Tension Wrenches

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Tension wrenches are a barometer for the amount of additional torque needed to pick the pins of a lock. Remember, lock picking is a two-part process; there's the setting of individual pins and the tension placed on the plug in order to successfully turn it. Without the latter, the former is impossible, for it's the plug's displacement that provides a ledge or shelf on which the pins may sit.

Tension wrenches are thus critical to the lock picking process, for they tell you whether too little, too much, or just enough pressure is being applied. Were the process to take place in a vacuum, it would be simple. But the reality is, you may be forced to pick locks in relative darkness, loud places, and cramped positions, so gauging your success can pose a challenge.

What Are Tension Wrenches?

Also known as torque wrenches or tensioners, tension wrenches are usually nothing more than flathead screwdrivers that are thinner in girth. They must be narrow enough, after all, to insert into a keyway along with any number of picks. There must then be ample room to manipulate both at the same time. Your lock pick tension tools must stay in position even as you're withdrawing the pick from the plug, otherwise it may re-engage with the hull, leaving you back at square one.

Most tension wrenches are made from spring steel, which gives enough to let its handler feel subtle vibrations and displacements. It can take years to develop the necessary sensitivity to determine whether more or less torque is required to overcome competing forces of friction and spring exertion. Many hopeful lock pickers are thus quickly chastened when they first start out and expect their task to be a simple one.

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