixing them to the blades.
Step 3: Break the Blades
Measure the halfway point of the blades (usually around 6 inches) then snap them in half. The steel is hardened to prevent wear during sawing. This is awesome if you are trying to cut stuff WITH the hacksaw, but if you are trying to reshape the blade its awful. Your tools will wear down more quickly and take longer to get the job done. The one advantage is that it makes the metal brittle, so you can grab it right in the middle and snap it like a twig..
Step 4: Clean the blades
The next step in the process is to sand off the paint that is on the blades,(if any) and then wipe them down with some clean water. I used the sanding drum attachment of my Dremel for the bulk of this job, and did cleanup work with a sheet of 150 grit sand paper. I use a small block of wood to keep the blade from vibrating or jumping around while I work on it with a Dremel. Sorry, this isn't the best picture.
Step 5: Break Temper
As I mentioned, the hack saw blades are made from hardened steel. This means that if you were to try and file or shape the metal, it would be really, REALLY hard to do. In order to make the steel softer and easier to work with, you need to break the temper of the steel. Time for one of my favorite tools - THE BLOWTORCH!
Just grab the end of the blade with some vice grips or long pliers and then hold it in the flame of the blowtorch until it is orange hot. When I did this, I had to move the blowtorch back and forth and work the length of the blade for several minutes.
Once it is orange hot, put it in a heat proof container to cool for at least 15 minutes. Be VERY careful as the blades are still hot once they have stopped glowing orange.
I don't actually own a blow torch, so the first pick I made I used my stove. I have a stove that uses a 2 piece burner, and if I take off the top plate, I get a foot long flame that shots out of my burner. I wouldn't recommend this method, as it take a really long time, and it gives mediocre results at best, but if it's your only option, you can look into it. Be sure to have a fire extinguisher on hand, regardless of methodology used. Safety first!
Step 6: The Grind
Bust out your Dremel again, and load up a red grinding stone. Take a freshly cooled blade, clamp it in either a bench vice or some vice grips, and grind off all the blade teeth.
At this point you will have a half of a hacksaw blade covered in soot from a blow torch, and scratches and burrs from the grinding stone. That's OK, because the next step is to smooth it out. Load up your sanding drum and sand off all the soot and burrs. When you are done, the piece should be shiny, and smooth. Don't worry if you have tool marks or scratches, as you will be scuffing it again. At this point you just want it to be easy to handle, so make sure it is free of sharp edges or burrs, and you are ready to move on.
Step 7: Laying out you design
I have an old door knob for reference, but you can use one still in a door to mark the length for the actual work end of the pick. You want it to be long enough to reach from the front of the knob all the way to the "neck" of the knob. Start measuring from the end of the blank that is flat, this will leave the rounded end on the pick to make it comfortable to hold while using. Decide what type of pick you are making, and draw that in on the end of the pick. then draw an arc from the top of the pick down to the pick tip you drew on earlier. Start just before the line you drew and go all the way down near the "handle". I can't describe it well, so look at the image. This is the rough outline of your pick.
Step 8: Cutting
Load a cutting disk into your Dremel, and start making cuts from the top pf the pick down towards the layout lines you have drawn on the pick. This is to make it easier to remove sections of the metal without having to "bury" the cutting disk in an inch and a half of steel. Once your groove are cut, come in at a 45 degree angle and start cutting out all the metal tabs. Once all the tabs are gone, use the cutting disk and grinding drum to refine the shape of the pick. Be sure to support the steel on the shank of the pick, as it is only 1/4 inch thick at most at this point. A high speed rotary tool will tear it off in a second of you aren't careful. We actually had to change this pick from a hook to a half round because the tip cracked during the shaping process.
Step 9: Refine and Shape
After you have cut out the rough shape of the pick and gotten as much done with the cut off disk, swap out the cutter for the grinding stone again. Use the grinding stone to smooth and shape the shank of the pick as well as the pick tip, until it is the shape you want. Again, grinding and other shaping done with a high speed rotary tool can damage the metal in a blink, so be careful. Let the tool do the work, don't force it, and don't use a high speed. I never put my Dremel over a 3(of 5) when working on these. Don't worry about getting things perfect with the grinder, because once you have refined the shape you will be sanding and then filing it some more. I use the sander drum on the Dremel and some small files to finalize the shape. I use the wooden block for support where I can, especially when using the hand files so I don't bend the shank out of alignment. Its ok to have a slight bend in the pick, you can just bend it back when you are done, but too many bends back and forth weakens the metal so it is best to void it if possible.
Step 10: Thinning out the shank and head
Hack saws are just a little too thick to be picks, so once I have finished cutting grinding and filing, the last thing I do is sand both sides with the Dremel and a sandpaper drum. Not only does this thin out the metal, but it also takes out a lot of the scratches and marks from the shaping process, and you can "blend" the sanding marks in to the sanding marks from when you cleaned the metal after heating. This gives a uniform look to the finished picks and makes them easier to insert into the key way of the lock.
Step 11: Repeat!
Just repeat the process for every style of pick you want. I recently finished my basic picks, and will be starting on my advanced picks(or rakes as they are known) soon. It took me about an hour to an hour and a half to finish each pick, but I was learning the process as I went, so the more I make the quicker I get.
I hope you enjoyed this instructable, please let me know if you have any questions or advice!
Thanks for checking it out!