A Lockpicking Practicum With Schuyler Towne - Atlas Obscura Experiences

A Lockpicking Practicum With Schuyler Towne

$255 per person Online Experience
5 sessions
Up to 16 people
See Dates
$255 per person
$255 per person
See Dates
What We’ll Do

In this five-part seminar, learn the basics of lockpicking, examine how locks are portrayed in popular media, and design a lock from scratch.


This course will cover the anatomy of locks, the fundamentals of how to pick them, and a number of things that aren’t fundamental at all. Over the course of five sessions, we’ll familiarize ourselves with the tools in a lockpicker’s kit, learn how to pick a basic pin tumbler lock, and decode a combination lock. We’ll also think about keyspace reduction, examine lockpicking in popular media, and even design a new lock from scratch. By the end of this course, you’ll not only be equipped with a handy practical skill (and the tools needed to put it to practice) but you’ll also have unlocked a new perspective of the world around you, as well as the world portrayed in popular media.


There are five total sessions included in this purchase, each lasting for 1.5 hours on five Thursdays, beginning November 12 (skipping November 26).

Session 1 (Thursday, 11/12, 6–7:30 PM ET): How locks work + how we pick them

Session 2 (Thursday, 11/19, 6–7:30 PM ET): Pick types

Session 3 (Thursday, 12/3, 6–7:30 PM ET): Security pins

Session 4 (Thursday, 12/10, 6–7:30 PM ET): Keyspace reduction + combination locks

Session 5 (Thursday, 12/17, 6–7:30 PM ET): Let's make a lock 


Our online courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. Courses can take one of two forms: Seminars are intimate, interactive classes—capped at nine to 20 students—exploring topics and crafts through discussion, workshops, assignments, and in-class activities. We also offer lecture series that can be attended live, or viewed a time that works for you for up to one week after they’ve aired.

To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit www.atlasobscura.com/online-courses.

Where We’ll Be

Once registered, you can access the Zoom room for this experience through your confirmation email or Eventbrite account.

About Your Instructor
Schuyler Towne
Schuyler Towne

Schuyler Towne is a research scholar at the Ronin Institute studying the history and anthropology of security technologies. Before turning fully academic in his pursuits, he was a competitive lockpicker, frequently winning competitions in America and losing them abroad. He has been teaching people to pick locks for 13 years and has provided lockpicking consulting for a wide range of people, from manufacturers to mystery authors.

What Else You Should Know

This is an interactive, small-group, seminar-style course that will meet on Thursdays over Zoom. Students will be invited to participate in discussions, workshop their projects, and receive feedback from the course instructor.

Prior to the course, students will receive a set of lockpicks, several pin tumbler locks, materials for repinning those locks, security pins, and two combination locks.

Students will be expected to practice picking locks between sessions. There will be a one-hour video assigned after our fourth session to prepare students for their final class.

Group Size

There are 16 spots available on this experience.

Who Can Come

Participants should be at least 18 years of age.

Dates and Availability
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