In this 5-part seminar, learn the basics of lockpicking, study more advanced concepts in researching attacks against locking systems, and design a lock from scratch.
This course will cover the anatomy of locks, the fundamentals of how to pick them, and a number of things that aren’t fundamental at all. Over the course of five sessions, we’ll familiarize ourselves with the tools in a lockpicker’s kit, learn how to pick a basic pin tumbler lock, and expand our skill set by tackling security pins. We’ll also study more advanced concepts, including keyspace reduction, decoding combination locks, and even designing a new lock from scratch. This course not only aims to equip you with a handy practical skill and the tools needed to put it to practice, but also to unlock a new perspective about the world around you.
Syllabus at a Glance
There are five total sessions included in this purchase, each lasting for 1.5 hours.
Fall Section A: Meets Thursdays starting November 10, skipping November 24.
Session 2 (Thursday, 11/10, 7–8:30 PM ET) | The Basics: How locks work and the tentative method of lockpicking
-2 weeks off-
Session 2 (Thursday, 12/1, 7–8:30 PM ET) | Every Lock Is a New Puzzle: Pick types and picking problems
Session 3 (Thursday, 12/8,7–8:30 PM ET) | Intermediate Lockpicking: Security pins and speed picking strategies
Session 4 (Thursday, 12/15,7–8:30 PM ET) | Novel Attacks: Keyspace reduction, persistent access, and combination locks
Session 5 (Thursday, 12/22, 7–8:30 PM ET) | D-E-F-E-N-S-E: Designing a new lock as a class by drawing on our collective knowledge of attacking locks
Fall Section B: Meets Thursdays starting December 15, skipping December 29.
Session 1 (Thursday, 12/15, 9–10:30 PM ET)| The Basics: How locks work and the tentative method of lockpicking
Session 2 (Thursday, 12/22, 9–10:30 PM ET)| Every Lock Is a New Puzzle: Pick types and picking problems
Session 3 (Thursday, 1/5, 9–10:30 PM ET)| Intermediate Lockpicking: Security pins and speed picking strategies
Session 4 (Thursday, 1/12, 9–10:30 PM ET)| Novel Attacks: Keyspace reduction, persistent access, and combination locks
Session 5 (Thursday, 1/19, 9 –10:30 PM ET)| D-E-F-E-N-S-E: Designing a new lock as a class by drawing on our collective knowledge of attacking locks
Atlas Obscura has teamed up with Sparrows Lockpicks to offer a materials kit containing high quality lockpicks, a repinnable cutaway lock, and an expansive, challenging set of security pins and picking challenges. This is a special collection of materials put together for this class and sold at a discount for our students. The cost of this kit will be approximately $50, plus shipping and handling. We recommend ordering your kit as soon as you enroll to help ensure that you receive it in time for class.
Below are two links, please make sure you select the correct one for your handedness as the cutaway lock will be difficult to view if you get the wrong one:
Please note that you can break locks when you pick them, so while you should feel free to familiarize yourself with the kit prior to class, please follow the two rules of locksport:
1: Do not pick locks that you do not own.
2: Do not pick locks that you or anyone else relies on.
Finally, you will be expected to purchase and/or bring a few inexpensive locks as well as a can and pair of scissors to our fourth session. You’ll receive more information about materials (and other details) for the fourth session in a welcome note received following registration.
Outside of class, students will be provided with optional talks and videos featuring their instructor that dive deeper into topics touched on in class. The only required video, a talk on the evolution of locks, will prepare students for the fourth class.
In addition to full-price tickets, a limited number of no-pay spots are available for this course. Please note that these tickets are reserved for those who would not otherwise be able to take this course and who expect to attend all sessions. No-pay spots are distributed via a randomized drawing two weeks before each course begins. For more information and to apply for a no-pay spot, please click here. To learn more about our pricing model and randomized selection process for no-pay spots, please visit our FAQ page.
Community Guidelines for Students
Please take a moment to review our community guidelines for students, which aim to share our classroom ethos and help set the stage for the best possible learning experience.
Atlas Obscura Online Courses
Atlas Obscura Courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit www.atlasobscura.com/online-courses. For answers to commonly asked questions, check out our FAQ page here.
Founded in 2009, Atlas Obscura created the definitive community-driven guide to incredible places across the planet and is now an award-winning company that shares the world’s hidden wonders in person and online.
Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to each class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access all sessions of your course via Zoom.
Schuyler Towne is a research scholar at the Ronin Institute studying the history and anthropology of security technologies. Before turning fully academic in his pursuits, he was a competitive lockpicker, frequently winning competitions in America and losing them abroad. He has been teaching people to pick locks for 13 years and has provided lockpicking consulting for a wide range of people, from manufacturers to mystery authors.
This is an interactive, small-group seminar that meets over Zoom. Students may be encouraged to participate in discussions, work on assignments outside of class, and workshop projects with their instructor or classmates. Due to the interactive nature of this course, we strongly recommend students attend as many live sessions as possible. Within 72 hours after each session meets, students will receive access to a recording of the live session, which they can watch for up to two weeks after the course concludes.
Instructors may use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Google Classroom, instructors may use this platform to post resources, discussion questions, or assignments. This platform also offers a space for students to connect with one another about course material between sessions.
We provide closed captioning for all of our courses and can share transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at email@example.com if you have any questions, requests, or accessibility needs.
There are 25 spots available on this experience.
This course is designed for participants 18 years of age and older. If you would like to take this course and are under 18 years of age, please reach out to us prior to enrolling.