Class Report

Intro to Lockpicking

Teacher: Bradford Nazario Barr (not pictured)
Facilitator: Amanda Leslie

How did you get interested in lock picking?
About four years ago a world-class speed lockpick, Schuyler Towne, came to the District’s hackerspace (HacDC) to give a lecture on locksport. It was one of the most charismatic, passionate workshops I’ve ever been to. In the workshop Schuyler talked about the history of locks, different types you find in the wild, and basic lockpicking techniques. He donated a lock library and tons of picks to HacDC. Everyone at the workshop had a lock and a set of lockpicks in hand at all times. I was totally hooked, from the first padlock I popped.

What do people tend to wrongly assume about lock picking before learning about it?
That it’s easy. Most all of the portrayals of lockpicking in popular media show someone with a lockpick (a lot of the times they skip the tension wrench) that opens a lock in under five seconds. Lockpicking requires a ton of practice. Some folks show up with an expectation that with the basic techniques they’ll just be able to open any lock.
If an alien visited this class and could understand English, what would they surmise about humanity?
Presumably aliens that visit have some sort of interstellar space travel technologies. I think if any alien with that sort of tech visited the class they’d be hella surprised by how simple our lock technology is. This shit hasn’t changed much since Yale got the patent on the pin tumbler lock in 1848. The simplest tumbler locks were invented around 1000 BCE in ancient Egypt. These fundamental pieces of our daily life are totally ancient technology. It’s beautiful.
What can people read/watch for more information on this topic?
Schuyler’s video series on lockpicking and, the most active online forum of lockpicking/locksport enthusiasts. Print media I’d check out would be Deviant Ollam’s “Practical Lock Picking.” It’s a wonderful text, with everything you need to know to get started.
Are there any groups dedicated to this topic in the area?
The lock library still exists at HacDC. As far as a community group dedicated to physical security, no, I don’t know of one. That being said I’m trying to start one, so stay tuned!