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Treating metal to make picks

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pickmonger2

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Location: Ontario

Post Fri Mar 15, 2019 7:09 pm

Treating metal to make picks

It is possible to fine tune your pick metal using some basic blacksmith methods improve the performance of your lock picks.
http://www.anvilfire.com/article.php?bodyName=/FAQs/heattreating.htm

Article on metallurgy helps understand what is the best metal for your picks.
http://elvencraft.com/lpd/Lock%20Pick%20Metallurgy.html
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MHM

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Location: Napier, New Zealand

Post Sat Mar 16, 2019 2:46 am

Re: Treating metal to make picks

Hi mate. I guess in theory it might be possible...but in reality, I'm curious to know why you would bother? For me, the ubiquitous 301 stainless and Peterson's "Government steel" (whatever that is, I don't really care) are by far good enough to do the things I need them to do in 0.025". It's solid, it keeps its shape, it lasts forever, and you can modify and polish it to your heart's content with just a file and some sandpaper.

The only unicorn on my wishlist would be a material that was absolutely rigid - ie no sideways deflection or bending at ALL - at 0.012". With a material like that, you'd only ever need one set of picks because thicker materials would have no stability, longevity, or feedback advantage. I'm guessing such a material probably already exists in the aerospace or military industries...but I'm also guessing that the cost would be astronomical and the properties not attainable simply by blacksmithing some form of steel.

What properties would you be aiming to improve?
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Visitor

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Post Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:46 am

Re: Treating metal to make picks

The point is for if you're making your own tools not trying to improve bought ones.
A home made tool made well will always be better than any bought one.
There are easily available materials with the properties you say you would like, available as new stock or easily recycled from household items.
It is also possible to give tools a form to add strength but it's not really needed.
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pickmonger2

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Posts: 297

Joined: Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:33 pm

Location: Ontario

Post Sat Mar 16, 2019 2:05 pm

Re: Treating metal to make picks

Of course I can buy many excellent picks from a number of vendors.

For me I am doing it more as an physics experiment to see what I can achieve taking commercial picks and improving their metal properties.
I read about adjusting the temper of your lockpicks in several books written by "eddie the wire"

Since I lack the skills to grind out the optimal pick patterns I want to experiment with picks made from softer steel that I can then heat treat to
optimize their properties.
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madsamurai

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Location: Germantown, Ohio

Post Sat Mar 16, 2019 8:49 pm

Re: Treating metal to make picks

The steel that most pick manufacturers use is 301 stainless or similar, which cannot be hardened by heat treating, but must be work-hardened similar to brass. It can be annealed with heat, so attempting to heat treat will basically soften and ruin most commercial picks, which is why it's important to be careful when sanding/polishing not to create too much heat from friction if you're using a belt sander or grinder. You could make your own with some other high-carbon steel where you would have control over hardness and temper, but I suspect there's a good reason the commercial picks aren't made with that, since it's generally cheaper than stainless.
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Jaakko Fagerlund

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Location: Finland

Post Sun Mar 17, 2019 9:42 am

Re: Treating metal to make picks

MHM wrote:The only unicorn on my wishlist would be a material that was absolutely rigid - ie no sideways deflection or bending at ALL - at 0.012".

If a material is abosultely rigid, as in does not bend at all, it breaks immediately upon touch.

Regarding heat treating, it is very near impossible to heeat treat a pick thin object uniformly without special geas. Best option is to start from raw material that is already in the required hardness you want, like feeler gauge or spring steel.
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einherjer

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Post Sun Mar 17, 2019 5:51 pm

Re: Treating metal to make picks

First of all I am no expert on this subject. But making picks of "softer" metall and then temper/harden the picks. Is it worth it?
I also like to make my own picks a.o. And like you, I look for the "best" steel I can get my hands on. (And for cheapest possible price)
But I dont temper the stuff I make, anymore. I did it, the first times I made "stuff", but I realized that to get a good result, I had to use "quality" steel (especially stainless) to begin with and then temper the picks really carefully. (it was real easy to make them to brittle)
It became to much hazzle so I did it only for a short time. Now, I make them of "good enough" steel to begin and I have never missed the tempered ones.
But again I am no expert so it could be my way of doing it, was`nt good enough.
Good Luck!
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einherjer

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Post Sat Mar 23, 2019 8:37 pm

Re: Treating metal to make picks

After reading your post.
I tried tempering some tools, and maybe you are on to something.

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