Is this a lockpick?
June 11, 2008 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Is this a lockpick? I found it on my laying on my front porch. Was someone trying to break into my house?

It looks similar to those that you can see down the page here. But the handle end doesn't look as if it was made for a handle with the curve and bump in it.

Any clues?
posted by ShooBoo to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say no, because lockpicks usually have a sharp end so that each individual pin can be depressed with accuracy.

But the easiest way to find out is:
Is the piece of metal thin enough to fit into your lock? If you insert it, can you feel the end touching the pins inside the lock?
posted by suedehead at 7:35 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Picture's not working for me.
posted by loiseau at 7:37 AM on June 11, 2008

Could it be a tension wrench? I'm not being allowed to click on the results that come up, but try googling lockpick and tension.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:37 AM on June 11, 2008

I have been a locksmith enthusiast for several years, and have had experience with several lock smith shops and will say that item is not a lock pick per se. Lockpicks are much more slender than that piece of metal, and that item is definitely not professionally machined for the express pupose of picking a lock.

That said, anything can be a lockpick as long as it can fit into the lock and rake accross the pins effectively.

I also highly doubt someone was trying to break into your house. Locks keep honest people honest. I believe if someone wanted to break into your house, they would have completed the task. Also ask yourself, what percentage of burglars know how to competantly pick locks.... not too many I think.
posted by yoyoceramic at 7:43 AM on June 11, 2008

No, it's not. The head isn't small enough to make an effective lock-pick, and the neck isn't slender enough and looks bent anyways. Lock-picks usually have small, thin heads and then separate handles, they're not a single piece of crap-quality metal.

That said, it could be some stupid kid's lock-pick that he got out a of magazine, but the tool is nothing I've ever seen in lock-pick sets, and I have quite a few (a hobby, I'm not a thief! We do exist!)
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:44 AM on June 11, 2008

You can take it to a locksmith and ask them. You can also report it to the police, but be sure to make it clear that you found it and it is not yours. Possession of picks in some states is illegal for non locksmith types. If you haven't handled it too much the police might want to fingerprint it, or your door if there is reason to believe a break in was attempted.

Have there been similar events in the area? The police would know.
posted by Science! at 7:45 AM on June 11, 2008

I once locked myself out of my apartment and my friend came over with his lockpick set and this stupid book that came with it, as we thought we were smart enough to read the book and learn how to pick a lock on the fly.

It turns out we were not. I had to get a ladder and climb through my second floor window.

But, I will say that that although this was a number of years ago, that does look suspiciously like the tension wrench that was a part of the set. I would call the police.
posted by kbanas at 7:46 AM on June 11, 2008

If it is, it isn't a very good one. :). Some crackhead or kid might have tried to use it to jimmy a lock, pry your door so to speak, but its too big to be an effective pick.
posted by stormygrey at 7:46 AM on June 11, 2008

Looks like a shim from an old rolltop desk I once owned. Thing kept falling out, too.
posted by skywhite at 7:47 AM on June 11, 2008

And yeah, it's far easier to smash a window and get into a house than it is to risk being seen picking a lock. It could be some people, who don't know much about what they're doing, getting thrills by trying to break into places without being caught. That's still a crime.
posted by Science! at 7:48 AM on June 11, 2008

It looks like a lockpick to me... it's not the best made tool possible, but yeah -- something like that'll do the job on a normal old house lock in like 10 seconds. Accuracy, for a 20 year old kwickset or whatever, isn't really an issue. You really don't even need a tension wrench most of the time... (I'm also not a thief... just a guy who bought a buncha lockpicks at DefCon a few years ago and successfully broke into my own home...)

Now... how it got there, that's another question...
posted by ph00dz at 8:16 AM on June 11, 2008

I asked my brother the detective (who does have a lockpick set and knows how to use it apparently) and he suggested it probably is not so much a lockpick per se, but a handmade tool for jimmying the door. He said it may not be that, but your suspicion is justified and you chould check your doors and windows for scratches etc that may indicate someone tried to break in. If so, you should report it.
posted by elendil71 at 8:34 AM on June 11, 2008

yeah, it doesn't look purpose built but when making lockpicks by hand, using things like old hacksaw blades or packing-strap and grinding them down with a stone, you'd get something that looked vaguely like that, especially if you didn't necessarily know what you were doing.

I think the best test would be to insert the pick into a lock and see if it fits/you can move it around at all.
posted by cmyr at 9:14 AM on June 11, 2008

Everybody saying "it's not a lockpick" doesn't answer the question "was somebody trying to break in." No matter how sure you can be about Q1 being "no," nobody here can answer your second question.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:51 AM on June 11, 2008

It's not a professional lockpick for sure, but if it fits in the keyhole then it could conceptually be used as one. Someone without access to the right tools might have decided to improvise (poorly).

It certainly looks suspicious, but I would still look for signs of an attempt on the door. Scratches around the keyhole, scratches on the doorjamb, anything like that.
posted by splice at 10:22 AM on June 11, 2008

I know I've seen this part before, it's not a lockpick though.
posted by Ponderance at 11:30 AM on June 11, 2008

Well, I'm neither a locksmith nor a sculptor, but it looks to me like a clay modelling tool, like these. That, or a piece that fell from your own lock.
posted by Cobalt at 8:28 PM on June 11, 2008

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