Top of the Keyway Tension Wrenches: Is It For You?

Humans are servants of their habits and lockpickers are no different. We are so ingrained in our own old habits that sometimes a quite revolution (change) brews in front of our own eyes, and we fail to acknowledge it. Top of the keyway tensioning is one such quite revolution.

I have always been a BOK tensioning guy despite knowing all about its shortcomings. And these shortcomings come into foreplay whenever I try to pick a lock with tiny keyway. Yet instead of trying another tensioning technique, I persist with my “L” tension wrench. Such is the power of habit. I guess “Old habits really die hard!”

In this guide, we will talk in-depth about top of the keyway tension wrenches, also known as prybars. We will take a look at some of its positives and why no lock pick set is complete without at-least one TOK wrench.

Trust me, I will provide you with all the knowledge about prybars but what I can’t teach you is how to use them as your first choice. Having said that, I am sure that after reading this article, you will be better informed to make a judicious decision.

Problems With Bottom of The Keyway Tension Wrenches

Before learning about TOK wrenches, it is imperative to understand the shortcomings of BOK wrenches. Only when we have fully comprehended its shortcomings, we will appreciate a TOK tension wrench.

Very Little Room Left in the Keyway

There are some locks like Master Lock 141d (Here’s how I picked it in less than a minute) whose keyway is like a large cave where tens of people can party. In such locks, it doesn’t matter whether you are using a BOK, TOK or an iron rod for that matter.

However, in reality locks’ keyways don’t have much room. And in that restricted space, you have to insert not only a tension wrench but also your lock pick. So things get tight anyway!

If you are using a BOK wrench, you end of eating a lot of space in that tiny keyway leaving no to very small room to manoeuvre your lock pick. And if you are just starting out, feeling for that binded pin (read here on the binding order) right at the end becomes frustrating.

Plug Tilting

If you’ve ever looked at a lock plug, you will realize that its axis lies somewhere around the top of the keyway. Now, when you insert a wrench at the bottom of the keyway, which is not the true axis of the plug, and apply rotational torque, you are working against the axis.

This causes one end of the plug being pulled down more than the other side which results in a slight plug tilting. And this plug tilting sometimes causes issues in binding the pins. Imagine! Who would want to mess with the binding order?

TOK Tension Wrenches: The Benefits Over BOK

Top of the Keyway (TOK) or Prybars
TOK tension wrench (prybar)

The answer to all the above mentioned problems is a TOK tension wrench, also known as a prybar. As the name suggests, TOK goes right at the top of the keyway, freeing up all the space in the keyway to move around our lock pick. In-fact, the keyway will appear to you as a large tunnel with a clear view of hanging pins. It is a very powerful tensioning tool especially when you are dealing with small locks.

Since the true axis of a lock is near to the top of the keyway, you wouldn’t have to worry about plug tilting as well.

In nutshell, we gain significant control and feedback while picking. TOK allows for a firmer grip and better torque application because the wrench sits snugly at the top where there’s less play. This is particularly beneficial in cases where tight tolerances are present.

Differences Between TOK and BOK

One notable difference between BOK and TOK tensioning tools is that TOK wrenches are not designed to go very deep into the lock like BOK wrenches. In-fact, typically a TOK will only go a few millimeters. This is done to ensure that it doesn’t engage the first pin.

Another difference between a BOK and a TOK wrench is the design. Since a TOK doesn’t go very deep into the lock, it is designed with teeth to grip the grooves (inside the lock) and prevent it from falling out.

Techniques for Effective Use

To master the use of a top of the keyway tension wrench, we must focus on two core techniques: Proper Insertion and Tension Control. These methods will significantly enhance our lock picking skills, allowing for superior manipulation of lock components.

Proper Insertion

Firstly, we need to ensure that our top of keyway tension wrench is inserted correctly into the lock. Trust me when I say this that after working with a BOK, this is the hardest step!

We must avoid inserting the wrench too deeply, as it may bind against the pins or jam the lock. A shallow and firm insertion provides a stable base for applying tension.

Tension Control

Next, we exercise precise tension control, which is critical for feeling the feedback from the lock’s pins. Start with light tension and increase it gradually until you detect the slightest movement in the pin stacks. It’s essential to maintain consistent pressure while listening and feeling for the subtle click of set pins.

None of this should be new to you; however when you are coming with a BOK experience, you will need alteration is each of these techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you effectively use a TOK tension wrench? when picking locks?

To effectively use a TOK tension wrench, ensure the wrench is snugly positioned in the top part of the keyway. It’s crucial to apply just enough tension to bind the pins without oversetting them.

Which tension wrench is recommended for newcomers to lock picking?

If you are just starting out and have truck load of patience, my recommendation is to begin with a TOK tension wrench. It offers a lot of advantages over BOK like freeing up more space in the keyway etc. This will come in handy whenever you are learning how to pick small locks with tiny keyways.

However, if you are beginner and want to get the high of picking your first lock in shortest possible time, then use a BOK wrench.

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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.