A Elaborate Guide On How to Pick a Skeleton Key Lock

Key Takeaway

  • A skeleton key lock is one of the most basic locks and operates with a latch bolt.
  • You can pick a skeleton key lock using an Allen wrench or paperclips. 

When I first moved into my home, I was astonished to find an old skeleton key lock installed in one of the living room cupboards. Since childhood, I have been very fascinated by these locks as I find them quite gothic. As a self-taught lock-picking enthusiast, I wanted to see if I could pick it open. Gladly, after some trial and error, I eventually succeeded and found out how to pick skeleton key locks! 

So join me as I share with you all the tips and tricks for unlocking those stubborn skeleton keys! Whether you’re trying to get into a vintage piece of furniture or just trying to show off your skills to friends, I hope this article helps you open any skeleton lock that stands in your way! Trust me, with practice and patience, anyone can become a master lock-picker!

In this blog, I’ll walk you through step-by-step instructions on how to pick a skeleton key lock. But before that let us throw some light on the skeleton key lock mechanism.

The Mechanism Of A Skeleton Key Lock

The Mechanism Of A Skeleton Key Lock

A skeleton key lock is a type of latch-bolt lock that is operated with a special key designed with a “skeleton”-like profile. In other words, the key of the lock is cut to maximum depth. The key is designed to fit through a slot in the lock, allowing it to be inserted into the keyhole and then turned. Once inserted, the levers inside the lock are pushed down by the key and aligned in the correct order to open the lock.

Skeleton key locks are typically found on antique furniture or doors that are still in use today. At the center of the lock is a cylinder containing a set of levers. When the correct key is inserted, the lever is pushed down allowing the lock to open.

All skeleton key locks, usually, can be opened with a master key. In the past, people typically kept one master key in addition to their ordinary keys to guarantee that a backup was always available.

How Do You Pick A Skeleton Key Lock

How Do You Pick A Skeleton Key Lock

Lock-picking has been a hobby of mine for many years. I’ve explored many different ways to pick locks and eventually I stumbled across the intriguing method of skeleton key lock picking. In this section of the article we shall discuss two ways to do so.

How to Pick A Skeleton Key Lock Using Allen Wrench

How to Pick A Skeleton Key Lock Using Allen Wrench

To use this approach, two Allen wrenches that are sized similar to the keyhole of the skeleton key lock must be acquired. Typically, a 3/32 inch Allen wrench should do this job well.

  • Step 1: Place the first Allen wrench in the keyhole and wiggle it upward. You should feel some resistance as you proceed; this is the lock’s lever or ward. Once it’s inserted, you should wiggle it around in all directions to try and locate the lever or ward within the lock. 
  • Step 2: Using the first Allen wrench, engage the lever and work to maintain its alignment. As the lever wiggles inside the lock, it could take several tries to get it right.
  • Step 3: As the lever won’t stay engaged on its own, the second Allen wrench must be placed after the lever has been engaged to hold it there. The two metal rods will mesh with the lever after the second wrench is inserted and serve as a key.
  • Step 4: Rotate the second Allen wrench clockwise while holding both of the other wrenches in place. This will finally cause the levers to engage, opening the lock. 

How to Pick a Skeleton Key Lock with a Paperclip

How to Pick a Skeleton Key Lock with a Paperclip

Picking a skeleton key lock with paper clips is a surprisingly easy task. All you need is two paper clips and a bit of patience. With the right technique, you can pick a skeleton key lock in just a few minutes.

  • Step 1: Take two paper clips and unbend them, so they are straight.
    straight paper clip
  • Step 2: Carefully insert one of the paper clips into the keyhole. You may use a pair of pliers for this task.
  • Step 3: Use the paperclip to feel around inside the lock, searching for any obstructions or lever. As you move the paperclip around, you may have to wiggle the paperclip back and forth to get the lever to move.
  • Step 4: Once all the pins are lifted up, remove the first paper clip and insert the second one. 
  • Step 5: Slowly rotate the paperclip in a circular motion, trying to turn the cylinder inside the lock. 
  • Step 6: Keep rotating the paperclip until the skeleton key lock is disengaged and unlocked.

This is a great way to open a skeleton key lock with minimal tools when you don’t have access to a key or don’t want to pay for a locksmith. Just be sure to use caution when picking locks, as it is illegal in some places and can lead to criminal charges.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How to pick an antique barrel lock that is rusted?

Answer – If the antique barrel lock is rusted, then it can be very difficult to pick. The best approach is to use a WD-40 lubricant to try and loosen the rusted parts of the lock. If this doesn’t work, you may need to call a professional locksmith to help.

Q2. Are skeleton key locks secure?

Answer – Skeleton key locks are not considered very secure due to their simple design and lack of additional security measures. Additionally, skeleton key locks can easily be copied, allowing unauthorized access to the locked area. For these reasons, it’s important to choose a more secure locking system if you’re looking for increased security. 

Q3. What does a skeleton key look like?

Answer – A skeleton key is a type of key that is specifically designed to open a lock without needing to insert a conventional key. It has a thin, flat shaft and a large head with distinctive cuts or notches. Generally, the notches are cut in the same pattern on both sides of the blade. This allows it to be used on both sides of a double-sided lock. Skeleton keys are often made of brass and come in various sizes depending on the size and type of lock it is designed to open.


Picking a skeleton key lock can be tricky, but with a little bit of patience and knowledge of the locking mechanism, you can easily do it. With the right tools and the steps mentioned in this article, you can successfully pick a skeleton key lock. Regardless of which method you choose to pick a skeleton key lock, make sure to use caution and not damage the lock itself. While picking the lock is relatively straightforward, so take necessary precautions to ensure safety.

For any other assistance on picking locks, write to me in the comment section.

1 thought on “A Elaborate Guide On How to Pick a Skeleton Key Lock”

  1. I am having trouble opening a trunk lock for a local antique shop. The key hole has a large round pin that the key would fit over and the ________ is off set. I have found a key that fits but won’t open it. Not sure how to pick.


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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.