There is much debate on the difference between single pin picking and lock raking in the locksmith community. Some people wonder when is the best time to use each method. Others consider one method as a crutch in comparison to another. These topics have yet to find a concrete answer among locksmiths and hobbyists alike. Beginners who are just starting the art often want to know the best way to get their picks dirty. Sometimes, however, what’s easier isn’t always the wrong way to go. Doing a method that is simple isn’t necessarily evil. Does it all come down to an individual’s preference? Here are the facts – perhaps you’ll have your own opinion on the matter by the end.


raking picks

Raking is the process of using variably shaped picks to move many pins at a time. This method prioritizes speed and is very useful for cracking low security locks, as well as locks with pins that don’t fluctuate in height. These raking tools have their own names, the most common being the snake, the worm, the city and the Bogota rake. Each of these rakes are meant to mimic key grooves, called bitting. Raking is common on low security locks, but it can be more efficient than SSP’ing (single pin picking) at times.

When a lock is so easily raked, sometimes its security comes into question. Bitting that is very regular (called calm bitting) enables security pins to be set quickly. Raking is used by beginners as well as professionals, even if the process is just a preliminary to SSP. Raking a lock beforehand helps a professional to familiarize himself with the pins before going in with a single pin picking.


  • Simple to understand
  • Easy for Beginners
  • Requires little patience
  • Works well on low-security locks
  • Great for locks with calm bitting


  • Loss of control
  • Does not help with better understanding off lock mechanisms
  • Not very effective on high-security locks

Single Pin Picking

raking picks

Single pin picking, or SSP, is the quintessential way to get through any lock. Taking time to learn and practice this method will allow the picker to overcome virtually any lock, even if it takes a hundred years to do so. SSP is the universal key, required that you have the patience and ability to work with it. SSP’ing certainly isn’t quick, but the results are candid. Single pin picking requires more skill and patience than raking. It also necessitates the use of multiple tools.

The two types of tools associated with SSP are half diamonds and hooks. These come in different varieties, but the usage is pretty standard. Hooks help the picker to set the pins vertically, while the half diamond does the pushing and prodding horizontally. Taking on each pin individually educates the lock picker in the internal mechanics of the lock, therefore aiding comprehension.


  • Encourages understanding of lock mechanisms
  • Helps better identify pins
  • More accurate than raking
  • Effective at the highest level of lock picking
  • Will always have results, given time


  • Hard to master
  • Difficult for beginners to grasp
  • Requires patience; not ideal for high-intensity situations.

The Argument

So is raking for practicality and SSP’ing for sport? This debate is similar to that of traditional vs. digital art; the argument could go on and on, either way, depending on one’s personal outlook and preference. While raking brings quick results, developing your skill at single pin picking will eventually open doors that raking could never breach for you, both figuratively and literally. It depends on the desire of the picker. Are you looking for true comprehension and immersion in the art? Or are you just trying to make a living? These personal parameters will make sense of which method work for you – as well as put you at odds with many others holding a different opinion. Some go both ways and attest that raking, along with SPP as a skill can be helpful in many lock picking scenarios. It’s plain to see that the difference of opinion regarding lock picking varies as much as the difference between two pickers’ varying intentions and views toward the craft. To some, it’s a sport. To others, an art on par with any other. In the end, your view on lock picking, as well as your choice to SPP, rake, or both, is your choice to make and yours alone.


There’s no patty-cake way to conclude the argument on picking vs. raking. Each method of picking does serve a purpose, and your skill will determine the effectiveness either way. Many of the best lock pickers in the world do not use rakes, but it really depends on your personal situation and goals. For a professional, that may just be getting the job done in the fastest and most legal way possible. For a hobbyist, that may be developing their craft day and night until they can stand right up there with the greats. Competitive lockpicking brings on it’s own challenges; consider how far raking can take you, as well as the time necessary to develop an adequate amount of skill in  single pin picking. Single pin picking will eventually arm you with the ability to crack any lock, regardless of how complex. Raking is sometimes seen as a cheat tool, and many experienced lock pickers are offended at their usage, particularly in competitive settings. This argument is so strong due to the extreme gap between people who view lockpicking as a job and those who do so for pleasure and enjoyment. Then there are those in between, who aren’t sure where they fit on the spectrum.

Be sure that the choices you make now are your own, and remember that it’s never too late to take a different path as you see fit. Use your lock picking skills for good and not evil. Don’t tarnish this beautiful art with despicable actions: remember what our friendly neighborhood hero says; “With great power comes great responsibility.” Do what makes you happy and have fun doing it!

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