I found myself at work the other day, without my keys. Luckily our offices share the same key, so a co-worker was able to get me into my office. Not so my desk though. I don’t keep anything terribly sensitive in my desk, because i’ve always felt the lock was a tad on the cheap side. Though i’ve attempted to pick it in the past with no success.

Today i really wanted to get at a sheet that I had in my desk drawer. So i thought I’d give it another shot. I’m no locksmith. Nor am I a pro at picking locks, but I’ve had luck in the past with this paper clip that i keep in my wallet, and a small pocket knife that i have in my pocket all the time. I take the screwdriver/file on the knife, and use it to put pressure on the tumbler, and then rake the pins in the lock, to try to get the tumbler to turn. This has worked on low grade locks in the past. I used to use this method to unlock the hdd write locks in college so i could install Netscape on the IE only computers in class. Today I set about picking the lock using my old method, and discovered a new method… I’ve seen locksmiths re-key locks in the past. They used a specialized tool, and just pulled the whole tumbler out, and replaced it with another one keyed differently but i never really knew how they got the old tumbler out. Well, today I found out. I, quite accidentally i might add, pulled out the entire tumbler in my desk lock using my paper clip. After I’d done this, i was determined to figure out HOW i did it. A spare key for my desk, which was IN the locked desk drawer, helped me shed light on this. It also gave me a very good look at how locks work in general. I’d already had a basic knowledge, but this allowed me to solidify it. Basically, there are 6 pins. Well when you put your key in, it contacts 5 of these, and moves them into just the right position that the tumbler is allowed to spin. The tumbler is then attached to some other mechanism which actually unlocks the drawers. The 6th pin, is there solely to hold the tumbler in! I was able to hit the 6th pin, and unlock the tumbler. At that point, the whole tumbler came out in my hand regardless of the presence, or lack thereof, of the key. I was then able to use my pocket knife to turn the mechanism which unlocked the drawers.

A friend called me MacGuyver for figuring this out, which prompted an earlier blog post. It does sound rather funny when you think about it, i defeated the “Security” on my desk with a straightened paper clip… Needless to say, I have even less faith in this desk lock now, and i’ll be even less likely to put anything of value in it.