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How I make my aluminum handled picks

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Josh66

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 12:53 am

How I make my aluminum handled picks

I posted this on LP101, and some people have requested that I post it here as well...

So here it is. (This is a direct copy & paste from the post on LP101.)

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.


I recommend that you read this in it's entirety before you start work on your pick.

In this guide, I will walk you though making lock picks like these (I am working on the assumption that you already know how to make a pick with no handle):

Image

Required materials/tools:
Steel for the picks
Aluminum for the handles
Rivets or some other rivet-like fastener such as brass bar stock
Temporary fasteners (Clecos or nuts/bolts) and/or clamps
Drill bits, drill and drill bushings or drill press
Saw – band saw preferred
Grinder and/or sander
Band saw or other cutting tools
Hand files
Sandpaper – various grits
Hammer & anvil
Dremel with accessories
Countersink and deburr
Polish and lint-free cloth


Here are a few of the tools I use; the countersink:
Image

Image

Deburr:
Image

Rivets (MS20426E3-7 in this photo – length will be determined by the pick/handle thickness):
Image



The first step is to make a pick as you normally would, but try to keep in mind the shape of handle you want to end up with. Don't worry about polishing the pick yet. You might make it something like this:

Image

After you make the pick, the next step is to drill holes in it for the rivets. In the photo above, I used 4 equally spaced #40 (.098”) holes. A note on drilling steel – low RPM and high pressure is best. “High feed, low speed.” A Dremel will not work for this – they do not have the torque required at low RPM. A drill press or pneumatic drill motor is best. Center punching the desired hole location will help ensure that the drill bit doesn't “walk” when you start drilling.


Now we need to cut and drill the aluminum handle blanks. Still using the photo above as a reference, clamp the pick onto your aluminum, drill the holes, and trace the edges. Depending on the thickness of the aluminum, you may need to use either a drill press or drill bushings to ensure that the holes are perpendicular to the surface of the metal. If they are not, it will be difficult to install the rivets. If you have the slightest doubt about your ability to drill a perfectly straight hole – use a drill press or bushings.

Clamp the pick to the aluminum securely or use temporary fasteners as you go to ensure that the aluminum does not shift between drilling each hole – you want all of the holes to line up perfectly.

Repeat this for the other side.

Now, we need to countersink the holes. The countersinking is easier to do before you trim the handles down. Countersink the outside, and deburr the inside. If you are using commercially manufactured rivets, you'll want to countersink the “tail” side less than the head side. If you're using brass bar stock, do whatever feels good. Just kidding – you'll just have to figure that out for your self. Honestly, I have never used brass bar stock as a rivet before, but other people have great results with it. Though, I will say that when you do the countersinking, you do not want to “knife-edge” the material. You want to have at least 30% of the material thickness to be a straight walled hole.

Image
(In this photo, I have already done the rough cut and sanded the nose down. I got ahead of myself a little... You can do it that way, but it is easier to do the countersinking while the handles are still over-sized.)

Next, cut out your blanks on the band saw. You'll want to leave a little bit of material on the outside of the line you traced earlier.


Now, we need to temporarily assemble it all. The handles will still be very rough at this point, but that's fine. Use some type of temporary fastener to secure the handles to the pick. I use commercially available Clecos, but screws and nuts would work just as well. Just make sure that they are a snug fit in the hole.

Here, they are cleco'd together:
Image

If you did everything right up till now, the holes will all line up perfectly. If you have to force the screw/cleco in the hole, something is off. If it is a little off, you have two options … start over, or try running a drill bit through it to align the holes. That will enlarge the holes, but if they were only slightly off, it may be OK. You'll have to be the judge on how good is good enough...


Next, we need to get the “nose” sanded down to where we want it.

Sand the aluminum down where the pick protrudes from the handles till you get to the pick material. Like this:
Image

You don't need to worry about the rest of the handle yet at this stage. We'll address that later.

Now, take it apart, then reassemble just the handles. Like so:
Image

Now we're going to round the end off, to make both sides of the handle the same. Like this:
Image

At this point, you should sand the pick shaft down to a fairly good surface. You don't have to get a mirror finish on it yet, but go ahead and sand it down nice and smooth. It will be easier to do now, before we attach the handles.


So, at this point, we should have a decently finished pick, countersunk handles – trimmed at the nose but long everywhere else.

We can go ahead and rivet it together now.

Rivet length will depend on the total thickness. I'll give you a tip though – before “bucking”, the rivet should be 1.5 times it's diameter longer than the thickness of the material.

For rivets this small, a hammer and anvil is perfectly fine.

Insert the rivets, then lay it on an anvil or other suitable surface, then flatten the “tail”.
Again, I have never used brass rod as rivet material – it's certainly possible, but getting it to fill the countersinks is just something you'll have to figure out on your own. I would suggest practicing on some scrap material.

Image

Image

Image

Now flatten the tails with a hammer.

Image

If the tails don't fill the countersinks completely, use a ball peen hammer to work them into the edges of the countersink.


OK, now it's starting to look like a lock pick. You could actually use it as is, if you wanted a really ugly lock pick – haha.

OK, so, now we need to sand everything else down. Go ahead and sand down the edges till you get to the pick material all the way around.

Once you have the aluminum sanded down where it's even with the steel pick material, start rounding everything off. You'll be doing a lot of sanding/filing – put finger grooves in it, whatever you want. There is no wrong way.

Once you have it looking pretty good, start sanding by hand. Get a pretty good finish on it. This is probably the hardest and most time consuming part. The more sanding you do now, the less buffing you'll have to do later.

At this point, I switch to a Dremel with a buffing pad and polishing compound. Do that till you're satisfied with it. I then move on to hand polishing. I personally love, and highly recommend Flitz polish – but use whatever you want.

If the rivets are the same alloy as the handle material, they will pretty much completely disappear once you start polishing. If they are a different alloy, they will appear to be a slightly different shade than the surrounding material. It's no big deal if you can see them, but personally, I like them to be invisible.



I think that's pretty much it... Feel free to modify steps as you need to – this isn't the only way to do it, just the way that I do it.

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I hope I didn't miss anything. If you have any questions, ask and I will answer. Most of the pictures were taken with a phone, so please don't complain about picture quality, lol. Anything you might have to say about picture quality - trust me, I already know. I think that they will be 'good enough' for this though.

And, if any of you guys make any picks using this guide, please post pictures of them!

Glad to help, and I hope I did. :D




PS - As far as the attribution bit on the license, attribute it to Josh66 on lockpicking101.com [or keypicking.com - same user name on both sites], or Joshua Engler - either is fine with me.
The only reason I even have that on there is because I was going to make a PDF version of this too, and I just copy & pasted it from LibreOffice to here.
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Last edited by Josh66 on Sat Oct 27, 2012 7:59 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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MBI

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 12:56 am

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

Nice tutorial, thanks for posting.
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Josh66

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 1:00 am

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

No problem, MBI - I hope it helps someone. Sincerely - I'm not trying to keep this stuff a secret, if anybody has questions, I will tell all that I know.
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muddassarusa

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 1:33 am

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

Very nice God bless you man good job.
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jruther2

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 1:58 am

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

Thank you for taking the time to post this, very well presented. Now get back to making picks! :D
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Josh66

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 2:10 am

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

I can't believe I left this out...

Here they are, sanded and ready for buffing:
Image


You could probably figure this part out without a picture, but a picture never hurts...
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elbowmacaroni

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 2:50 am

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

Nice tutorial! I do have to say that they are quite nice picks. I like the one you sent for sure :)

This is getting stickied too!
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(23:37:46) LocksmithArmy: you should see my school girl outfit
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If someone had prince albert in a can, does that mean they'd have a killer codpiece?

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elbowmacaroni

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 2:52 am

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

Oh, and FOR SHAME... FOR SHAME... making straight handled bogota-alikes... :P They just aren't as good as the way the pick/rake is designed when executed as intended by the inventor of the tool. Otherwise, awesome shit here man!
"Cave ab homine unius libri" - Beware of anyone who has just one book

(2014.02.09 - 23:26:03) huxleypig: i freaking love cream
(2014.02.09 - 23:27:11) huxleypig: hey, come on, cream is nice
(2014.02.09 - 23:27:37) huxleypig: aww, i suddenly feel very sick

(23:37:46) LocksmithArmy: you should see my school girl outfit
(23:37:50) LocksmithArmy: wait... what

(13:19:50) xeo: that chick will never be satisfied by a real dick
(13:19:54) NNFAK: I would man...

(22:59:49) PhoneMan: how do you let a forum die if users keep using it? kill the servers?

May those who love us, love us; and those who don't love us, may God turn their hearts; and if He doesn't turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles so we'll know them by their limping

If someone had prince albert in a can, does that mean they'd have a killer codpiece?

(00:52:02) WolfSpring: elbow could sell a sandbox to an egyptian
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Josh66

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 3:05 am

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

For the record, I never called them bogatas, never meant for them to look like bogatas, and don't feel that they are bogatas :razz: - if they appear that way, it's an accident, but in a way, I am honored that they could even be considered to be on the same playing field as raimundo's picks... Those are truly a work of art...

The picks pictured in this thread are a combination of what I have seen others do, and my own ideas. Feel free to 'rob' any pick designs you see, lol.
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Alaphablue

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:25 pm

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

Killer handles Unless you have the proper equipment metal handles can be very time-consuming venture And with out a buffer to finish they just don't look the same. You do a proper job the results show case your experience with metal fabrication.
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Josh66

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 5:05 pm

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

Yeah, having the right tools definitely helps. You could still do it without things like a band saw or pneumatic drill/drill press - it would just take a lot longer.

The microstop I use is probably pretty rare outside of aviation, but they really do kick ass, lol. You can adjust your countersink depth to the thousandth of an inch.

I got most of my tools from these two stores:
http://browntool.com/
http://www.yardstore.com/
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Oldfast

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 5:24 pm

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

Josh!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to document your process.
It's like getting a VIP pass to a 'behind the scenes' look at an artist's work.

Before seeing this, making those just seemed out of reach if you will........
but now you've almost convinced me that they were actually made by a human. lol

Definitely sticky material.... thanks Elbow
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Josh66

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 7:49 pm

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

Hey guys - I've added a PDF of this to the first post. Feel free to download it and give it away to all your friends, lol. All I ask is that if you modify it or add to it, you distribute it with the same license I did.
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Aedalas

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:02 pm

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

So that part about finishing the part of the handles where the pick shaft starts. . . I don't like admitting this, but my first attempt at making a pick with handles I didn't even think of that. I roughed out my wood blanks and epoxied them, then realized that I have to be extremely careful shaping them to avoid damaging the pick shaft. It was tedious and annoying, pay attention to that step people. Shaping around the handle is easy after you secure your material, shaping at the front end is not.

At this point, you should sand the pick shaft down to a fairly good surface. You don't have to get a mirror finish on it yet, but go ahead and sand it down nice and smooth. It will be easier to do now, before we attach the handles.
While true, I do think it's easier to completely finish your pick at this point. It's easier to repair any damage caused from finishing your handles than it is to polish it completely assembled. With aluminum however this may be different as the handles are able to be polished as well, but trying to keep your polish and wheel away from wood or something makes it difficult to polish the pick shaft by the seam. You also run the risk of embedding polishing compound in any gaps you may have in your seams.
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Josh66

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Post Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:08 pm

Re: How I make my aluminum handled picks

Good point(s), Aedalas. The main reason I don't completely finish the pick before the handles are done is because if I did, I just know it would get messed up before I was done, lol.

With wood handles, I think it would definitely be best to have the pick 100% done before attaching the handles.

edit
Also, on my first couple picks, I did most of the handle shaping before permanently attaching them. It was always a pain in the ass working around the clecos. That's why I shoot them on before they're done. This way is much easier for me.
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