A Stepwise Guide To Picking A Wafer Lock

Key Takeaway

  • The working principle behind picking a wafer lock is same as a pin tumbler lock where each wafer needs to be manipulated to the correct height.
  • You can pick a single sided wafer lock using a tensioning tool and a standard hook. Raking is also effective to open a wafer lock.
  • For double sided wafer locks, snowman pick (double ball pick) is the best picking tool that saves a lot of time and effort.
  • To pick a wafer lock, insert your tool into the keyhole, probe each wafer individually, and move each wafer gently until the lock opens.

Wafer locks working principle is same as the pin tumbler locks; the only difference being that pin tumbler locks use 2 different set of pins (driver and key pins) for locking mechanism whereas wafer locks use single metal wafers as their defence mechanism.

Hence, picking a wafer lock is relatively easier than picking a pin tumbler lock. In this article, I will cover various ways to pick both types of wafer locks – single sided and double sided. Besides the actual steps, I will also share the best lock picking tool for each kind so that you can save time and efforts.

What Are Wafer Locks?

Wafer Locks are kind of tumbler locks that use wafers instead of pins. However, in principle they are same as pin tumbler locks.

They use a system of spring-loaded wafers that need to sit flush with the plug in order for the lock to be opened. The key with the correct bitting pushes these wafers to the correct height, thereby allowing the plug to rotate freely.

What Are Wafer Locks?

Different Types of Wafer Locks

There are 2 kinds of wafer locks depending on the protrusion of wafers.

  • Single Sided Wafer Lock: In single sided wafer locks, wafers are present only on one side of the plug. Manipulating these locks is relatively easier than double sided locks.
  • Double Sided Wafer Lock: Double sided wafer locks have wafers protruding on both sides of the plug. Accordingly the key for these locks have bitting on both sides of the blade. Since wafers on both sides need to be manipulated in order to open the lock, they require a little bit more time and patience.

Picking Wafer Locks : Step by Step Process

How To Pick Wafer Locks Using Tools

How to Pick a Single Sided Wafer Lock

We will first start off with learning how to pick a single sided wafer lock. Once you have practiced on single sided wafer locks, then you should graduate to double sided ones. Theoretically both are same; however you will require a little bit more practice on double sided ones.

There are 2 ways to pick a single sided wafer lock –

  • Single wafer picking
  • Raking

Single Wafer Picking

Single wafer picking is exactly same as single pin picking in pin tumbler locks. You will require –

  • Tensioning tool
  • Hook


  • Start by inserting the tension wrench at the bottom of the keyway and apply torque. You could also use TOK (top of keyway) tension wrench but since I prefer BOK, I have mentioned that here. If there is a dust cover on the lock, you could also use Y tensioner. It will keep the dust cover open.
  • Use any standard hook and feel which wafer provides the maximum resistance. This would be the binding wafer.
  • Jiggle the pick to set the wafer. Once the wafer is set, move on to the next wafer.
  • Once all the wafers are set, rotate the tension wrench to pop open the lock.

It will be prudent to know the number of wafers in the lock beforehand. It will condition your mind accordingly. Typically you will find either 5 or 6 wafer in locks these days.


Raking is an effective (and faster) lock picking technique that works equally well on pin tumbler and wafer locks. You will require –

  • Snake rake or
  • Bogota rake

I prefer snake rake on single wafer locks as they do the job pretty well.


  • Insert BOK tension wrench.
  • Insert snake rake and jiggle it up and down till the time wafers are set.
  • Once all the wafers are set, rotate the tension wrench to open the lock.

Note: Even though the steps sound simple enough to execute, don’t lose heart if you are not able to unlock the lock. These things require practice, especially understanding the feedback from the lock.

How to Pick a Double Sided Wafer Lock

Once you are done picking a single sided wafer lock, it is time to try your hand at double sided wafer locks.

A double sided wafer locks is a little bit hard to pick since wafers need to be set from both sides of the plug. However, there are special tools that you can use to make your job easier. I use a snowman or double ball pick.

double ball pick or snowman pick

Steps To Pick Double Sided Wafer Lock

  • Start by inserting the tension wrench in the keyway. As was mentioned above, I use BOK tension wrench but you could use TOK as well.
  • Next, insert the snowman pick in the keyway. Feel for the binding wafer and start jiggling the pick up and down. Since wafers on both sides of the plug need to be set, this motion is important.
  • Once the binding wafer is set, move on to the next wafers.
  • Finally, with all of the wafers correctly positioned, apply torque on the keyway with the tension wrench to open the lock.

Some Other Picking Tools

There are few other tools that are used to pick wafer locks; however since I have not used them myself extensively, I have not covered them in detail here. They are –

  • Special wafer picks: These are special pick tools that are designed specially for wafer locks. One such example is this. I know that these work like a charm for double sided wafer locks but I haven’t used them enough to include here.
  • Tryout keys: I know that tryout keys are very effective against warded locks but I have never used them on wafer locks. Having said that, I have seen videos where very advanced lock pickers have used these to pop open wafer locks as well.

Using Paper Clips

How To Pick Wafer Lock Using Paper Clips

If you don’t have the right lock picking tools, you could also use paper clips to imitate a tension wrench and a standard hook. However be aware that this method is not for beginners but advanced lock-pickers.

Here are the steps to do so.

  • Step 1: Start by straightening out two paper clips. One of these paper clips will work as a tension tool and the other as a pick. To make the process of picking wafer locks easier in the future, try bending the hooks of your paper clips differently until you find a shape that works well with your particular lock.
    straightening out paper clips
  • Step 2: Next, insert one paperclip into the hole at the bottom of the keyway which will work as the tension wrench.
  • Step 3: Slide the other paperclip inside the keyway to be used as a hook.
  • Step 4: Feel for the binding wafer and manipulate it to the correct height.
  • Step 5: Once the binding wafer is set, move on to the next wafers.
  • Step 6: Once all the wafers are set, turn the paper clip which was being used as a tensioner to unlock the lock.

I will not advise you to go through the paper clip route until and unless you are an advanced lock-picker.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Is there any risk of damage when trying to open a wafer lock without a key?

Answer – Yes, it is possible to cause damage to the lock while attempting to open it without a key. It is recommended that the user has the necessary tools before attempting any of these methods. It is also important to use caution when handling lockpicking tools, as damage to the lock could render it unusable.


Wafer locks, though not as common, are still very much a part of our lives. Picking a wafer lock is quite similar in nature to picking a pin tumbler lock. There are no special tools required if you have mastered the art of single pin picking.

Having said that, double sided wafer locks might pose some challenge but in such a case, use a double ball pick.  

I hope you found the instructions given in the article helpful. If you have any further questions or would like a more in-depth discussion on wafer locks, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me through the comment section.

1 thought on “A Stepwise Guide To Picking A Wafer Lock”

  1. Do not use any random keys in the event that you lose your wafer lock key for your toolbox, cabinet, drawer, or even your car. Doing so could result in further damage. Wafer locks are frequently employed in enclosures rather than as a primary security measure because they are unreliable and easily bypassed.


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Hey! I am Mark. Though I am not a locksmith by profession, but locks have always fascinated me since my teens. And it all started when I got locked out of my house and I had to pick the lock. Since then it has become my hobby to learn more about different kinds of locks, understand their working and methods to pick them up. In due course of time, I have also become better aware of how installing the right lock goes a long way in ensuring iron clad security. I aim to share my passion (about locks) through this blog. If you are also passionate about picking locks or are just looking to beef up the security, hop on the ride.