How to Pick Small Locks With Tiny Keyways

Picking a small lock or tiny keyways is always tedious since there is very little room in the keyway to maneuver the lock pick. However, I believe picking them is more about selecting the right kind of tools and tweaking the technique a little bit rather than the test of actual lock picking skills.

In this guide, we will talk about the appropriate lock picking tools that must be used if you want to pick a lock with tiny keyways. We will also talk about the small changes in the technique that will help you with a positive outcome. At the end, I will share a couple of good small padlocks for practice.

Why Are Small Padlocks Difficult to Pick?

As a lock picker, we want enough room in the keyway to not only insert our tools (tension wrench and lock pick) but also to move them effectively.

Since small padlocks have tiny keyways, maneuverability becomes difficult especially if the lock has four, five or six pins. Reaching out to the last pin and setting it to the sheer line becomes really tedious. And we run into a problem called an underset pin.

How Do Smaller Dimensions Affect the Tools Selection?

In a small lock with tiny keyway, restricted height and limited width will affect the tool selection in the following ways –

  • Restricted Height: It will affect the tensioning style and the type of lock pick used. More on this later.
  • Limited Width: It will affect the profile of the lock pick i.e. the size.
Keyway dimensions
Keyway dimensions

So we learnt that in order to pick tiny keyways, we need to change our tensioning tool (and the technique) and lock picks.

Steps to Become Better at Picking Small Locks & Tiny Keyways

Switch to Top of the Keyway Tension Wrench

The most important step in becoming better at picking tiny keyways is to switch to top of the keyway (TOK) tension wrenches.

BOK tension wrenches consume a lot of space in the keyway. In a small lock where you are already struggling for space, you just can’t afford to give so much real estate to a BOK wrench.

If you’ve never used a TOK tension wrench before, you will take some time to get used to it. However, keep on practicing with it because it is the only way to free up space in the tight keyway.

Change Lock Picks

Next step is to choose lockpicking tools that have slimmer profiles so that you can move them around in a tiny keyway freely.

short hook
Short hook

Another option is to use Euro lock picks as they have thinner shanks. If you are not into single pin picking and like raking, then snake rake is an excellent option for tight keyways.

Note: We are talking about slimmer profile and not shorter reach.

Choose Between Direct Lifting and Leveraging

When it comes to picking small locks one pin at a time, understanding the difference between direct lifting and leveraging is essential, as it can significantly impact your success in tight keyways.

  • Direct Lifting: 

    Direct lifting involves manipulating pins by directly lifting your lock pick without using any external support or leverage. In this method, you apply upward pressure solely through the lock pick to lift the pins to the correct height. This approach is common and straightforward but may have limitations in small keyways.


  • Maximizes the feedback from the lock, allowing you to sense the binding pins more effectively.
  • Straightforward technique that works well in larger keyways and with certain lock types.


  • Requires more space within the keyway to lift the pins directly.
  • May become challenging or less effective in tight and tiny keyways due to limited room for the pick’s movement.
  • Leverage Lifting: 

    Leveraging involves using external elements within the lock or the keyway itself as a pivot point or fulcrum for your lock pick. By leveraging these elements, you can lift the pins more efficiently and reduce the amount of space required to move the lock pick.


  • Allows for more efficient pin lifting in small and tight keyways, where direct lifting might be difficult.
  • Reduces the risk of snagging or getting stuck within the keyway.


  • Requires a good understanding of the lock’s internal components and how to leverage them effectively.
  • May provide less feedback compared to direct lifting, making it trickier to sense pin binding.

Note: I usually don’t practice leverage lifting as it significantly reduce the feedback. I prefer the other two approaches to picking tight keyways.

Best Tiny Keyways Practice Locks

In case you are looking to practice your skills on tiny keyways, here are some very good options. I have tried my hand on all of them and found ABUS Titalium 64TI/40 to be the most challenging. 

ABUS 55/40: It should be the first lock that you should lay your hands on when you are practicing picking locks with tight keyways. Ideally if you have your basics right, you shouldn’t find too much trouble with it. It has 4 pins with 3 spool pins. 

ABUS Titalium 64TI/40: The ABUS Titalium 64TI/40 is a high-quality padlock that provides a more challenging experience for lock pickers. It is made of Titalium, a lightweight yet robust material, and features a paracentric keyway and security pins, adding complexity to the practice. This lock is ideal for intermediate or advanced lock pickers looking to improve their skills further.


As mentioned in the beginning of the article, picking small locks with tiny keyways is more to do with selecting the right tools and adjusting to them rather than a test of lock picking skills.

Start off by changing your tensioning tool to TOK tension wrench and then choosing tools that have slimmer profiles. I am pretty confident that with these changes and enough practice, you will become better at it.

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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.