How to Pick a Lock (With Infographics!) - Atlas Obscura
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How to Pick a Lock (With Infographics!)

article-imageSchuyler Towne preparing for the workshop (all photographs by Erin Johnson)

“Who is to say they would even have locks!” exclaimed Schuyler Towne after he was asked if an alien-locked brief case from outer space floated down to Earth, would he be able to open it. 

More than a world-renown lockpicker, expert teacher, and historian, Schuyler Towne is a “security anthropologist.” He prides himself on not just knowing the ins and outs of locks, but the impact locks and security in general have had on our society.

Towne’s love for all things locked was apparent when on May 22, 2014, the Obscura Society LA had the honor and joy to participate in a lock picking workshop taught by him. Earlier this year, he was the star of a lock picking party with the New York Obscura Society in the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen. The Los Angeles workshop took place in the beautiful and historic 1914 Carnegie Library, now occupied by the Center for the Arts Eagle Rock. 

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With instruction and plenty of hands-on experience, we learned a varied assortment of skills, including how to pick North America’s most common lock — a pin tumbler. Additionally, we learned how a master key works, and the difference between wafer and disc detainer locks. We attempted to (and somewhat successfully) pick more mid-level and high security locks, heard about the great lock controversy of 1851, and discussed the social implications of locks in our society. It was a magical evening that “unlocked” mysteries behind the door of knowledge for us all.

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We would like to thank Schuyler Towne for his wealth of information, charisma, but most of all, his passion. It was truly contagious. We would also like to thank the Center for the Arts Eagle Rock for hosting and partnering with us on this event. Their enthusiasm and encouragement for this workshop was awesome.

If you weren’t able to attend we also have these handy infographics by Michelle Enemark, created for the NYC event in collaboration with Towne, that walk you through the basics of lockpicking:

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