Solved: How to Open Mortise Lock Without a Key

Key Takeaway

  • The credit card method to unlock the mortise lock involves inserting a flexible card between the door frame and the lock, and wiggling it to push the latch back into the mortise.
  • You may also unlock the mortise lock using a small flat-headed screwdriver into the keyhole and applying upward pressure on the pins while turning the screwdriver to unlock the lock.
  • The bobby pin/paperclip method involves using modified pins as a pick and tension wrench to manipulate the lock.

Have you ever locked yourself out of a room whose door has a mortise lock? It’s undoubtedly an unpleasant experience, but don’t worry. You don’t have to possess extraordinary skills like Sherlock Holmes  to unlock a mortise lock without its key. By exercising patience, employing creative thinking, and demonstrating finesse, you too can become an exceptional do-it-yourself lock-picker.

Mortise locks are renowned for their robustness and security features, making them widely utilized in residential and commercial environments. Many homeowners prefer them over deadbolts or tubular locks. However, there may be circumstances where you find yourself needing access to a mortise lock without the original key.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into various techniques and methods that can assist you in successfully opening a mortise lock without using a key.

The Working of a Mortise Lock

The Working of a Mortise Lock

A mortise lock consists of two main components: the lock body and the lock trim. The lock body is installed inside the door, occupying a rectangular pocket known as the mortise, which is carved into the edge of the door. The lock trim, on the other hand, is the visible part of the lock that is attached to the door’s exterior and includes the handle, thumb turn, or keyhole.

The lock mechanism is housed within the mortise pocket. This mechanism typically comprises a latch and a deadbolt. The latch is a spring-loaded bolt that protrudes from the edge of the door and retracts when the lock is unlocked. It keeps the door closed but can be easily pushed back when opening the door from the inside.

The Working of a Mortise Lock

The deadbolt, on the other hand, provides an additional layer of security. It is a solid bolt that extends further into the doorframe when the lock is engaged, preventing the door from being forced open. When the lock is unlocked, the deadbolt retracts fully into the door, allowing the door to open freely.

  • To operate a mortise lock, a key is usually required. The key has a unique set of notches or cuts that align with the pins inside the lock cylinder. The lock cylinder is a cylindrical component within the lock body that contains a series of pins. These pins consist of two parts: the driver pins and the key pins.
  • When the key is inserted into the lock, the driver pins and key pins align at the shear line, creating a gap between the lock cylinder and the lock body. This gap allows the cylinder to rotate freely. When the key is turned, the pins are raised and lowered by the shape of the key, aligning them at the shear line.
    key is inserted into the lock
  • Once the pins are correctly aligned at the shear line, the lock cylinder can be rotated. As the cylinder turns, it operates the lock mechanism, retracting both the latch and the deadbolt. This allows the door to be opened from the inside or outside.

How To Unlock A Mortise Lock Without A Key

Finding yourself locked out of a room or building with a mortise lock can be frustrating. However, there are a few techniques you can try to unlock a mortise lock without a key. Here, we will discuss three common methods in detail: using a credit card, a screwdriver, or a bobby pin/paperclip.

Before we begin, please note that lock picking is a skill that requires practice and may not be successful on all mortise locks, especially those with advanced security features like pick resistance and heavy-duty shackles. Additionally, attempting to pick a lock without proper authorization or ownership may be illegal. Always ensure you have the right to access the lock before attempting any lock-picking techniques. If unsure or concerned about causing damage, it is best to contact a professional locksmith for assistance.

Opening a Mortise Lock Using a Credit Card

Opening a Mortise Lock Using a Credit Card

One method to open a mortise lock without a key is by using a credit card. Please note that this technique is more effective on older or less secure mortise locks.

  • Step 1: Select a flexible credit card that you no longer need. Insert the card between the door frame and the lock, positioning the short edge downward.
  • Step 2: Wiggle the card while applying slight pressure toward the latch, aiming to push it back into the mortise.
  • Step 3: Simultaneously, try turning the card as if you were turning a key, maintaining pressure on the latch.
  • Step 4: With the right amount of pressure and turning motion, the latch should retract, allowing you to open the door.

Opening a Mortise Lock Using a Screwdriver

Another method to unlock a mortise lock without a key involves using a screwdriver. Please be aware that this technique should only be attempted as a last resort, as it requires more precision and may potentially damage the lock.

  • Step 1: Select a small flat-headed screwdriver. Insert it into the keyhole of the mortise lock.
  • Step 2: Position the screwdriver so that it aligns with the pins inside the lock mechanism.
  • Step 3: Apply gentle upward pressure on the pins, simulating the action of the key.
  • Step 4: While maintaining pressure, turn the screwdriver in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction to unlock the lock.

Opening A Mortise Lock Using Bobby Pin/ Paperclip

Opening A Mortise Lock Using Bobby Pin/ Paperclip

Using household items, a bobby pin or a paperclip is a popular method for unlocking a mortise lock without a key. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use two bobby pins or paperclips to pick a mortise lock:

  • Step 1: Take two bobby pins or paper clips and straighten them out. Modify one of the pins to create a pick by bending the end into a small hook shape. Create a tension wrench by bending the other pin at a 90-degree angle, leaving a small L-shaped end.
  • Step 2: Insert the tension wrench into the bottom part of the keyhole, applying slight upward pressure. Hold the tension wrench steady and maintain consistent pressure throughout the process.
  • Step 3: Insert the bent end of the pick into the top part of the keyhole above the tension wrench. Gently push the pick in, feeling for any resistance or movement within the lock.
    bent end of the pick
  • Step 4: Slowly move the pick in and out while applying a slight upward pressure. Pay attention to any pins that feel springy or offer slight movement. These are the binding pins.
  • Step 5: Once you identify a binding pin, push it upward using the pick while maintaining pressure on the tension wrench. Apply enough force to lift the pin to the correct height.
  • Step 6: Move on to the next binding pin and repeat the lifting motion with the pick. Continue working on each binding pin until all pins have been lifted to the correct position.
  • Step 7: As you successfully lift each binding pin, you’ll feel increased rotation in the lock cylinder. Keep lifting the pins until the lock mechanism fully rotates, indicating that the lock has been successfully picked.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Is it legal to open a mortise lock without a key?

Answer – While these techniques can be useful in certain situations, it’s important to note that attempting to open a mortise lock without proper authorization or ownership may be illegal. Always ensure to check the local laws and legal implications before attempting to pick a lock

Q2. Can these techniques work on all mortise locks?

Answer – No, these techniques may not work on all mortise locks, especially newer models with advanced security features. They are generally more effective on older or less secure locks.

Q3. Will using these methods damage the lock?

Answer – There is a risk of damaging the lock when using these techniques, especially when using a screwdriver. It’s advisable to contact a professional locksmith for assistance to avoid potential damage.

Conclusion

Knowing how to unlock a mortise lock without a key can be a valuable skill in certain situations. The methods discussed in this blog—using a credit card, a screwdriver, or a bobby pin/paperclip—offer potential solutions. However, it is crucial to exercise caution, ensure you have the right to access the lock and be aware of the potential risks and legal considerations. If unsure or concerned about causing damage, it is always recommended to contact a professional locksmith who can provide the expertise needed to open the lock safely and efficiently.

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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.