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How To Pick a Tubular Lock

Tubular locks are often found on small gun safes, vending machines, computer locks, etc. They are high-security locks designed to make burglary difficult. The pins are arranged in a circle, and the key is a tube-shaped product with cuts on the outside. They are far away from a traditional lock look. You can always ask a professional locksmith to open any lock for you. However, there are various situations in life, and sometimes you might need to open the tubular lock yourself. That's why we found a way to make it happen, so if you are interested, read on!

What Is a Tubular Lock

The tubular pin lock, also known as the circular pin lock, or the radial lock, is a standard lock used in most coin-operated vending machines and washing machines. These locks are equipped with high-security toggle switches. The tumblers are arranged in a circle, and a picked key is required to open the lock. The cut of the key is located on its furthest end. The notches' depth and spacing should match the pins' location. The tubular key has two notches, one on the inside of the key and one on the outside. These notches align the key to the surface of the lock. Without them, the key can go into any position. The bitings of the key push the pins back, bringing them closer to the cut line. When all the pins are aligned, the key turns the plug freely.
Default tubular lock
If you’ve lost your tubular key, the lock might be picked or drilled. However, picking can be troublesome since there’s no traditional keyhole. Regular tubular locks, those without ball bearings, can be drilled out with a pilot hole saw or a tubular key lock saw. Those who want to try themselves and keep the original lock may purchase a special lock picking kit. However, learning how to use a tubular lock pick properly will take practice and a lot of patience.
Default tubular lock

Tips For Tubular Lock Picking

There are more legends and strange facts about lock picking than you would think. However, this skill is highly important for locksmiths and it can’t hurt to learn a bit more about how it works.
The tubular locks are notoriously difficult to open without a key. However, picking a tubular lock is possible if you have the right tools and have learned and then practiced the technique. Try to pick the lock with a ballpoint pen first, and if that method doesn't work, use a pipe pick as a backup.
You may buy a practice lock to enhance your picking technique. Practice locks are transparent, so you can see inside the lock and know what you are doing when you pick it. If you are trying to open a specific item and don’t particularly care about technique, you may skip the step with a practice lock.
Clean the lock before picking it. Wash dirty locks with warm water and soap to remove dust or debris. If the lock is rusty, try to remove as much rust as possible. This is necessary because if the lock is clean, you will have an easier time picking it.
Picking a lock with a ballpoint pen
Here are a few steps that you might follow.
  • Step 1

    First, you need to use scissors to cut off the end of the ballpoint pen. You may then remove the ink tube, as the outside of the pen will be used to open the lock. If you are using a recyclable pen, simply remove the cap on the end of the pen and pull out the ink tube from the inside. Also, make sure that the pen has the same or even a bit smaller diameter than the lock opening.

  • Step 2

    Make four vertical notches in the back of the pen. The pen should be flexible enough as you slide it inside the tube lock so that you may easily open the lock. To do this, you need to make four vertical notches on the back of the handle. You may do this with a pair of scissors.

  • Step 3

    Once you feel that the handle is successfully inserted into the lock, take the handle in one hand and shake the lock with the other. Shake the lock continuously and forcefully until it opens. Call a residential locksmith for tubular lock replacement if it doesn’t open after several attempts.

Using a lock pick
Another tool you might use is a lock pick. Here’s a short guide on how to use it.
  • Step 1

    Make sure that your lock pick has the correct number of needles for your lock. The number of needles should match the number of pins. For example, if your lock has 7 pins, you should use a lock pick with 7 needles.

  • Step 2

    Turn the lock pick's tightening bolt to loosen it. The tightening bolt should be located on the side of the lock pick. When the bolt is loose, place the lock pick against the lock to ensure that the inner needles align with the lock pins. After adjusting, tighten the bolt again when the needles and pins are aligned.

  • Step 3

    Insert the lock pick into the lock as far as it will go. If at any point the lock jams, remove the pick from the lock and turn the bolt again. You may have to re-adjust the spokes to be sure they fit smoothly into the lock.

  • Step 4

    Turn the pick to the right. If the needles of your pick are aligned correctly, this should activate the spring and open the lock. Turn the pick to the right, pushing it down in the center of the lock.

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Summing Up

Tubular locks are high-security locks designed to make picking difficult. They are simply a slightly modified pin tumbler configuration, but they mystify most ordinary consumers. If you’re one of them and need to open it quickly, you may try our step-by-step guide. If you’re unsure you can handle this, or if nothing happens and the lock is still locked after many attempts, call us. Sure Lock & Key is always ready and happy to help with any locksmith-related questions and issues. After all, it’s our job and we love what we do.
tubular key
tubular key

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